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Kuruba Council Hut.jpg

A hallowed meeting place 

Subject: Ambala (Kuruba Council House)

Place: Kabini,Karnataka

Year: 2023

Camera: Yashica Mat 124 G

Film: Ilford HP5 Plus

With the advent of settled societies came the need for self-regulation. The evolution of culture took place within formalized structures that were rules based. These regulations created a sense of order by defining permissible thresholds for intra community behavior. Every pre modern society built its own mechanics of justice and morality based on the archetypal moral principles laid down in their founding codes of conduct. These loose sets of behavioral etiquette later coalesced to become the value systems of these communities, which guided their actions in the present and the aspirations of their future. Many of these value systems have evolved into our present times and still continue to guide our everyday lives in the interests of harmony and social order.

Observing the value systems of traditional societies – tribal ones in particular – will give us insights into how these systems serve to organize the social life of various communities. As a case study we look at the social and cultural dynamics of the Kadu Kuruba tribal community who live in the areas around the Kabini reservoir and the national park in the Nagarhole reserve forest that was once their home. 

The photo in this post is that of an Ambala or council house of the Kadu Kuruba community of Kabini.  Though it looks stylistically frugal, it is built to certain specifications that have cultural and spiritual significance for them. It is a space that plays host to a variety of community needs and activities – from organizing rites of passage, offerings to their presiding deities, dispensation of justice and the marking of special occasions and observations in the life of this pastoral community. 

Sadly, these spaces are being used less today as these communities enter a more modern phase of their history. It will be a test for the community in the years ahead to preserve these ways that constitute their identity. Will the next generation be up to it? It will depend on how firmly these old beliefs and practices matter in their own lives.

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