Bhojpuri folk songs, more popular in Mauritius than in India

Indian Ladies Sangeet is considered a pastime in its land of birth but Bhojpuri-speaking communities in Mauritius have taken it to another level. They have popularised it so much that Unesco has added it to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

Geet-Gawai, or Bhojpuri folk songs in Mauritius, made it to the list on December 1, 2016. The folk songs first reached Mauritius 90 years ago with the arrival of Bhojpuri-speaking women. They passed the oral legacy on to younger generations. Some of the songs have even been documented for posterity, Sairta Boodhoo, chairperson of the Bhojpuri Speaking Union, Mauritius, told DH at the ongoing Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Bengaluru.

In the last 90 years, Mauritius has recognised around 4.5 lakh people who arrived from India; 40% of them were women. The women are now teaching these songs — of invoking Gods, of traditional Indian weddings, of folk tales, Ghoomar, Dram Geet, Mandar Puja, Dharti Bandhal, Suhaag Geet, Chumawan Geet, railleries and more — to their children in Mauritius as well as to females in India.

Over the last few years, Boodhoo said, she had been visiting India, especially Uttar Pradesh and the surrounding regions, to share the folk songs. In Mauritius, youth and children are encouraged to take part in cultural Bhojpuri programmes. Technology has only made the job easier, she added.

“Most importantly, we are trying to protect the culture that we have inherited and pass it on to the future generation. Besides the songs, we also teach the Bhojpuri language in schools. The Mauritian government has appreciated our efforts,” Boodhoo said.

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