Have you ever seen the mountains come alive as children roam about villages singing songs and beating their drums? Probably not after the last time you watched The Sound of Music. But this is something that you might come across right before your home if you ever happen to visit the Kullu Valley in Himachal Pradesh during the Haran festival which is a part of the famous week-long Kullu Dussehra festival. An anecdote shared by a 9-year-old girl about how their village celebrates the festival was published as a story in Voices of Rural India, a non-profit initiative started during the lockdown. A publication providing an ‘emic’ view of a particular culture and its people, Voices of Rural India has been able to create a space that is non-commercial and yet deeply engaging in its authentic repository of oral anecdotes and experiences.
When the COVID-19 induced lockdown brought India’s tourism industry to a grinding halt, many rural communities all over the country lost their livelihoods and sources of income. Launched during that time itself, Voices of Rural India, run by a team of passionate travellers, responsible tourism pioneers, digital empowerment advocates and a group of volunteers aims to turn this unprecedented crisis into an opportunity. They aim to create alternative livelihoods for people in rural India by teaching them digital storytelling skills using basic tools at the grassroots level, with a focus on women and the youth. Besides this utilitarian aspect, the initiative also aims to build a repository of oral traditions, local folklore and the culture of rural India through the voices of its own people. Essentially, it strives to change the way in which rural narratives reach the people of India. It is a welcome change from the filtered version of rural India as seen through mainstream news platforms, which feature stories written not by the rural storytellers themselves, but by an outsider.
You can check out their website here.
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