The origins of the Holiya tribe are said to be in the southern state of Karnataka. The Holiya first came to eastern Maharashtra for trade and this was followed by mass migration in the 18th Century. There is evidence that the Holiya people associated with the royalty of the princely states of Karnataka. They used to help the rulers as palace servants and as public administrators. Today they are influenced by more dominant language groups. Their dress is simple: kurta/dhoti for men and sari/blouse for women. Their homes are built using astrological prediction and they have kept their religious traditions alive through the dramatization of the Hindu epics. Rice and lentil soup forms the main meal and wheat rotis are occasionally prepared. The people generally have low education levels and work as labourers in any occupation, such as farming, shop-keeping and driving of bullock carts.
The Holiya orthography (alphabet) was developed in 2016 by mother tongue speakers in conjunction with linguists. It is based on the Marathi Script, but includes only the sounds that occur in their own language. Once their orthography was established, mother tongue speakers produced various materials for use in a literacy programme. These were developed during workshops where locals were assisted by linguists and literacy consultants. The materials produced following a pre-designed methodology include: a pre-reader, books that teach the alphabet and an accompanying story book. Basic Mathematics and an alphabet chart are also available for use in the programme. Community members have been trained as teachers and a literacy committee and coordinator representing the people have received training in how to implement and run the programme themselves.
As of January 2020
It is essential for a community to recognise their ‘felt need’ for literacy and for them to ‘own’ the work. This ensures sustainability and greater success of the endeavour. Without this, outsiders continually have to push and support the programme. Written and illustrated by Holiya speakers, the literacy materials are based on everyday life in a Holiya village. The programme is expected to provide those with limited access to education the opportunity to become literate in their heritage language through relevant and engaging materials. This will help to provide a secure foundation for further education. Through this programme, it is expected that there will be multitudinous cognitive, social and economic benefits. The literacy committee will be further trained in how to recruit and train mother tongue teachers to teach using emerging best practices, as well as how to monitor and report.