Two separate non-profit organizations collaborate internationally with a shared vision of a thriving and just future for the Merasi community and their musical culture.
Their approach recognizes that education, preserving an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and achieving social justice for the continually disadvantaged are mutually dependent goals. Together, Folk Arts Rajasthan and Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan nurture capable Merasi youth in the face of obstinate hierarchical norms.
Folk Arts Rajasthan (FAR)
Beginning as a grassroots effort in 1992, New York-based FAR was established as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2004 by Karen Lukas. Powered by the dedicated passion of volunteers and interns, FAR stands firmly committed to securing a just and viable future for the Merasi.
Lok Kala Sagar Sansthan (LKSS)
Officially registered in Jaisalmer, India by lifelong community advocate Sarwar Khan in 1996, the NGO LKSS serves as the sole hub providing free education and music preservation programs for the marginalized Merasi community. In this safe environment, young people cultivate leadership with life and teaching skills.
“Education is a bright light through darkness guiding children to their future.”
The Jaisalmer Merasi are a community of northwestern Rajasthan (India) who carry a unique musical legacy more than 800 years old. Theirs is an Intangible Cultural Heritage as defined by UNESCO. However the Merasi are scorned locally as ‘Manganiyaars’ meaning beggars, derived from the verb mang-to beg.
Offering safe access to free education along with classes and activities preserving their culture, the bonds of illiteracy & marginalization are being eradicated.
These advantages encourage young Merasi to embody positive self-identity and be aware of the routes open to achieve autonomy, fairness, and secure livelihoods.
This traditional folk music community is considered pollution by virtue of touching the skins of dead animals on their instruments. They are denied fair access to education, healthcare, and political representation.
Most live in poverty, yet aspire to improve their situation with education. Despite persistent prejudice, they persevere in their roles as oral genealogists, storytellers, and musicians, while being recognized globally as indisputable talent.
To reclaim the rightful and dignified identity as “Mirasi” the keepers of regional history, they have shed the derogatory label ‘Manganiyar’, proudly embracing ‘Merasi’, as a poignant symbol of self-determination.