About REACH (Rural Entrepreneurship for Art & Cultural Heritage)

 

 

The Organization

It is becoming evident that the advance of modernity is not an unmixed blessing and it is essential to counter balance its negative aspects by initiating appropriate measures. The distinctiveness of Indian Culture over the millennia has lain in the unique fact that its matrix has been its village from where its cities have drawn their cultural nourishment. However, in the last fifty years our villages have suffered a cultural drain, especially because they have seized to function as the spring-wells of our national culture, and during all this time ideas, values, norms and forms of living have tended to flow in one direction, i.e. from the city to the village. This development coupled with the growth of modernism is bound to aggravate the negative fall-out of the modernistic development which can best be counterbalanced and negatived by ensuri­ng the cultural vitality of village life and its multifaceted forms.”It is with this dream of reversing the misguided flow of the ‘Cultural Ganges’ that Rural Entrepreneurship for Art and Cultural Heritage was formed into a Registered Trust on 19.05.95 and subsequently registered as a Society, Registration No. 556 D-13149 on June 1, 1999 at Dehra Dun. REACH is a non-profit, secular, apolitical, non-governmental and largely voluntary initiative.

 

The Mandate

REACH takes upon itself the onerous task of bringing community on the center-stage of policy planning and strengthen it at the grass-root by silently providing wherewithal for the continued evolution of policy, planning and its implementation focusing on the specific needs of the community. Underlying this emphasis on the community is the construct that geopolitical diversity

leads to diverse needs and the community itself should be empowered to look for solutions rooted in the ecological, cultural and economic realities of their situation.

REACH stands for Self-Help rather than governmental assistance - community action rather than development policies being thrust upon people. REACH focuses on the rights of the communities over their biotic and non-biotic resources. We believe in capacity building of the communities to enable them to judiciously utilize their natural resources with the help of modern technologies, keeping the long-term sustainability in sharp focus.

The people actively involved in REACH share the conviction that the worldview and the so-called ‘global culture’ dished out by the proliferating media of communication was instrumental in breeding inferiority in the minds of the simple folk of the remote areas, be it the Himalaya or any other part of the world. It was realized that the logical and natural evolution of what we now know as the Indian Culture has been village to town to city. The proliferation of media has completely reversed that trend. It is now the telly that tells the innocent peasant that unless he is ‘bold and beautiful’, he runs the risk of being left out of the race for progress.

All the models of development handed out to people in the rural countryside are aimed only at the monetary development. The plans are integrative, without in any way considering the cultural angularities and subtle hues of lives that have evolved over centuries. Thus the government officers employ similar development schemes in the tundra-like reaches of the Upper-Himalaya as in the arid salt desert regions of Kutch, Gujarat. All this, unmindful of the needs and susceptibilities of the soil in which these diametrically opposite ways of living have germinated and taken root.

Thus, the mission of REACH is to make planning ‘people-centric and micro-oriented’, empowering people to conserve, and in the process gain economically from their cultural and natural endowments.

We also feel that the market driven media is rubbing off the cultural autonomies of people and breeding a kind of cultural inferiority in them. Culture, it is felt, is area specific and its icons are firmly rooted in the soil from which they germinate. While many scattered efforts are being made to generate awareness of heritage and the need to protect it, the traditional way of life sought to be perpetuated metamorphoses beyond recognition. An art form loses its sanctity, even purpose and raison de etre’, once it ceases to be revered and ceases to be an intrinsic part of the social milieu from which it has sprung forth. Thus, one understood the futility of making an art form very popular abroad while its exponents, nuances gradually mutate, and the practitioners steadily become marginalized in their own soil leading to the death of the art form.

Our Focus

REACH focuses on all aspects of creative art, emphasizing local cultural practices, ancient wisdom and heritage, including forest wealth, with an effort to evolve a new paradigm of development - models that are both culturally and ecologically sustainable and yet progressive.

REACH inspires rigorous inquiry to uncover the roots of the prevailing world-view of the communities. It explores eco-‘logical’ approaches, which contain holistic rather than reductionist perspectives; and spiritual, rather than consumerist values.

REACH proposes to employ the best management practices and Information Technology tools to achieve its objectives of bringing the benefits of the IT revolution to the rural folk, thereby bridging the ‘digital-divide’ and effectively converting it into a ‘digital dividend’ for them.

The Accomplishments

REACH has come to occupy a significant position in the lives of people in the mountain communities of Garhwal and Kumaon, Uttaranchal Himalayas. The following can be cited as its accomplishments:

  • REACH is working with the Ruria (lowest in the caste order) communities in the Pipalkoti region of Uttarkashi and Chamoli districts of Uttaranchal. This long-term project is funded by the Government of India and seeks to achieve integrated rural and community development through strengthening of the supply chain of Ringal, the locally available high-altitude bamboo, from raw to finished product stage. The organization is instrumental in creating Self-Help Groups of artisans, providing them credit, marketing support, product development, design intervention and promotion. With these, micro-credit societies involving women among the communities are being organized. The project has successfully completed the baseline survey stage and the design development stages.

  • REACH is working with the tribal communities in the Hanol region of Dehra Dun and Uttarkashi Districts of Uttaranchal. This long-term project is funded by the Government of India and seeks to achieve integrated rural and community development through strengthening of the supply chain of Wood Craft, utilizing the locally available craft skills. The organization is instrumental in creating Self-Help Groups of artisans, providing them credit, marketing support, product development, design intervention and promotion. With this, micro-credit societies involving women among the communities are being organized. The project has successfully completed the baseline survey stage and the design development stages.

  • The REACH organizes Virāsat, a festival of Indian folk art and wisdom. Conceived as a collective mass celebration and evolved on the lines of the Theban Celebrations of ancient Greece, the Festival involves a truly mass celebration from about 8,00,000 people over a period of 15 days. The Festival has grown into the biggest such event in Asia, featuring local culture as well as folk culture and craft of the world.

Virāsat focuses on the vital arts, crafts and the environment through an interactive and festive format. The Festival includes Craft Exhibitions and Mart, Environment and Heritage Exhibitions, Craft and Archaeology Workshops, Folk Performances from all over the country and Uttarakhand, Doon Film Festival, Literature Festival, Wisdom Talks, Poetry Sessions, Seminars, Theatre, Painting Workshops, a Classical Music Concert and much more encapsulated in a ten day event. During this event, we collaborate with several reputed organizations such as – National Museum, Archaeological Survey of India, HNB Garhwal University, Forest Research Institute, Mathura Museum, Indira Gandhi National Museum of Man, Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Zonal Cultural Councils, Wildlife Institute of India. The festival has been instrumental in establishing a cultural-correspondence between the remote rural communities and city-dwellers.

  • REACH also conducts, annually, a Course Module on HERITAGE for Phase II Probationers at the Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie. Eminent personalities like Sonal Mansingh, Ajai Shankar, Ashok Vajpeyi, KK Chakravarti, have conducted this module along with members of REACH. The module aims at developing apathy among the young bureaucrats (policy makers and planners) about the communities, their rights over their resources the overriding need to factor in social, geographical and political diversity in planning and implementation.

  • Documentation of Ancient Temples of Jaunsar Bawar in the Middle Himalayas. Research and documentation of Cultural-Ecological Rituals and Life in the Tribal Regions of Garhwal Himalayas. (A Project of the Ministry of Culture, Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India)

  • Documentation of Structural Stone Temples of Gujarat. The temples of North-Gujarat, like Rani-Ki-Bau, Patan, Peludra, Palodar, Khandosan, Sander, Ruavi, Asora Deora, Rora Monuments in Himmatnagar, Bavuka in Dahod District, Delmal and their exquisite sculptures have also been photo-documented by us. This is the first time frame-by-frame documentation has been carried out of these Solanki Period temples more than a 1000 years old. (Incidentally, these are the only photographic records of these less known temples, that have been destroyed in the recent devastating earthquake)

  • Recording and Dissemination of Folklore & Grammar of Dhol Damau – Himalayan Percussions. Creation of ‘Himalayii Naad’ a folk orchestra/band, as part of employment generation activities for the tradition bearers.

  • Photo Documentation of the Nanda Devi Raj Jat Yatra by a team of 5 volunteers was done extensively during the recent Jat. The project covered the Yatra along the 280 km route.

  • Video-Documentation (16 continuous hours of footage) on the Mahabharat of Garhwal.

  • Revival of the Tradition of Pandavlila through ‘Chakravyuh’ the ancient theatre form of the Garhwal Himalayas, focusing on environmental theatre, i.e. theatre in a found space and not a created space.

All these activities have been aimed at developing a better understanding of the communities and developing a holistic view of their unique situations, advocating the management of natural resources in a more equity-based manner and asserting community rights over their angularities, specific landscapes and resources.