From Flower to Spirit: How Moha Pervades Warli Lives

in Image Gallery
Published on: 20 February 2020

Namrata Toraskar

Namrata Toraskar is an architect and independent researcher currently based in Mumbai. She recently completed her Master’s in Interior Architecture & Design with a specialization in Crafts and Technology from CEPT University, Ahmedabad. Through an interdisciplinary use of photography, illustrations and writing, she strives to evolve creative approaches to intervene in the built environment of the rural communities and the position of their empirically evolved livelihood practices in the society. Her articles, illustrations and research papers have been published in national magazines and international journals.

For the Warli tribe of the hilly tracts of Jawahar taluka in Palghar district, Maharashtra, the mahua tree (colloquially, moha cha zaad) has spiritual significance as well as practical use.

The Warlis eat the moha flower, barter it for grain, extract its oil, sell it for cash and brew moha daru (alcohol) from it. The colourless spirit is an integral part of the Warlis’ lives and indispensable to their rituals and social gatherings. It was once vital to the rural economy of the region. But various rules and sanctions on moha’s production imposed during the British rule in India, and followed by post-Independence governments, criminalised its production, sale and consumption by the locals. So far-reaching are the implications that now all their interactions with moha happens in secrecy.    

This photoessay illustrates the ecological, religious and cultural context in which moha daru is brewed and sheds light on its production process.