A video of Cultural anthropologist Tanabe Akio of Tokyo University speaking in chaste Odia is making waves on YouTube and social media. It gladdens the heart to see a Japanese national’s fluency in the language and his understanding of Jagannath culture, which is the cornerstone of Odisha’s cultural and religious amalgamation.
In the video, he speaks about absence of caste conflict in Odisha compared to other states in India and attributes it to Jagannath culture, the unifying factor.
This peaceful co-existence among people of different castes drew him to the eastern Indian state.
Tanabe recounts his first visit to Odisha in 1990 as a PhD student to do a research on inter-caste relationship from historical and anthropological viewpoint. In phases, he has almost lived six to seven years in the state. During his stay in Khurda, his interaction with people of Khandayat caste provided him insights into the Paika rebellion. He also spent time in Puri.
According to Tanabe, there is no exclusion in Jagannath culture, which has assimilated different elements in it giving rise to a culture of inclusivity. He said respect to every point of view and freedom of expression is what sets Odisha apart from other states.
His current study is on status of Adivasis in Odisha for which he makes frequent trips to Kalahandi.
The influence of one tribe/caste/religion on the other determining the food habits (such as Pakhala), culture and religious practices while weaving a pure saga of unity in diversity is what brings him back to Odisha, time and again.
Speaking on Odisha’s influence in Japan, Tanabe draws a parallel between Ratha Jatra and a chariot festival in his country. Though there is no evidence of it being influenced by the one in Puri, there are similarities between the two, he says.
He concludes with an ‘Agnya’ which clearly shows his familiarity with Odia and Odisha.