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Music Rise above all Barriers: Meet the Mirasis of Rajasthan

When people belonging to Mirasi community of Rajasthan took liking for music, they lost all their property and prestige

  • The word Mirasi comes from the Arabic word “miras” which stands for glorious past or heritage
  • The children of the Mirasi caste were denied admission in public schools for a long time
  • Mirasis are trapped in an institutionalised caste system where there is no respect for their talent

Legend has it, the Mirasi caste of Rajasthan, has a glorious past where they were not  a backward community but immensely wealthy. Later, when they took liking to music, they lost all their property and prestige. Thereby, they took to the profession of singing for the pleasure of others. For as long as India can remember, they have written and composed folk songs, trying to keep the folk tradition of Rajasthani music alive. However, these people are looked down upon by others, especially those belonging to upper-caste Indian communities.

An ancient Mirasi. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons

The children of the Mirasi caste have been denied admission in public schools for a long time. These people go from place to place, performing to entertain the audience, yet, never earn any appreciation for their art. They are trapped in an institutionalised caste system where there is no respect for their talent but there is every scope for being ridiculed by the apparently well-off upper castes and classes of the society. They get the worst of the prejudiced Indian societies.

Mirasees of Rajasthan. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

About a decade ago, New York based non-governmental organisations like Folk Arts Rajasthan (FAR) and India-based Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan or folk arts organisation have taken over the responsibility to create better living and practising conditions for the Mirasi people. They encourage their music, aid them financially to ensure that they have whatever  they need to improve their music and provide them opportunities to showcase their talents in places where they will indeed be appreciated. All in all, the organisations are making an effort to re-establish the respectable position of the Mirasi people in the Indian society. They have made it possible for the Mirasi children to attend public school which was previously not allowed.

Mirasees perform at an event. Image Source: daijiworld.com

A representative of the Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan, Hanover Wadia told The Hindu, “The community is used to a ‘jajman’ system where it’s their mere duty to play music rather than it being appreciated as an art form. There is no dignity or respect left in the songs that they sing, and hence, they find a connect with larger audiences away from their villages who appreciate their music.”

Bollywood often uses the folk tracks of Merasis, by translating them to Hindi. Not just that, the Mirasis also get offers from musicians from other genres who want to collaborate with them to make fusion. However, they never pay heed to such things. They want to keep their culture of music, pure.

-This article is compiled by a staff-writer at NewsGram.

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