The Bharatappuzha or Nila, a river that originates in the Trimurthi hills of the the Anamalai range, with a catchment area of over 6000 sq.km and stretching 209km. in length, is the longest river in Kerala. The Bharatapuzzhra has been the melting pot of cultures. Its impact in the ethos of kerala has been indelible. The Brahmanical influence apparent in the Vallunvanad regions of Kalpathy and Pallakad transmutes into vibrant Muslim and Sufi culture by the time it reaches Ponnani. Apart from fostering myriad myths, legends folk tradition like Parayi Petta Panthirukulam ,onnathallu, Chavittukali , Mudiyattam etc, it is a recurring motif in the literature of Kerala. Eminent personalities like that of Thunchath Ezhuthachan, Kunjan Nambiar, Vallathol and MT Vasudevan Nair to name some few have all drawn inspiration from Nila.
The Nila, today is dying a slow death. It is a victim of increasing ecological destruction and apathy in the form of large scale sand mining, dams and logging. A river is a way of life. When a river starts dying so does the various cultures along its course. The repercussion of this ecological and cultural erosion is evidently suffered by the communities settled around its banks. Consequently, their knowledge system, arts, life and culture is rendered incompatible with the existing social structure. This crisis is further compounded by the alarming migration to urban centers lured by new opportunities and sometimes even menial and petty jobs.
It is easy to declare that large scale globalization with its emphasis on commercial monopoly is responsible for the present crisis of vanishing cultures but with the scarcity of initiatives to restore the traditional knowledge system the marginalization process of indigenous identity is all the more accentuated. Vayali in this sense represent the former. To help ensure the sustained survival of Nila and its repository of folk arts and culture Vayali, which translates as “the mother of fields”, was formed in 2004. Vayali has two levels of clearly earmarked activities. At one level, it strives to promote traditional folklore arts and culture and preservation of indigenous knowledge at the second level.
Vayali in collaboration with the National Folklore Support Centre has designed a well worked out strategy for community specific intervention utilizing technological assets to tap information on traditional knowledge system in order to establish self-identity and furthermore to create social capital for the community. The information gathering exercise involves a series of documentation, assessment, evaluation and reevaluation. The information hence collated is reviewed by experts on folklore and disseminated in user-friendly formats.
Download the Nila Project Brochure