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Massive archive to save Bengal’s fading tribal scripts

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An entire body of nearly lost dialects and scripts belonging to the various tribal communities of Bengal is all set to be resurrected through a massive archive. A team of scholars from the English department of Vidyasagar University has travelled for months through one tribal village to another in an effort to save dying tribal dialects, scripts and folk performances. The archive will showcase all the conserved works that has been collected along with folk performances. The performances will also be publicly presented from today on the University campus as a part of a two-day celebration.

The archive team had visited communities like the Kurmis, Mundaris, Shabars and Santhals of West Midnapore, Purulia, Bankura, Birbhum and parts of South Bengal and also documented their visits to the Totos, Bofos, Dhimals, Garos, Ravas and Rajbanshis of North Bengal. The aim was to conserve their dialects and scripts, which were nearing extinction. During their field work, they had witnessed performances like Jugi Jatra, Sitachuri, Churia Churiani, that were popular in the folk life of the Jangalmahal tribes even two decades ago. But they are no more practised by the tribes themselves as with the invasion of electronic media, the present generation do not consider these folk forms entertaining.

The research team has also extensively quarried written scripts in old diaries, faded manuscripts and oral traditions from homes of elderly people, many of whom were themselves performers. The texts are a curious mix of Bengali and Oriya dialects. For a wider audience to understand them, they have been transcribed in phonemic forms and translated into English.