Though independently cast the two figures are essentially a tribal couple, affluent and highly respected in society. As suggests their attire – ornaments and ensemble, both the man and the woman, hold some authoritative position in society. The identical pendants, perhaps amulets or medals denoting distinction, worn on their necks are indicative of their authority; however, their head-gears define their specific ranks. The man’s headdress comprises five stars, perhaps the highest rank in a tribal clan or settlement, whereas the woman’s cap has on it just three, maybe, the highest for a woman. Identically, while the woman’s headdress has three stems with tiny buds’ like apexes cresting them; the man’s headdress consists of a broad band with five courses and a prominent lotus-bud like crest.
Obviously, these starred headdresses are symbols of their ranks, their power to decide all disputes whether concerning personal conduct of a tribesman including even a criminal act, or related to two families, such a marriage, or to the entire clan such as determining the nature of a celebration – a festival or any. Unlike the modern civilized society world-over still hesitating, and some of its sections even striving against, giving to women the right to equality Bastar or rather all tribes hailed woman’s authority on par with the man’s since times immemorial. As suggests the standard carried in her hand – and this is also the same in current tribal societies in Bastar, in deciding disputes erupting between two families or any two inmates of the settlement a tribal woman has greater authority than the male.
The long drum that the man is carrying denotes his authority to announce or issue writs and in laying down rules of conduct for an individual as well as society. In nut-shell, the man has greater legislative power, and woman, greater to execute. Unlike our feudalized life-style in which the society’s head, or anyone in authority, is a mere ceremonial presence, formally inaugurating, chairing or gracing a ceremony, the tribal head is required to be the first participant – the first dancer, entertainer as also the top drummer. The drum is not a mere symbol of his authority to issue writs; it is also his instrument as the best drummer. On the top of the authority a tribal chief has to be the top talent also. His drum is his guarantee of being on the top in everything.
Each of the two figures has been installed on an independent drum-like pedestal. Both are putting on identical short skirts fashioned out of the similar kind of textile lengths woven by joining raw silk cords or a cordlike thick yarn. In addition, the man is also putting on a central ‘pata’ over the parting of the legs. Though the standing figures, they are not formal. Rather gesticulated and emotionally charged they reveal in their demeanour, eyes and on their faces some kind of concern or emotion. Both figures have normally conceived noses with blunted or voluminous foreparts, rounded faces but angular towards chins, round wide open eyes and tall necks. From heads to feet both figures have been elaborately bejeweled, the woman, more lavishly with heavy gold ornaments. The headdress of the man includes a pair of horns motif. This is the universal style of the headdresses of tribes in every part of India, Essentially the worshipper of Lord Shiva the entire tribal population in India claims its lineage from Nandi, the bull and Shiva’s mount. Inclusion of horn motifs in the headdresses is an expression of their respect for Nandi, the bull, and of their adherence to Shiva.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.