Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reading stories as a way to fulfil wishes

In ancient times, stories were recited and heard as a way to fulfil wishes and to acquire punya or the religious merit that would afford people a good afterlife / rebirth. Listening to certain stories was believed to confer upon the audience specific punya, that would help materialise their wishes. Often specific days for reading the stories were also mentioned to maximize the expected gains. This practice acted as a key motivating factor which helped spread the storytelling culture in ancient and medieval India.

The stories themselves would mention what desires the listener could get fulfilled by hearing / reciting the story. For instance the Adhyatma Ramayana which is a part of the Brahmanda Purana cites the following as some of the benefits that audiences get if they heard / recited the epic.

· A recitation of the Adhyatma Ramayana will lead people to a happier life
· The gods headed by Indra serve one who cheerfully sings the Adhyatma Ramayana day and night
· Anyone who reads the Ramahridaya (a part of the Adhyatma Ramayana) thrice daily in front of an image of Hanuman achieves all that he wishes
· Any one who listens to, reads or recites the Adhyatma Ramayana on RamaNavami with a concentrated mind gets tremendous merit.

Swetha Prakash

The Adhyatma Ramayana translated by Lal Baij Nath

Monday, March 22, 2010

Symbolism of the crow in Indian mythology

In most world cultures the crow is considered to be highly inauspicious. However, in Indian mythology the crow is a symbol for caution. The crow warns all beings of incoming danger and thus serves the role of a protector and preserver. Due to this the crow has a revered role in Indian symbolism and is offered food during various sacred rites. The crow is also considered to be the vehicle of Dhumavati - one of the ten great wisdom goddesses or Dasa Mahavidyas.

Geeta Ramanujam

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Bayalata - The Storytelling Tradition in Karnataka

Varied storytelling traditions exist in Karnataka. These traditions have distinct styles which vary according to the region they originate from. The storytelling traditions of Karnataka are referred to as Bayalata or open air theatre. The bayalata styles have derived their form and content from religious rituals. All bayalata folk performances are part of a ritual festival consecrated to a local deity. The five key forms of Bayalata are Dasarata, Sannata, Doddata, Parijata and Yakshagana. In Parijata and Yakshagana a single narrator or sutradhar controls the story while in the other forms the story is told through a chorus of four to five narrators, aided by a Vidhushaka or jestor.

Manjula Kuratti

1. Karnataka Janapada Kalegala Kosha Dictionary of Folk Arts in Karnataka, Edited by: Prof. H.C. Boralingaiah.
2. http://www.culturopedia.com/Theatre/theatre_karnataka.html

Aspects of Indian storytelling traditions

India has a long history and culture of storytelling. All over India, varied storytelling traditions and styles existed in different languages. Following are some aspects of Indian storytelling traditions.
- Indian storytelling traditions have a symbiotic relationship with the philosophical, sculptural, music, dance and literature traditions of the regions they originate from.
- The form and content of most Indian performing art traditions reflect the beliefs and philosophical and spiritual beliefs of their performers.
- Storytelling has served a social purpose, acting as a medium wherein various difficult social issues such AIDS, dowry etc are presented; hence storytelling almost always reflects social reality and often seeks to improve it.
- Ethics play an important role in storytelling traditions. The purpose of storytelling is often to expound on morality or dharma, to help audiences distinguish between righteous and unrighteous action.
- Storytelling played an important role in education and it was used both to explain abstract philosophical concepts as well as very practical statecraft, administrative and political science or Raja Niti.
- Stories are often extracted from mythologies, folktales, vedic legends and puranic legends, as well as from the two epics or Itihasas – the Ramayana and the Mahabharata.

Swetha Prakash

The illustrated cultural history of India – AL Basham , Oxford University Press, 2007