Saturday, September 27, 2014

Aspects of storytelling in India

                      In India speech and everything it conveyed was considered to be highly sacred, a goddess indeed.  So naturally India has a long history of storytelling. The oral tradition in India was and is a powerful, creative force that expresses the mysteries and miracles of existence, the assorted peculiarities of what it means to be alive. Stories help communities grasp and express in words the true nature of being.
                       Every generation in India for the past 4000 years has been adding to the country’s retentive folk memory. Storytelling has helped preserve ancient aesthetic and cultural artefacts which are intangible in nature. All over India, varied storytelling traditions and styles existed in different languages. Indian storytelling traditions have a symbiotic relationship with the philosophical, sculptural, music, dance and literature traditions of the regions they originate from.
Randy Kloetzli and Alf Hiltebeitel say, 'For a combination of antiquity, volume, and ingenuity, there is nothing like it - so much so that folklorist Theodor Benfry could imagine India as the 'home of storytelling and of tale-types''.
Much that is formative in these oceanic storytelling traditions is anchored in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the two Sanskrit epics.'
            The form and content of most Indian performing art traditions reflect the beliefs and philosophical and spiritual beliefs of their performers. Stories told by tellers in India 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. Storytelling performances were and are still held in temples, weddings and in social gatherings.
                       Traditionally storytelling has 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.
                       Again, 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 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.

The bhakti or devotional movement helped spread regional variants of puranic legends among the vernacular languages and to communities who did not have access to such stories. 1850-1950 was the golden age of storytelling India wherein storytelling developed in vernacular languages in the various regions all over the country.  

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