Most regular travellers who’ve covered Maharashtra will tell you that the best time to visit is post the monsoon. Its hill slopes and parched lands are painted in velvet green, while its rivers are in full flow. It was also the best time for us to explore Walvanda, a Warli village made up of seven hamlets or paadas in Thane district. This trip was organised by Grassroutes, a travel group that adopts villages in the area and offers a city slicker, a slice of experiencing rural life — it’s been an integral part of their two-year-old village tourism project. We drove past the green carpets in Tungareshwar, Vasai and Manor, until we reached our destination that was nestled among yellow rice-fields.
Our first halt in the village was Sadakpaada, for breakfast at Anusuyabai’s house. After having the staple breakfast of Kanda Pohe, we got ready to take part in the various village activities.
Home and heart
Since Grassroutes set up this unique idea, every household here has been welcoming guests whole-heartedly into their homes and their lives. Most of their activities are aimed at giving city dwellers a taste of life in a simple village. So, you can choose from harvesting rice or pounding it or grinding it on the heavy stone grinders. The outdoorsy kinds can go fishing, draw water from the well, or collect firewood from the forest nearby. Anusuyabai, a Walvanda resident, taught us how to make Taandalachi Bhakri, and the Khuraasni (flaxseed) chutney to accompany it. A stopover at the village blacksmith to watch him perfect his tools can also be arranged for.
What amazed us in this village was that none of the implements used here were ‘bought’ but were made by the villagers. We spotted separate baskets made from bamboo in two unique shapes — to catch fish and crab, separately!
Skill set special
Another example of their local knowledge was seen when a bee stung my wife. When Waman, our guide, spotted her hand swelling up, he swiftly pulled out the tiny sting. Next, he went into the nearby forest to pluck the leaves of two local plants: Burada and Tarota. He squeezed out the juice from these leaves and applied it on the sting. In minutes, the inflammation had gone!
Being in Warli country, we were keen to meet a few artists, only to be told that there were none. The last had taken up farming long ago. We spotted an old Warli painting on a home wall that wasn’t art but created more as a ritual. That’s when it struck us that art flourishes only when there’s a market for it. In the nearby town of Jawhar and in the faraway Palghar, there are markets for Warli where its possible for young artists to take up this art as a source of livelihood.
Save the arts
This turned out to be more true when we met Bhiklya Ladkya Dinda, the master of the tarpa, a wind instrument unique to the Warlis. Taking a master class on his tarpa, he explained the intricacies of the two bamboo pipes that form the crux of this instrument. The pipe that produces the treble is called the female while the second, which produces bass, is the male.
The lilt and rhythm of this music was a highlight of our stay. Sadly, few in the village can play this instrument. Another sign of the diminishing rich culture and tradition in our backyard.
How to get there
>> Walvanda is about 120 km from Mumbai.
>> Take the Western Express Highway to Manor.
>> Next, take the road towards Vikramgadh.
>> Walvanda is 13 km from here, on the Jawhar Road.
Where to stay
At the Grassroutes camp site; Call 91-8879477437 for bookings.
When to go
Now, till the end of winter.
At Purushwadi, Dehna and Walvanda, the three villages adopted by Grassroutes: Rural Photography workshop, Chakra workshop and Bring in the Harvest.
LOG ON TO www.grassroutes.co.in
(for calendar of events )