My host at Chitvan Jungle Lodge, Kanha
, sounded very excited when he told me that a museum visit was next in my itinerary. The prospect of visiting museums seldom excite me, yet I thought I'd give it a try. Little did I know that my visit to the museum was going to change the way I, as a tourist, viewed communities and destinations in general. I was at the Tribal Museum, located in Baherakhar village of Balaghat district, MP (also in close proximity to Kanha National Park's Mukki Zone). The Tribal Museum is one of the initiatives run by The Corbett Foundation
in Kanha that showcases the culture and traditions of the Bhumia Baiga and Gond tribes of Kanha.
In Kanha the Baigas and the Gonds used to live together with the wildlife. But this dependency on the forests often led to conflicts with the wild which later led to rehabilitation and relocation of these tribes, away from the forest. The change in the lifestyle posed a threat to the survival of old traditions. And that's when the Tribal Museum stepped in.
At the entrance, a little Baiga hut gave me the first idea of what to expect from this trip. Recreated in the same traditional way, there was a display of things from their daily life like chakiya (used to grind flour), hal etc. The museum facade was covered in tribal artworks. As I walked in, I saw little people sitting on the floor. A better look few seconds later made me realise that they weren't real! The interior of the museum showed different aspects of the two tribes' daily lives. Bamboo plays a vital role in these two tribal communities. Majority of the displays at the museum were bamboo-based products--from baskets to fishing equipment to even jeweleries. From tribal art to tools to musical instruments, the museum helped preserve the important aspects of these tribes that are now a rarity.
This initiative is just another feather in The Corbett Foundation's cap. You think of wildlife conservation and TCF comes to mind. By helping the tribal communities to stay away from conflicts with the wildlife and create a self-sufficient economy by training the tribal youth in various vocations, TCF is definitely doing way more than just wildlife conservation. For a traveller, these are the little things that makes a destination so much more than just a place.
And yes, the locally made souvenirs on sale at the museum shop are great takeaways.