A tribe that brews fresh liquor for each wedding

Warli abodes, food habits and clothing point to an inherent austerity.

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13-WarliscopyBy January, preparations are afoot for marriages in the family. All Warli marriages take place in winter and involve at least three days of feasting and rituals. The whole village helps out in the preparations. Women contribute each day by helping in the collection of fuel wood, water storage, and cooking.

When we visited Nalshet village about this time, we met Shantaram who was brewing liquor for the celebration of his son’s marriage. A talented artist, he has now become a businessman, promoting and selling his art to city dwellers with the help of well-wishers. Nevertheless, he still prefers his way of life and continues to live in the village, his family supporting him in all his endeavors.

A little more about their traditions, now that we have your attention

Warli abodes, food habits and clothing point to an inherent austerity. Their homes are windowless spacious simple structures of wood, bamboo, karvi reeds, earth and cow dung with roofs of straw and dried leaves. Inside, the rooms are dark, empty and bare, except for a handful of possessions. Although they share their living spaces with their domestic animals like dogs, goats, hens, and even cows cleanliness is overtly apparent. Surprisingly, there is no furniture and no storage containers like boxes, cupboards or trunks. The only food stored is the rice in the kaangiis. All the clothes that they possess hang on a rope tied across the room.

Warli food is simple, varied and nutritious and consists of rice along with pulses like vari, udid, tur and chavli. This is accompanied by fresh and dried fish. It is only on festive days that they include the meat of a fowl, goat or pig. Their clothing is also scanty and minimal, yet practical – allowing for free movement. Men wear a loin cloth and sometimes a thin kurta and a turban. Women wear a nine-yard sari which is tightly wound around their waist and thighs. The upper part of the body is covered by a choli and a piece of cloth called the padar. Little girls wear skirts and cholis while little boys wear shorts or nothing at all. The women’s clothes are brightly colored and on festive days they look gorgeous with their hair well oiled and decorated with flowers, intricate pins, and colored ribbons.

Although the Warlis celebrate Hindu festivals too, there is a conspicuous absence of a prayer corner in homes and a temple in the village – a feature that one assumes would be present in other Indian villages. Of course, they visit temples and shrines but they are located deep in the forest, nearly half a day’s walk from the village. Such visits are restricted to special occasions once or twice a year.

Hooked? Find out more about the History of Warlis.

Written by: Erica Taraporvala
Photographs: Vikas Shinde, Sunil Gokarn
Copy editor: Priyanka Brijwasi

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