Epic singers of kalahandi , india

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This presentation is all about the epic singers of kalahandi who were the caste genealogists of many land lords and myth maker of many caste and tribes. Now they earn their livelihood by manual labor and migration. Still they have not forgotten the culture they have created in past.This is the critical analysis of the epic singers of a land where the collective life and togetherness is maintained by the singers.
Mahendra Kumar Mishra
mkmfolk@gmail.com

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Epic singers of kalahandi , india

  1. 1. Changing Scenarioof Ethnic Oral Epics Singersand social functions of oral epics(In the Context of Kalahandi)Dr Mahendra K MishraDirectorTribal Research Center,Orissa,Indiamkmfolk@gmail.com9437636436
  2. 2. Oral Tradition in IndiaIt was a story of 1500 years ago.A story tellers came to a kings’ court to tell his story.King asked him - what is the language of the story ?The story teller said- it is paishachi - my mother tongue.The court poets and the council laughed at him.The king said , ‘ Sanskrit is the language of the court,Wedon’t recognize any other language here. You can go.’Collecting his palm leaf manuscript the story tellers left thecourt, and came back to the forest.
  3. 3.  He started telling the story to thebirds and animals in the forest. Heprepared fire and around himthere were birds and animals of theforest to listen to him attentively. He was reading out the story fromeach palm leaf and was throwingthe page, one after another, in to thefire. The birds and animals werelistening to him forgetting their foodand drink.
  4. 4.  In the dining table the king found that thequality of the food served was deteriorating On enquiry, the king found that, all the birds andanimals of the forest were engaged in listeningthe story and have forgotten to take food. Sothe hunter don’t get good prey and the supplyof food is affected by it. On further enquiry , the king could know thatthe story teller was no one but Gunadhya – thegreat story teller and a poet of the time.
  5. 5.  The king could realized his mistake and ran in to theforest . He found the birds and animals around the firelistening the story from the person whom he met inthe court.The man was throwing the pages of hismanuscripts one after another. The king shouted, Stop it, Gunadhya, I have realized mymistake. Please don’t burn the knowledge. But Gunadhya, with a smile, replied the king , I havemy own subjects in this forest who have respectedthis knowledge leaving their food and drink. Whatuse of the royal patronage when the whole universe isready to listen to me. I don’t mind if all theknowledhes are burnt in the fire. The king snatched the manuscripts from Gunadhyaand got it publisised which is now known asBrhadkatha( the great story ) in India.
  6. 6. The question after this story is◦ Do the local knowledge still patronized by thepeople in power? May it be Monarchy ordemocracy ?◦ Do all the indigenous knowledge have the samestatus with the language of power?◦ Do the people in high culture really respect theknowledge of the people in peripheries?◦ Are the knowledge that is created from theexperiences of the people are properlyunderstood by the people in power andconsidered as the national property ?
  7. 7. ViewsfromtheHistoryThere is a division between the Aryans and the tribal in Indiancanons. Equally the disparity between the language of power andthe language of people.The canons and history of India spells out that the Aryans wereGod and their language was Sanskrit.The era was the era ofthe Gods and the Kings.The Non Aryans were narrated as Asura, Nishada,Rakshasa,Anarya – all for the tribals of the country.The myths and epics of written Sanskrit has narrated the Tribals asdemons and the story of their defeat and displacement.The Aryans wrote their history of victory and down graded therich values of the tribals
  8. 8. Ethnic Scenario in IndiaThere are 623 scheduledTribes in IndiaOut of them 74 are endangered in respect oftheir land, language and valuesTheir culture is eroded in the name of mainstreamingTheir knowledge system is also under destructionThis lead to cultural and linguistic genocide.
  9. 9. Tribal History Till now – Indian history has not givendue justice to the tribal history. Their knowledge system is hardlyunderstood and studied in themainstream culture. Their land, language , knowledge andculture is gradually eroded. They don’t have the history of their own, except in their contemporary culturalpractices
  10. 10. Land of the Man The Lost Tribal Identity Indian land was knownwith the names of theancient tribal communities.They wereGondwana land,Bhilwada,Kondhan DeshSantal PraganaBhuiyan PeedhaSaora Mandal and many more..
  11. 11.  Each ethnic group had a self sufficient territoryand land, own language and self rule and hasclan based territories. Land and language wasthe marker of their identity. But their land was distributed to many modernstates across the time and their history wasdistorted.They were subjugated , displaced andpushed out in to the forest land. Not only this they were acculturated with thevalues that was imposed by the outsider
  12. 12. Kalahandi as a Tribal Land in 1876 total population was 1, 22,ooo and thepercentage of tribal was 75 .( 88000 people wereKondh) In 2001 total population is 13,00,000 and tribalpopulation is 30 %. How the percentage of 75 reduced to 30 % ? What was the historical reasons that theindigenous people reduced The name of the land was Kandhan Desh ( Kondhland) is changed to kamala amandala and thenkalahandi. I am presenting the tribal epics of KalahandiThe major tribes are the Gonds and the Kondhs.
  13. 13. Who are the Epic Singers?A. Caste nominated bards are theEpic Singers Parghania for the Gonds Bogua and Marals for the Kondhs Ghogia/Jachak/Birthia for the Gauds Bhat for the Banjara
  14. 14. Tribal Oral tradition In addition to songs and tales, myths andlegends , proverbs and riddles, tribalpeople have their caste genealogies andsacred myths and epics They have priests , singers andstorytellers. Some knowledge are known to everybody and some knowledge are esoteric
  15. 15. Epic Singers of KalahandiThe epic singers of Kalahandi may broadly becategorized under the following heads. Ethnic singer or professional caste-bard. Castes and tribes having no bardic traditionbut singing the epic song. Priest group in tribal community-male andfemale priest. Singers independent to castes and tribes.
  16. 16. 1. ETHNIC SINGERS OR PROFESSIONAL CASTEBARD: (Table –1)Tribe Ethnic Bard MusicalInstrumentsMyth / EpicsGOND ,BHATRAPARGHANIA,PRADHANKIKRI, PEPRE(fiddle)Budharaja mythChitalSinghepicHirakhanChhatriLuhagundiKing and 8epicsKONDH BOGUA,MARAL DHUNDHUNIA( Onestringedinstrument)Gova- creationmythEpic of Bhima,Epic ofNamgmati –RaajaphuliaManduka Majhi
  17. 17. 1. ETHNIC SINGERS OR PROFESSIONAL CASTE BARD: (Table–1)Tribe Ethnic Bard MusicalInstrumentsMyth / EpicsBINJHAL BIRTHIA MANDAL JATI JANAMBORASAMBHARKING , MYTH OFLION -MANBANJARA BHAT DHAP MITHU BHUKHIASEWABHAYA MYTHLAKHABANJARA EPICSOHBANAYAK EPICSIRARAM NAYAK EPICRAJA ISALU EPICRAMJI HUNA SATI –EPICRAMA HERU EPIC
  18. 18. 1. ETHNIC SINGERS OR PROFESSIONAL CASTEBARD: (Table –1)CASTE CASTE BARD MusicalInstrumentsMyth / EpicsGAUR, GAUD GHIGIA ,JACHAK ,BANS, BRAHMAVEENAKHARATMAL 12CYCLES OFEPIC FOR 12BROTHERSDOM BHAT , BIRTHIA DAMBRU MARDABA KINGLANKA GADAGEETEPIC OFBROTHER SISTERINCEST
  19. 19. II. CASTES /TRIBESWITHOUT BARDICTRADITION, BUTSING EPIC SONGS:CASTETRIBEEpic songs/culture Hero and Narration onSupreme Gods.Bhunjia Origin of Bhunjia, Kachra Dhurua, a culture Hero of the Bhunjias.Paharia(Kamar)Bad Devtar Khena (Origin myth). Gandhu Paradhiya (Culture Hero).Sabar Dance, the song of tattooing, romance epic of Oriya literature, Sashisena,Jarasabar Vidyapati Lalita, origin of Lord Jagannath.Teli Bhat Caste origin from Lord Siva and Parvati, Caste occupation, ritural song“marriage of Gods and Goddesses” (Siva & Parvati).Keut(Fisherfolk)Kaivarta Geeta – Origin of Kaivarta caste from Brahma and Vishnu,(associated with sage Parasara, father of Vayasa)
  20. 20. III.PRIESTS/PRIESTESS ATTACHEDTOCASTE ANDTRIBE:Tribe Priest Shaman Myths &SacredEpicsFunctionGond JhankarGhogienDihari BudharajamythCultivation ofpaddy by LordShivasinging ofancestorgenealogiesSupreme God/AncestorworshipAppeasing theancestorsKondh Jani ( 3)Gova jani KhutJani Jog janiDisari Earth Mothergoddess and Sun GodBuffalo sacrificeNature worshiprain God Bhimaworship
  21. 21. III.PRIESTS/PRIESTESS ATTACHEDTO CASTEANDTRIBE:Tribe Priest Shaman Myths&SacredEpicsFunctionKondh-ParajaBhunjiaFemalepriest -GurumaiGurumai Bhima Sidi,Charela geetSunadi geetAmpleharvest ,divination,safety ofvillagers
  22. 22. IV.PROFESSIONAL SINGERSCategory Singers Epics musicalinstrumentsfunctionprofessional DebguniaBirth ofGoddessof wealth- LaxmiBrahmaveena – harpAmple harvestand wealth ,paddycultivationBasideviaBrahminSinging oftheRamayanakikri ( fidel) Entertainmentand preachingof theRamayana
  23. 23. IV.Professional SingersCategory Singers Epics musicalinstrumentsfunctionOccasional Geetkudia( malesinger)heroicepics ,socialeventsRam kathi , entertainment ,dance andsingingduringmirrageceremonyGeetkudien(femalesinger)
  24. 24. Oral Epics Oral epic is tradition bound Patronized by community to perpetuate the castegenealogies and caste glories It is associated with the culture of a community It is mythical/legendary and imaginary Each ethnic group has his own caste genealogies andepics They have ethnic singers/priests
  25. 25. Nature of Oral Epics: It is a sung narrative(mixed with prose and poetry) Clan bard/ ethnic singer perform the song Accompanied with musical instruments Story about caste originator/ origin of gods andgoddesses/culture heroes/royal dynasties Story of migration and settlement of ethnic group Bear the cultural heritage of the ethnic group It is supernatural: blend of reality and imagination
  26. 26. Mythical Epics Creation of the Universe, earth, and origin of the godsand goddesses, caste origin, validation of gods and theirworship by the clans Story of origin, marriage and family of different gods andgoddesses in a territory Oral performance of myths during ritual performance Community believe it to be true and follow the socio-religious rules that gives them a world view of theircultural reality
  27. 27. Culture Heroes: Based on the religious world view and socialvalues, the ethnic singer create culture heroesin their mind It is tradition bound retained in the mental textof the singers There is a pattern of identifying a hero in aparticular community This is based on invention,talent, strength.Afterattending many tests,the hero wins and becomethe role model for the community Conflict in family for land and property aretwo major factors of creating a culture hero.
  28. 28. Characteristic of Culture Heroes Supernatural, miraculous, magical Divine support Enormous strength to over come obstacles Witty and intelligent Wins in love and war Innovative in ethnic occupations Have the ability to tackle any difficult situation( maybe divine or human)
  29. 29. Why Oral Epics To remember caste glory To know the caste genealogies orally (througharrangement /chronologies of characters andevents) To respect the clan gods and goddesses/worship the ancestors and energize thecontemporary generations Associating the clan history with the presentclan lineage Recite the epics during marriage ceremony toglorify the heroic actions of theancestors/culture heroes Learning from the ancestors story
  30. 30. Narrative Territory of Clan BardParghania ( Epics to Ontology ) It is said that 84 villages constitutes a Parghanawith a king. They use to live on their clan masters donation A parghania consider the territory of his clanmasters as his own narrative territory. Out of eight ‘Saga’ (Clan) Gonds , eight clan bards each clan bard serves his own clan master’sterritory as his own occupation areas. No other clan bard enters other than his or herclan master’s house.
  31. 31. Caste Genealogies Caste genealogies are recorded and maintainedby the ethnic singers Parghania maintain Gond genealogy: Purja Similarly other tribes have their own oralhistory This is related to their gods and firstprogenitor, This is based on their migration and settlement,some time struggle with other caste and winover them Distribution of Gods among the clans
  32. 32. Functions of Ethnic Singers Singing the clan based creation myth, clangenealogies , origin of the castes,origin ofgods and goddesses,migration, settlement,story of the clan heroes Attending rites de passage of the clanmasters Annual tour to the houses of the clanmasters( confined to one clan only) Perform epic story of the clan andother songs , stories, music, etc.
  33. 33. Social function The bards attend their clan master’s socialfunction such as birth , marriage ,deathrituals, and beg/ demand alms. The male bards use to sing the castegenealogies during the death ceremonyof a person He also sing the heroic epic during themarriage ceremony of the Gond family The caste genealogies are re citedduring death rituals, as well as clan rituals(Pitori Puja – ancestor worship)
  34. 34. Bard’s identity The clan bard Parghanias identifythemselves as the younger brother of theGonds and claim their common ancestry. But the Gonds disagree with it.They say thatthey are superior and in no way their clanbards are equal to them. Instead, since the Gond bards accept alms,(Sukdan, bachhadan etc.) from their Gondclan master, the Gonds say that theparghanias are inferior caste group, of courseemerged from their caste.
  35. 35. PURJA: GOND CASTEGENEOLOGYThe caste genealogies, caste myth, oral epicsand hymns are sung by the bards in alanguage called “Gondi”.The language is not spoken except in thereligious ceremonies. It clearly indicates thatthe caste myths, genealogies are esoterictexts, which is not shared by other castegroup, even a caste myth is not sung by asinger in another clan group, as though boththe clan belong to Gond caste.
  36. 36.  “ PURJA” – is the caste genealogy of theGonds. It is the origin myth created bythe supreme God of the Gonds and thefirst progenitor was Linga Deo wholistens to it. Linga Deo wanted to bepopularized and thereafter his firstservant become the parghania who knewall these myths and genealogies.
  37. 37.  It is mandatory for each Gond family / Clan to listenPurja from their Parghania at least once in a year. During the marriage, death rituals and invoking theancestor spirit “Duma” Purja plays an important roleto remember the past glory of the Gonds. Most of the Purja’s are oral history and castegenealogies. In later part of 19th century and 1st five decades of20th century some palm leaf scriber belonging topastoral community (Goud) and Bairagi communityused to write the Gond Purja in palm leaf manuscript.After this the purja was written in pen and paper.
  38. 38. Bards as younger brother of the ClanChief The Parghanias consider themselves asthe younger brother of the Gonds. Sothere is a proverb that ,”the Gonds areelder brother, so they hold the ‘Chhatra’ –an umbrella over the throne – as thesymbol of administrative power, and theyounger brother hold the “Vana” – flagand the musical instrument ‘ Kikri’ as thesymbol of singing the eulogy of the elderbrother.
  39. 39. Wel coming the Bards by the clanchiefBaradhargumaSuradhar sanduGatidar bajarsriAjira ChanchalaInju kaike”The esoteric meaning of the above recitation isknown to parghania only.The clan master / patron replies: “ Oh, my God has appeared. Let’s worship himwith perfume , molasses and ghee”.
  40. 40. Parghania says:“O Majhi, I have come to you.You have got this God from yourancestors.You have to obey your God.You pay the alms foryour betterment”.Then the chief offers him a jug of water and tobacco andinvites him. This is the symbol of honour. If they delay ininviting, thebard may feel offended.They also worship the musicalinstruments as the symbol of their clan God.The bards use to sing the song depending on the rituals andoccasion. If it is a death rituals they sing caste genealogiesand the glory of ancestor story.If it is a marriage ceremony , they sing the glory of theirculture heroes., legendary hero if their community.
  41. 41. The patron gives gold, cow, bullocks, rice, paddy, salt,turmeric, chilly etc and says,“Babu, this much is with meplease be happy with this. I will satisfy you next year”. The Parghania bless the patron,“Chaturbhuj Budhadevwill keep you happy.You will lead and win every where”.Then again the Parghania recite his Gondi hymn –Baradhar guma:……… After 15 days or so the Bard return to his home.
  42. 42. Parghania as epic singer andstory teller In the night, at around 8.00 P.M. to 9.00 P.M. all the people ofthe Gond community assemble in one place.The tribalchief worship the musical instrument. Thereafter the Parghania recites the worship and eulogy ofthe Gond supreme Gods Chaturbhuja Budhadeo, Linga Deoand Jangha Deo. After that, the Parghania, assisted by two to three youngsingers start singing the Purja – the Gond caste genealogies. The audience believes the narration to be true.They alsoremember the caste lineage.The older persons in the Gondcommunity also recapitulate the accurate caste lineage andshare with the Parghania.
  43. 43.  The audience enjoys the narration of theParghania.They feel glorified with theheroic deeds of the Gond Gods andheroes.The categories of narrativesrecited by the Parghanias are asfollowings:
  44. 44.  Sacred narratives: Creation myth of the Universe. Creation myth of the Gods / Goddesses Creation of the earth, birds, animals. Shiva – Mahadev as the first cultivator Purja caste genealogies.
  45. 45. Purja One such ‘Purja’ is collected from SriParsuram Majhi, Malpada of Sinapali Blockin Kalahandi district reflects the nature ofits structure, narration and the function.This Purja reveals how the Gonds camefrom Bastar and Chhatishgarh toKalahandi.The content area found in thePurja is:
  46. 46.  Distribution of Gond Gods andGoddesses in the Gond administrativeterritories. Family relation of the GondGods and Goddesses, distribution of landand place (Gadi), worship of Gonds to theGods and Goddesses according to theirclan. Categories of foods, dresses, andofferings given to the Gond Gods andGoddesses according to their individualtastes.
  47. 47.  Ethnic status of the Gonds:The superiorGonds and inferior Gonds in terms of theirorigin and their occupation are described inthe Purja. Out of 8 ‘Saga’ Gonds the Markamand the Netam Gonds are superior and therest of the Gonds are comparatively inferior.The kinship relation is also determined inthe Purja, and description is found, whetherthe marriage between two different Gondclans is possible or not.
  48. 48.  The history of clan migration from oneplace to the other and forming of newsettlement is found in the Purja.Thestruggle of the Gonds with other tribesduring their migration and settlement isdescribed in the Purja.They also describethe first progenitor and the first Gondhero who defeated other tribes and savedtheir Gond clan.
  49. 49.  In order to keep the caste genealogychronologically the time factor is retainedthrough the series of important events.For instance, the events of the Gondheroes are remembered by theParghanias and it is through theassociation of events that the chronologyof the Gond oral history is maintained.
  50. 50.  Social rules are described in the Purja.Most of the Gonds are belong to breastmilk brothers (Dud bhai) and institutionof marriage is not allowed between thesetwo Dudbhai clans. So in order to beaware of their caste status and theapproved marriage relation between theGonds, the Purja is referred.
  51. 51.  Unless and until the caste genealogies areagreed and declared as correct, thenarrations of the Parghanias aresometimes rejected.The “sianlog” –senior persons of Gond communitysuggests the Parghania to correct thenarrative events. So that the right oralhistory and chronology will bemaintained.
  52. 52. RealitiesChangingScenario of theEthnic Singers
  53. 53. Current Sceneario Modernity, westernization, industrialization, moderneducation and globalization has left little placeto genres like oral epics/myths Ethnic singers are in cross road in their identity,neither they are aware of the traditional knowledge,or ready to abandon the identity of a singer. Scholars quest for oral tradition has made themaware of the importance of their knowledge,butunless the caste patron approves, they are notready to share. They consider the caste genealogies as esotericknowledge,only should be within their privatedomain
  54. 54. Professional singers and their currentsituation Singers are unable, in a changing environment, toadapt the singing profession they once learned,but still stored in their memories Many genres of folklore have vanished foreverwith the passing of the last tradition-bearersfamiliar with them. Now no singer of 60s are available to us tolisten to their songs of glory Musical instruments are not available or of nouse
  55. 55. Lack of Patronization Now a days ethnic singers are lackingpatronization Clan masters dont patronize them Traditional singing is replaced with Hindifilms during marriage/ birth rituals etc. Mode of entertainment became morevisual than aural, elders did not patronizetheir community knowledge Modern education gave them new identitythan earlier one
  56. 56. Lack of Patronization Now a days ethnic singers are lackingpatronization Clan masters dont patronize them Traditional singing is replaced with Hindifilms during marriage/ birth rituals etc. Mode of entertainment became morevisual than aural, elders did not patronizetheir community knowledge Modern education gave them newidentity than earlier one
  57. 57. Singers as passive tradition-bearers ,Why? No clan support Unable to adjust with new social life Adoption of labour and agriculture, rural employment No training and education on traditional singing ,music Hesitate to write / perform the knowledge in newsocio-cultural situation which could be the source ofregenerating the cultural resources No knowledge about the importance of theirperformance as the borrower of human culture.
  58. 58. Observation:The socio-cultural aspects of the epics are1.The epics represents the pre agricultural societyof Kalahandi2.It represent the initiation of agricultural society( invention of iron, plough, cutting forest andleveling land( sunabeda, rupabeda)3.Invention and discoveries: iron, liquor,4.Etiological myths: why the paddy looked blackand yellow, why the tiger is afraid of the wilddogs? why there is worms in the fig fruit etc.
  59. 59. How to Revitalize? Community support:Approval of jati maha sabhato document the social and oral history oftribes and castes Bring the content in audio, video and printform Patronize the singers through recognition,reward and pension( Karnataka example) Using oral tradition as the means of politicalgain, ethnic identity, group solidarity,and maintainethnic culture.
  60. 60. Dual Responsibilities: Sensitizing the community on safeguarding theoral epics/ myths/caste genealogies so that theywill patronizing the singers Recognizing the singers in public domain Studying the oral epic genre as a means ofunderstanding the ethnic culture as well as usethem for socio-cultural and socio-politicalregeneration A place where academic domain contribute tothe community from where the oral traditionhas been derived and giving back to the community
  61. 61. Application Traditional performance in the community performance in changing situation: Use in research ( anthropology, history,linguistics, literature , music etc.) Use for ethnic identity and achievepower (land, culture and language) Use in education ( cultural curriculum)
  62. 62. Conclusion From 1500 years ago till now – the knowledgeof the singers and the languages of thecommunities are still subjugated and notproperly understood as the resources of humanproperty. The Kings and sages have gone, peoples rulehas come , but still the knowledge and language ofthe tribal / ethnic communities are in constantthreats, the threats of hegemony and thethreats of cultural genocide. It is essential to maintain cultural bio diversity andtherefore knowledge from the epics is importantto understand the alchemy of nature.
  63. 63. Thank you

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