Kerala

Tribespeople make ‘musical’ instruments with bamboo to keep jumbos at bay

A resident displaying the bamboo instrument .

A resident displaying the bamboo instrument .  

They use bamboo to make an instrument that can produce loud sounds to ward off wild elephants

Necessity is the mother of not only invention but also revival of some traditional knowledge.

The tribespeople of Vaniyampuzha colony in Pothukal grama panchayat near Nilambur in the district were forced to fall back on their traditional knowledge to ward off wild elephants.

Thirty-seven Adivasi families of Vaniyampuzha have been living in tarpaulin sheds on a hillock in the forest since the floods devastated their houses on August 8.

Almost exposed to the elements, the tribespeople found no way but to revive their traditional know-how to keep elephants at bay.

Using bamboo, they have made an instrument that can produce loud sounds to warn elephants.

“Our forefathers have used this wooden equipment. Now that we are forced to live in a totally unsafe environment in the jungle, we found no other way but to fall back on our traditional knowledge to parry elephants,” said S. Gireesh, a youngster from the colony.

The equipment made of bamboo pieces looks like a crude musical instrument.

But the tak-tak sound it generates is loud enough to cover a large area and keep the animals at bay.

To alert elephants

The Adivasis prefer to live in consonance with nature much more than other people. Therefore, driving the elephants away is not their agenda. But they use equipment to alert the elephants about their presence in the area. “When we make sounds with this instrument, our intention is only to alert elephants that we are living here, and to stay away from us,” said Mr. Gireesh.

Adivasis call it Thatta. Depending on use, they make it in different sizes. A large one can generate the sound of a firecracker. They used to install large ones near their farms to drive away wild animals.

Curiosity factor

“Our children now watch this with curiosity. For them, it is a new toy,” said Kumaran.

“When we walk through the forest, we sometimes use Thatta. In response to its sound, elephants flap their ears. Thus we get to know their presence in the forest. Besides, we get the smell of the elephant

also. Still there were many cases of our folks getting trapped in front of the elephants,” said Mr. Gireesh. Apart from the Thatta, the Adivasis also revived their traditional bamboo raft to cross the Chaliyar after the floods destroyed the bridges across the river. Irrespective of the season, life is a daily ordeal for survival for the Adivasis living in the forest.

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 10:02:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/tribespeople-go-back-to-roots-to-keep-jumbos-at-bay/article29577782.ece

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