Janapada Loka Museum: Preserving Folk Life in Contemporary India

This folk museum on the Bangalore-Mysore Highway is the only cultural center in the state of Karnataka to preserve and promote the rituals, customs and living traditions of India’s villages.

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Janapadaloka, a folk cultural center housing indoor and outdoor museums and humming with folk cultural activities, was founded by late H.L. Nagegowda with the intention of preserving and promoting the rich folk cultural heritage of Karnataka. Having come from a humble rural background, he had firsthand experience of the lively and diverse cultural legacy of the village folks, and also their hardships. On one of his visits to Thailand, he was greatly impressed by the ‘Thai Village’ established there, and considering the abundance of folk culture in India, he went ahead and established ‘Janapada Loka’. After retiring from the Indian Administrative Service, he dedicated his life to this cause.

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Though India is a land of villages, in recent times, with the effect of globalization, the oral and performing folk traditions have been facing increasing threats. With the advent of mechanization, old techniques and modes of working such as traditional agriculture, rites and rituals associated with farming, the lifestyle of a typical village family have undergone drastic changes. The objects, which were once used in all the above activities had their own cultural and historical significance, are fast disappearing. It has therefore become vital to preserve, rejuvenate and promote the art and crafts and unique ways of living of our village life for future generations.

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The objects that are housed at the Museum were collected from the attics and store houses of village houses, located in the remote corners of Karnataka, and are categorized as per their uses: indoor and outdoor.

Different aspects of village living is depicted at the museum

Janapadaloka is hub of folk cultural activities throughout the year. We celebrate festivals like Sankranthi and Dussehra, including associated activities, rites and rituals songs and dances pertaining to that festival, just as it is performed in villages. One of most popular events is a festival called Lokothsava that takes place in February over 3-5 days; it features folk artists and folk art forms from all over Karnataka and other states, and attracts a large number of audiences.

We have training programs where folk singing and dancing is taught to youngsters through our training camps. We also organize a rural sports competition where games such as chinni dandu, lagori, kabaddi, etc., are encouraged along with other indoor board games that village folks indulge in.

Mahadwara

People from all over the world visit our museum, with the bulk of the public coming from Karnataka, especially those who have a rural background as it gives them a moment of nostalgia to see objects that were once part of the daily life of their ancestors. We keep visitors books in all the centers and request visitors to express their opinions, good or bad. Their suggestions to improve are taken constructively. On the second Sunday of each month, we organize cultural programs for visitors. Besides this, we provide open spaces and community halls to organization to conduct seminars and workshops.

Videscope Theatre

There is scope for transformation at the museum. We would like to have interactive displays and evolve into a more activity-oriented hub rather than a place that showcases collections. There is an urgent need to digitize all data as well as renovate old structures and heritage building.

Typical village scene, featuring a farmers and bullocks

Our curator, who himself comes from a folk background, as well as several of our staff and there’s definitely a sense of kinship with the objects at the museum. They feel a sense of pride in working for Janapada Loka. I would say, apart from Kannada if they could become proficient in a couple of other national languages, it would help interact with tourists.

Visit the Janapada Loka Museum website. Official visit days: Sundays to Saturdays (except Tuesday) 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

About the Author

Indira BalkrishnaMs Indira Balakrishna, daughter of the founder “Nadoja” H.L. Nage Gowda, is the Managing Trustee of the Janapada Parishath. An artist in the Mysore traditional style, trained under Late Y. Subramanya Raju (Mysore Palace artist), she has held exhibitions all over India and internationally. An ardent fan of the folk culture, she is dedicated to fulfilling the visions that the founder had for the Parishath and Janapada Loka and aims towards turning the museum into a world class folk cultural center for people from across India and the world.

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