The Cosmos of Adivasi Food: Ecology and Traditional Knowledge by Nilanjan Bhattacharya


Dialogue | June 10, 2017 | 10.30 am – 5.30 pm

Film Screening | June 11, 2017 | 6.30pm

Free and Open to Public


Nature has always been the primary reservoir of food and medicinal support for most of the

adivasi communities in India. Adivasis’symbiotic relationship with nature helped them

develop sustainable management practices of food and other biological resources and a

repository of related knowledge, which have been transmitted over generations. Also, the

strong interrelation between the traditional religion of the adivasis and their food practices is

manifested in many of their rituals, taboos and festivals.

The irony is that the State has systematically ignored the Adivasi ways of living; their food

culture and knowledge systems have never been given any recognition, and now, with the

inflating consumerism Adivasi food culture is in a state of jeopardy. Their sustainable

resource-management practices are decaying and the level of their self-sufficiency in food

has dropped. The knowledge related to food and other bio-resources is also eroding rapidly.

Given this backdrop, in this workshop, Nilanjan Bhattacharya intends to explore and discuss

the brilliance of the traditional food culture of Adivasis and its relevance in India. He will

also delve deeper into the politics of food in India and review the existing notion of so-called

Indian food, which predictably excludes Adivasi food culture.

This will be done by presenting various case studies (mostly through topical films and video

clips) from different parts of the country. The workshop will include the screening of

Bhattacharya’s acclaimed film, Under This Sun which focuses on

biodiversity and traditional conservation ethics.

The workshop will be inclusive in nature, welcoming interjections from the participants, of

their views and experiences on the topic, and in a conversational format.


Nilanjan Bhattacharya is a filmmaker based in Calcutta working in the field of documentaries

for the last twenty years. His films have been showcased in many film festivals, forums and

art spaces in India and abroad. He has worked as a consultant (on Calcutta’s public culture) to

several acclaimed international artists like Joakin Koester, Marcel Odenbach, Carsten Holler

and many others. His film installation, Fishing Out of Time was exhibited at Experimenter,


Nilanjan received National Film Awards of India in 2005 and 2010 for his films, Under This

Sun on Biodiversity and related Knowledge in India, and Johar Welcome To Our World on

Indigenous food culture of Jharkhand. His other important works are, Rain in the Mirror and

Bengalis in the World of Fish. He has received supports for his films from The Ford

Foundation, Goteborg International Film Festival Grant, NHK and so on.

Nilanjan also writes on food and Calcutta’s public culture and is currently pursuing a project

on the tribal food culture of India.