The Halakki tribe of Uttara Karnataka is one of the isolated tribes of India whose way of life are as ancient and traditional as their origin. Known for living deep in the forest, away from the mainstream society, they have a rich treasury of folk tales of every versions of ancient epics and songs for every occasion, from festivals to ordinary chores of day-to-day activities. Their songs project their deeply-rooted heritage in nature.
One such folklore is Seethekami, which is the Halakki version of Ramayana, in which Ram is not the protagonist. It is Seetha who takes the central stage, narrating the painful events of her life. According to their version, it was Lakshmana who won Seetha, and not Rama. He killed a crow which disturbed the meditating King Janaka, Seetha's father. The Halakki women usually narrate these epics by incorporating them in their folk songs as the main themes.
The Halakki women have many folk songs centring Seetha and her days spent in the forest— how she loved nature, trees and animals. They sing these songs in groups, especially, on their way to forest to collect fresh forest produce and firewoods. The songs reflect the community’s love and reverence towards forest and nature. The women sing it together every day and night, whenever they get time, thus maintaining their community’s harmony and welfare.
Having been forced to mingle with the townspeople due to the recent government policies and forest schemes that serve the capitalistic society, the Halakki women, at the crack of the dawn, go to the forest to collect the produce in hopes of selling them in the market. By the noon till late evening, the women, along with the Halakki men, work in the fields owned by the town’s men. After the day’s toil, the women come home to complete the chores of the house and look after the children. Of all the tasks the Halakki women are assigned, walking deep into the forests in search of fresh produce is their favourite and they look forward to it after every tiring end of the day. Their folk songs remind them that even in the capitalist society, the forest continues to provide them for their subsistence.