Smithsonian Collections Blog

Highlighting the hidden treasures from over 2 million collections

Collections Search Center

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The People of India - The Kesarah Nutni

The People of India series was researched and written by School Without Walls student, Cal Berer.   Cal was an intern at the Freer|Sackler Archives from January 2011-June 20011 where he was then sponsored by the State Department to learn Hindi while spending the summer in India.

Kesarah Nutni

    The woman pictured belonged to the Nut caste, a Hindu designation “corresponding to the gypsies in Europe.”  By day, the Nuts are acrobatic street performers, lauded for their daring and agility.  They also dabble in iron and brass work, plying their wares alongside performances.  By night, however, they are employed in a similar fashion as the Bhats; that is, dacoity.  For the most part, it is a hereditary profession among them, and its execution is greatly facilitated by the nomadic lifestyle practiced by the Nuts.  Living in tents throughout the year, they are able to select wealthy targets, strike with alacrity befitting acrobats, and disappear to a new town or province without leaving the slightest trace.  Inevitably, as legal infrastructure became more advanced, the activities of the Nuts were curbed by police forced, until, by the time People of India was published, nearly all the famous Nut dacoits had been apprehended.  Nutnis, or Nut women, pursue additional vocations.  They are thought to possess the secrets of love, and have great skill in concocting potions.  As such, they are often consulted by women in matters of love, astrology, omens, and witchcraft.  Nutni patchwork quilts are also highly prized, and many women make their living in that line of work.  Although professing Hinduism, the Nuts have certain traditions that place them as aboriginals of the subcontinent, and are therefore forbidden from taking part in the “recognized divisions of Hinduism.” 

To see all text and images of the Kesarah Nutni as they are represented in the People of India, go to our catalog in the Collections Search Center

The People of India series will be published once a month highlighting the various tribes as they're covered in the People of India. 

Cal Berer, Intern

No comments:

Post a Comment