Their cow-dung plastered wooden walls and hay-lined roofs… their traditional customs of keeping their cattle and livestock indoors… their livelihood avenues… their food… their religious beliefs… their toys and tools… Every aspect of the lives of Wangadpada’s Warli tribes reflects their age-old dependence on and reverence for the nature and forests around them.
Close to 200 Warli families bring life to this small and remote village located practically on the boundary of Maharashtra and Dadra and Nagar Haveli in Palghar’s Jawhar region. These families continue their age old tradition of living in joint families in the 46 simplistically built Warli houses within Wangadpada.
While the walls of these homes were built using naturally available wood and sticks and keeping it all in place with a mixture of dung and mud, their roofs were created from shingles and metal as well as crop stalks, hay and grasses and sticks. The entire structure was kept in place using sturdy tree trunks that, according to Vayam NGO’s Milind Thatte, could keep the house stable for over 100 years.
In every other house in this traditionally rich hamlet, the cattle and livestock reside inside the house with the members of the community. “Our goats are very precious and sacred. We don’t make them work or even drink their milk. It’s only for the goat’s young ones. We have a separate section of the house built for them to stay in at night and they freely roam around the house and the courtyard during the day,” said 48-year-old Manoj Rama Wangad, a resident of Wangadpada.
Since agriculture and masonry is the primary occupation of this community, they spend a majority of their time in nature as they work in their rice, urad, nachni, tur and jowar fields and take their cattle along with them. “We consume the crops and vegetables we cultivate and depend on our rozgaar work or labour work to earn up to Rs 1500 per week for other expenses,” he said, when asked about the family income and financial status. “However, if we face a financial problem, we have to sell our cows and goats. They are like an investment for hard times. We have to sell at least one goat every year and get around Rs.3500 for it,” he added.
While these practices display the respect for the nature around them, the Wangad’s true reverence for nature is seen through their religious practices. Irrespective of the religion they follow on paper, the members of this Warli tribe worship nature centric deities like the Gaavdev, Waghoba and Narendra Maharaj among several others.
Growing up in these hills and forests, these Warli denizens have grown accustomed to their simple way of life that relies on the thriving of the surrounding forests that give them their identities. When asked if he would like to move to the city for better opportunities, the 48-year-old said, “Even if given a chance, I would not want to permanently move to a city. This is our simple life. We wouldn’t want to change anything about it.” “However, I want by children to study and get a good education. I want my daughter to become a doctor and my son to join the Indian army. Our community has taught us to be generous, giving and have a community spirit. Higher education on field like teaching, medicine, law, etc can help our children follow the same values and principles and help thousands of people who come into their lives and communities,’ Wangad added.
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