Editor’s note: This article is part of a series called “Theme of the Year 2011: Community Tourism." Community tourism is also called Community-based Tourism or Community Development Tourism. Throughout the year, we will bring you several cases of community tourism - examples where suitable methods for safeguarding local Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) combined with sustainable local development for the benefit of the community at large. We hope this series will serve as a good reference, answering your questions and stimulating creativity to preserve and promote ICH.

Culture and Development with Understanding of grass root level Needs and Potential



banglanatak dot com (www.banglanatak.com) , a social enterprise, formed in May 2000 with a mission of “Culture and Development”, specializes in development communication including outreach, training and research using culture as a tool across India. While working on various developmental issues across the country we developed a strong understanding of grass root level needs and potential. We also realized the need for addressing one of the core issues of meaningful engagement and livelihood generation and that helped us to design our new initiative “Art for Livelihood”.

A good portion of India’s populations are rural and an important part of them are not formally educated. While rural India is usually seen as supplier of cheap menial laborers, it is seldom realised that it is also a hub of traditional arts and cultures, which are mostly practiced by the marginalized/ lowest sections of the society. This large pool of creative talents needs to be tapped for offering another pathway for the development strategy. This invites a shift in approach - to a more pragmatic one that considers culture as concrete means for people’s livelihood improvement and empowerment.


Fakiri Utsav at Gorbhanga: Fakiri Utsav: 3rd weekend of Jan : Gorbhanga - a hamlet in Nadia, 180 Km from Kolkata, is home to more than 100 Fakiri singers. Fakiri Utsav celebrates the Baul philosophy of the quest for the Divine through love for humanity. Visitors are immersed in soulful Baul & Fakiri songs. They experience tranquility, simplicity and warm hospitality of the villagers. The nights are enlivened by Bangla Qawaali, beats of Khol, strumming of Dotara and the swaying audience.

The Model

In 2004, we took up this experimental initiative “Art for Livelihood”, where we conducted a Knowledge Aptitude and Practice (KAP) study across 6 districts in West Bengal and selected 3200 rural folk artists, covering 6 folk art forms (folk dance, folk theatre, folk music). Between 2005-08, we dovetailed with Ministry of Rural Development’s special schemes to form 233 self help groups, opened bank accounts, utilized “Guru-Sishya Parampara” scheme to provide 6 months of basic training to all folk artists, innovated the market and provided direct market linkage to artists. In December 2009, we got support from the European Union and that has helped us immensely. We could do medical insurance for all 3200 artists and their families, 6 resource centers were built at 6 districts, we could send 25 folk artists to Europe, bring 17 artists from Europe as part of cultural exchange. 32 folk festivals were organized in India in 18 months for dissemination and for creating new audiences, the oral traditions were documented and 15 Audio/ Video CD/DVDs were released in 10 months. Groups were supported to develop new productions catering to new audience. The project marked a huge impact.
These initiatives have helped the marginalized artists to increase their income from INR 400 (USD 9) per month in 2004 to INR 2000 (2010). 10% of artists are earning in tune of 20,000 INR per month. Attitude of sending children to school has gone up from 8% (2004) to 98% (2010). Sanitation has increased from 2 to 87%. We could successfully bring in all stakeholders including Govt., Panchayats, private institutions, schools, colleges, international artists and festival organizers and media.


Pot Maya: Last weekend of Nov : Pingla is a quaint little village three hours drive away from Kolkata. Every member of the 53 families residing here is an artist. Visitors walk down painted path ways of history, heritage, mythology and modern realism through a tapestry of colourful stories weaved in a song. They learn to extract colour from leaves and pods. Some even try to learn the art of painting stories.

UNESCO HQ while appreciating the methodology has accredited banglanatak dot com with global Advisory Status (June 2010, Paris).

This holistic methodology, which allies academic research, skill based training, public awareness raising, creation of new audience and direct market linkage for folk artists, has already attracted attention of some State Governments who are considering implementing the scheme to address their development issues.


Basanta Utsav: Holi (Feb - Mar timeframe) - the Festival of Colour - is celebrated with much fanfare at Purulia every spring or Basanta. Purulia is 5 hours train journey from Kolkata. The three day festival is a rich kaleidoscope of colour, dance and music. Visitors play Holi with coloured powders (Abir). Songs by the folk singers reminisced Holi played by Radha and Krishna. Nature herself is adorned with the fiery red Flame of the Forest or Palash flower. Chau dancers, Natuas, Nachnis, Jhumuriyas and Patuas mesmerise the audience as they perform through out the full moon night in the courtyard of a 6th century terracotta temple or a hundred year old royal palace

Interesting case studies:

  1. Golam Fakir, who earned his living by carrying dead-bodies from police station to morgue in 2004 is now the celebrity Fakiri singer, who has traveled to Europe, China, Bangladesh in 2010, performs with Pandit Tanmoy Bose on regular basis and has even featured in award winning films. His identity has been reestablished as that of a performer in his own community and now the villagers introduce their village as “Golam stays here”. Community recognition matters, and art forms have given them the status which they never got before, that encouraged them to take part in development process. They are now the change agents of their area, so they have opted for sanitation, because visitors come to stay with them. Golam is illiterate, but understands the value of education now and preaches it on his own. Villagers encourage the young members to carry on the traditional art. It’s a new direction for them. Average age of Baul Fakir was 62 years in 2004, now it is 43 years.
  2. Patachitra artists in Pingla were extremely impoverished, and now world artists come to them to see scroll painting and learn usage of natural colour and techniques of making these colours. Kala Academy, a major Cultural University in Goa invited these artists to conduct workshop with faculty and students. We helped Patachitra artists to host their first ever Patachitra fair in their own village in Nov 2010, which was attended by over 5000 people and they sold over 15,000 USD in 3 days. All 53 Patachitra artist families in the village got excited with this fair. They manage their resource centre, keep the village extremely clean, and that has automatically resulted in developing a cultural tourism hub here attracting over 200 persons in last 90 days and generating a business over 20,000 USD. Patachitra artists exhibited their Patachitra painting in Paris (Mar, 2011).
  3. In 2004, Jhumur singers in Bankura used to be called to perform only when an ‘artist’ got delayed in a program, to fill up the gap and they were not even offered the transport reimbursements. Now, in Bankura and Purulia, there are ‘Jhumur Nights’. In 2004, there was no Jhumur dance group, now there are 12 women groups with average age of 19 yrs.
  4. In 2004, there were 32 Chau groups who used to perform on regular basis and now there are 147 groups. They have developed new productions on adaptations of Macbeth and Tagore’s pieces and presented in their own ‘masked dance’ style. They have performed all over India and even abroad. In Nov 2010, Chau got enlisted in UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Chau artist communities have recently held their own Chau festival (Feb 2011) in their newly developed resource centre.

  5. The methodology is proven, effective, robust and replicable, benefits may be multi-fold -
    1. Contributes hugely social and economic empowerment.
    2. Motivates marginalized communities to come forward to take active part in development processes and that improves social parameters immensely.
    3. Safeguards traditional art and culture.
    4. Community recognition increases, so marginalized people become mainstreamed.
    5. Focuses on evolving, and not imposing, so it’s sustainable
    6. New cultural hubs keep emerging and may evolve as possible cultural tourism destinations adding to the huge tourism possibilities
    7. Attracts youth both as participants and audiences
    8. Reduces vulnerability towards human trafficking.