Kole Basava, the name conjures up images, of colourfully dressed ox and cow- with anklets and bell on the neck, ribbons on the horns, patch-work blankets on the body, with the person accompanying if a male, then dressed in white shirt, a dhoti (a rectangular piece of unstitched cloth tied at the waist, a black coat, with a peta (a type of headgear), a bag and a bamboo stick, if a woman attired in a saree, holding a bamboo stick and a bag. The men also play the Nadaswara, a traditional instrument, to announce their arrival. Moving house to house for blessing people in exchange for food , they would then choose a central place to enact the marriage of Sita and Ram ( Seetharamakalyana). However, the central characters are the animals, who responds to the questions asked by the master, by nodding the head.
However, times change, so does the attire and practice. Presenting the Urban Nomads, the Kole Basava Community, in a 20-episode series, as part of the Urban Narratives program.
Part 1: Balraju speaks to Venkatesh
Originally from Andhra Pradesh, the community travel about and stay in certain places for a period of time. Semi-nomadic in the movements, the present settlement is at Kodigehalli. They go about house to house and ask for money, food or clothing. They don’t perform like the previous generation, but only perform at marriages. Balraju, laments, “In the earlier times, people would immediately come out of their houses and receive us warmly and donate food, but now we are more of nuisance, seen as somebody who begs. Some people give us Rs. 5 or Rs. 10/- . Nobody cares for the performance, and so we don’t even perform, we just play the instrument outside people’s house and walk by”.
“We make the blanket, from cut pieces picked up from what a tailor would throw out…”
“Farmers donate cows with extra legs to us; we worship and use these cows to earn money by begging. Where ever we migrate we go together, that is 40 to 50 families. This is because in any family if one person wants to travel to longer distance other families can support and give security. That is why where ever we go; we look for an empty field and put tents together”.
Part 2: Balraju speaks to Vijaya on system of Dispute Resolution within the community.
“We don’t go to police station, as that would mean disrespecting our elders”.
“…Our elders make all decision, from marraige, theft, fights, inheritance etc. It’s not so much about money, it’s about bowing your head, and asking for forgiveness, in front of all the people. That according to us, is the punishment…”
“When resolving the dispute, one party must be allowed to speak, without interruptions, and then the other party can speak, after they finish…”