It has been said that Paliya was the first language spoken in Gujarat. Ancestor worshipers, the Paliya community celebrate various festivals like Nawaay, Diwali and Holi. The Paliya are a close-knit community, and while not being socially accepted by more dominant groups, their language is a powerful unifying force among them. They are dependent on agriculture and daily labour for their livelihood. Their homes are one-roomed clay and wood structures which serve as a living room during the day and a bedroom at night. Cooking is done outside in baked clay pots on open fires. The roof is laid with baked tiles on wooden frames. Men commonly wear the dhoti –kurta and women wear the sari. Child marriage is still popular and idol worship is part of the daily routine performed by the man of the house. The staple food of cereal rice is eaten with lentil soup and leafy vegetables.
Until recently there were no books in the Paliya language. Traditions have been passed down orally through the centuries. The Paliya orthography was developed in 2016 by Paliya speakers in conjunction with a team of linguistic consultants. Literacy materials were also developed by Nahali speakers during a workshop held in 2018. Following a pre-designed layout and methodology, the materials include: a pre-reader, books systematically teaching the alphabet with an accompanying story book, a basic mathematics book as well as teacher’s guides, a spelling guide and alphabet chart, all in the Paliya language. Oral societies are severely hampered cognitively as they cannot process complex ideas because they have no way of recording the processes by which conclusions were reached. Literacy is transformational for oral societies like the Paliya community.
As of January 2020
The Paliya people, who value their language highly, have recognised their need for literacy in their mother tongue. They have asked for help in starting a literacy project. This will have a transformational impact on the community where the majority of the school-going children drop out after Standard Four. Literacy in their heritage language will provide a firm foundation for further education. Through it the cognitive, social and economic benefits will be boundless. Paliya community members were recently orientated in the next steps of initiating a mother tongue literacy project themselves. With a literacy committee in place comprising members of the community, they will receive training in how to perform their job of implementing and overseeing a successful project. They will also be trained in how to recruit and train mother tongue teachers to teach using emerging best practices.