India Insights

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Desert Musicians

“When a Manganiyar child cries, it cries in sur”


The Manganiyars are traditional musicians from the desert of Jaisalmer in northwestern India. Before the world got to listen to their stirring music, they were singing to their patrons exclusively. A Manganiyar family  and their patrons have been connected to each other through the generations. One can say that they used to inherit each other. The Manganiyars used to sing for all occasions in their patron’s household, be it birth, weddings, funerals, and all other celebrations. The songs composed by them are about incidents, achievements, anecdotes of the family members of the patron. They also describe their patron’s illustrious history and list out all the names in their genealogy in one breath!

For these performances they used to be provided with grains, cattle, horse, camels or money. The roots of this symbiotic relationship is untraceable, but it came to a gradual end in recent decades when joint families disintegrated. In the 1980’s through the efforts of Padma Bhushan Komal Kothari the Manganiyars have been performing in some of the most prestigious concerts across the world.

Living root bridges

In the wettest place on Earth, the indigenous people have urged the Indian Rubber plant to build bridges with its roots over the centuries.


This is Cherrapunjee in the northeastern part of India. The Ficus elastica tree produces secondary roots higher up on its trunk that are pulled and twisted by hand to merge together Coaxing the tree to extend its roots across the river is sometimes done using betel nut tree trunks sliced in the middle and hollowed out to hold the roots horizontally in the desired direction. Many other techniques are also used. Though there are a many root bridges in Meghalaya, the most visited one is the Umshiang double decker bridge located in the village of Nongriat.

Cherrapungee can be visited along with Assam in a 5 day tour of the region.


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