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“This Is Our Story”: A Chhattisgarhi Epic


Candainī was the single genre most consistently mentioned in listings of what Chhattisgarhi singers and audiences from the region s heardand articulated to be the “Chhattisgarhi” folklore repertoire. As I got to know better the members of the communities in which I lived, their indigenous commentary often began to break down the nature of the social communities with which genres were identified by caste, age, and gender. However, candainī and the regional Mahabharata performance genre paṇḍvānī, with which it is often paired, almost always retained their regional identification; the community with which they are identified is both geographically and socially more inclusive than that of any other genre from the core repertoire. Candainī was repeatedly called “a Chhattisgarhi story,” “our story.” It is because of the strength of this identification between narrative and the regional community that I call candainī an epic tradition.

Other narratives performed in Chhattisgarh also fit the characterizations of the Western analytic category of epic (features of poetic/sung composition, heroic characters and themes, and length) with which there is not this level of self-identification.1 For example, the Dhola-Maru epic tradition with which Susan Wadley works in western Uttar Pradesh (1989) is also performed in Chhattisgarh, and yet it is known here specifically as a Rajasthani (western Indian province and cultural region) story, representing a somewhat exoticized “other,” exemplified by the hero flying away on a desert camel not native to Chhattisgarh. The north and central Indian martial epic of Alha is also performed on occasion in Chhattisgarh but is associated with specific historical kingdoms outside the region and is perceived to be someone else’s history. Or, although the pan-Indian Ramayana epic tradition is arguably the most significant religious narrative in the plains of Chhattisgarh, its singers and audiences call it a “Hindi,” rather than a Chhat-tisgarhi, story (kathā). The hero and heroine, Ram and Sita, are divine royalty and, in dramatic performances of the tradition, are dressed in generic north Indian royal costuming, as opposed to the Chhattisgarhi dress and jewelry that would identify them by region and caste.

Placed in the context of these long, sung heroic narratives available in Chhattisgarhi performance but not listed as part of the regional repertoire, candainī stands apart in the extent to which it has been appropriated by the regional folklore community as “its own.”2 To call this tradition “epic” challenges the boundaries of the analytic genre that have been defined primarily in terms of the Greek epics, particularly with regard to traditional definitions of (male, martial) “heroism.”3 This narrative is a love story, the “hero” is female, and her strategies and actions are nonmartial. I suggest that it is these very elements that both reflect and contribute to the regional ideology identified by the folklore community as “Chhattisgarhi.”

Geographic and Social Boundaries of the Epic

Although candainī is called a “Chhattisgarhi story,” its performance is not limited to the region but spreads across numerous geographic and linguistic borders from middle India to the Gangetic plains of northern India. Candainī differs from many Indian regional epic traditions in that its performance is not regionally bounded because of association with particular caste histories, regional “historical” events, or the founding of a regional religious cult.4 Thus, it can and has been appropriated by geographically distant communities as “theirs” in a way in which many other epic narratives cannot be. In this chapter we will look at the different shapes and meanings that the epic tradition has taken as it has been appropriated by two such communities— the cowherding Ahir caste in Uttar Pradesh (hereafter, U.P.) and the regional folklore community in Chhattisgarh—asking what it means for candainī to be identified as a regional story.

It is important to point out that although folklorists may identify the narrative tradition in these two regions as “the same” based on common characters, constant plot elements, and shared motifs, the wide geographic mapping of candainī is a reality to those folklorists and not to the epic s performers and audiences. They know and understand the tradition as rooted in geographically circumscribed performance and social contexts, as being identified with, “belonging to,” specific communities. None of the singers whom I met in the plains of Chhattisgarh knew that the “same” story was sung in U.P. When I mentioned this to one of the singers, he exclaimed, “Do you mean they really sing our Chhattisgarhi candainī way up there?”

The social boundaries of the performance communities (and note I have shifted to plural here) associated with the candainī epic tradition in Chhattisgarh have shifted rather dramatically in the last twenty to twenty-five years. In the conclusion of the chapter, I will look more closely at some of the changes that have influenced who the “we” is that is being represented by “our” Chhattisgarhi candainī, asking at what level identification is being made—textually, performatively, or both. I suggest that the increasing availability of mass media and rising literacy rates in Chhattisgarh in recent years have affected both the performances that identify and the identity of the “we.”

The Epic Story

Epic narratives exist both as oral and as performance traditions, a distinction Laurie Sears and I made in Boundaries of the Text (1991:6) between a general knowledge of the “whole story” (a summary) that many in the folklore community would be able to relate and the epic as it is performed in a marked, artistic enactment of that oral tradition (Bauman 1977:3). The performed epic in India is sung in episodes (Blackburn and Flueckiger 1989:11), with the assumption that audiences themselves frame the performance within the larger oral tradition. And I would add here that candainī performance is framed not only by the larger epic story (oral tradition) but also the Chhattisgarhi folklore repertoire of which it is a part; that repertoire affects how the episodes are understood by Chhattisgarhi audiences. Thus, although scholars have spent considerable energy recording epic stories “from beginning to end,” counting the number of hours and pages required to do so, this is not how the epic is received by indigenous audiences. Further, certain episodes of the epic are performed more frequently than others; and there may be episodes that exist only in the oral tradition and not in performance at all.

What follows is a narrative summary of primarily the Chhattisgarhi epic variant, drawn from the oral tradition (summaries that were told to me) and performances I attended. I have noted some of the major differences between this and the U.P. variant of the epic, and more of the substantive differences between the two variants will become apparent in the analyses that follow. In Chhattisgarh, candainī is the love/elopement story of the hero Lorik and heroine Candaini, both from the Raut cowherding caste. The hero and heroine are each married to other partners, but Candaini leaves her husband when she learns he has been cursed by the goddess to be impotent for twelve years. On her way back to her maternal village, Candaini is accosted in the jungle by the untouchable Bathua. She cleverly escapes his evil intentions, but he chases after her and terrorizes the inhabitants and cattle of the village. In desperation, the villagers ask the hero Lorik to rescue them; ultimately he defeats Bathua through nonmartial (and, I might add, rather dishonest) means. During this contest, Candaini first lays eyes on the hero, falls in love, and proceeds to seduce him. After some delays, primarily due to Lorik s hesitancy and cowardice in decision making, the hero leaves his wife Majari, and he and Candaini elope to Hardi Garh.

In Chhattisgarh, candainī performances center on and elaborate various adventures from this elopement journey (urḥāī; literally, flight). In fact, when I asked villagers what the story was about, most responses began with some variant of “It is the story of the elopement of Lorik and Candaini.” Eventually, Lorik receives word that his brothers have all died in battle and that their wealth and cattle have been dissipated throughout the Chhattisgarhi countryside, thus leaving his mother and wife destitute. Lorik returns home with Candaini to avenge his family’s honor. Fie succeeds in reclaiming his cattle, through battle in the U.P. variant and by wandering the countryside as a mendicant, collecting his cattle, in Chhattisgarh. When the task is completed, he takes up the position of head of the surviving extended family, including his first wife. But, it is said, Lorik did not take pride in his success. In U.P versions, he finds that his former physical prowess and strength have dissipated, and he kills himself. In Chhattisgarh, sad and dissatisfied after his return, Lorik one day mysteriously wanders off into the countryside, never to be seen again.

In the Chhattisgarhi village of Garh Rivan (home of Lorik in the epic and a present-day village near the cattle bazaar town of Arang in Raipur District), one performer sang the epic’s closing episode to be that of a lovers’ argument. As the couple was sitting in a boat in the middle of the village tank (pond), the argument got so vehement that the boat overturned. Candaini swam to the bank and took refuge in a goddess temple. The goddess was so angered at her sudden and inauspicious intrusion that she beheaded our heroine, only to regret her action later and restore the head. In a village goddess temple on the banks of the tank of Garh Rivan, there are today two images (one beheaded and one whole) of the heroine Candaini, which keep the goddess company. The heroine is not called a goddess but simply honored as “our rāutīn” (cowherdress). Lorik, it is said, was never seen after this episode and is presumed to be still wandering in the Chhattisgarhi countryside.

The narrative as performed in both Chhattisgarh and further north in U.P. is not a religious epic, nor are its performances an integral part of any particular ritual or festival, although it is often performed at two festivals that themselves have been “imported” into the Chhattisgarhi ritual calendar, gaṇés eaturthī and durgā pūjā, perhaps as a way of localizing them. Villagers say the epic is sung primarily for “entertainment” (manoranjan): nonprofessional performers may sing for small groups of friends and neighbors, and professionals may perform at annual village fairs or to provide entertainment during long winter evenings. These nonritual performance contexts do not, however, diminish the significance of the epic for the communities in which it is performed. In U.P., while the characters are not deified, they are held up as models to be emulated, of “who we would like to become.” In Chhat-tisgarh, by contrast, they are “who we are,” in larger-than-life proportions.

The U.P. Variant as Caste Epic

To understand the differences in the performatively identified communities of the Gangetic plains of U.P. and Chhattisgarh, we now take a closer look at both narrative and performative variation in these two areas. U.P. is in the Gangetic heardand of orthodox brahminic Hinduism, whereas Chhattisgarh lies on its periphery. Chhattisgarh’s cultural and religious traditions are influenced by the high percentage of tribal groups that have now been integrated into the Hindu caste system. Of particular interest to us in our examination of the epic is the relatively higher status of women in Chhattisgarh compared with that of women in U.P. (see Chapter 1). My analysis of the U.P. epic variant is based on two published versions of the epic collected and transcribed by S. M. Pandey in the 1970s, one in the dialect of Awadhi and the other in Bhojpuri, as well as upon personal communication with Pandey in the early 1980s.5 I will call this U.P. variant the lorikī/canainī tradition, so named in the two dialects, respectively. The Chhattisgarhi data are drawn from my own fieldwork (1980 through 1993, intermittently) and Verrier Elwin’s translation of a partial version (1946:33 8–370).6

In both performance areas, the epic tradition seems to have originated with the local cowherding castes—Ahirs in U.P. and Rauts in Chhattisgarh. In U.P, where Ahir males continue to be both primary performers and audience members, however, the tradition has remained more closely identified with that caste than it has in Chhattisgarh. Pandey cites two Awadhi proverbs in U.P. that clearly identify canainī with the Ahir caste:

However clever an Ahir be

Nothing but Canaini singeth he.

However many times an Ahir may read the Puranas

He will not sing anything but Canaini.

(Pandey 1979:17)

He does not provide us with the context of these proverbs, but they appear to be metafolkloric statements by members of castes higher in the hierarchy than the Ahirs, with their rather condescending tone toward both the epic and the caste that sings it. It is also possible, however, that the proverbs are used by the Ahirs themselves to extol the virtues of the epic. In either case, the association between epic and caste is clearly articulated.

Certain clans of Ahirs in U.P. identify with the epic more than just perfor-matively: they look to the epic as the history of their caste. Gwal Ahir singers of the contemporary folk song genre called virhā believe the lorikī/canainī to be the oldest extant record of their caste group. Although most of them admit to not knowing.the epic well, they claim that many of their songs and narratives are based on it and many social and religious traditions unique to the caste derived from it. For example, their worship of the three goddesses Shitala, Durga, and Vansatti is said to have been instituted by the hero Lorik and continued by the caste since that time (Coccari 1984).

The differences between caste-epic identification in U.P. and Chhattisgarh can be partially attributed to the differences in each castes selfperception, status, organization, and ideology. The Ahirs of U.P. have traditionally viewed themselves as a local warrior caste and continue to promote that image of themselves. As certain Ahirs gained in political and economic power in the late nineteenth century, they joined forces in an effort to raise their caste status by appropriating customs (such as donning the sacred thread) and ideologies of the kśatriya (warrior) varṇa caste category (a process the Indian anthropologist S. M. Srinivas has called “sanskritization”) (Man-delbaum 1972:444). Another way to confirm their warrior status was to try to associate themselves with Yadav cowherding caste of the divine cowherd Krishna, calling themselves Yadavs instead of Ahirs. Ahir intelligentsia “rewrote” certain historical documents to prove this connection,7 forming a national Yadav organization that continues to coordinate and promote the mobility drive of the caste.8 Integral to this movement are retellings of caste history that reflect its martial character; and the epic is one important channel for some of these retellings.

In the lorikī/canainī caste epic, it is the cowherd Lorik who is the central character, rather than the heroine (as is the case in Chhattisgarh). He is portrayed as a warrior first, whose primary role is to defend the honor of the caste, often through a defense of the honor of its women.9 One such incident is when Lorik saves the honor (izzat) of the caste by marrying Majari. In the Bhojpuri version, there is a certain non-Ahir king who demands to marry all the beautiful women in his kingdom. When he hears a baby girl has been born to Ahir parents, upon whom gold and silver rained down at birth, he extracts a promise from the parents that they will give her to him as a bride when she reaches maturity. Majari’s mother cries over the promise they have made, knowing they will violate caste boundaries by marrying her daughter outside the caste: “How will my dharma be saved? How will my honor be saved? Who will end my distress?” When the time arrives, it is the hero Lorik who answers these questions by marrying their daughter and battling the king. Numerous other episodes unique to the U.P. variants specifically frame the motivation of Lorik’s battles to be that of “saving the honor of the caste.”

In the U.P. epic variant, female characters themselves express the need for male protection. In the Awadhi version, when Lorik’s wife Majari learns that Lorik and Canda are planning to elope, she does not protest but asks Lorik to take her with them as a maidservant. She is afraid to be left behind and cries out:

My lord, you yourself have decided to go to the East

Under whose care have you left me?

. … . … . … . … . … . .

My lord, go to the east with your beloved Canva [Canda]

But take me also as your maid-servant to that Eastern country.

(Pandey 1982:74–75)

In the same version, the heroine Canda becomes pregnant before the couple elopes, and she begs Lorik not to abandon her:

Your love has made my body heavy.

Now that I am pregnant, from whom can I take support?

(Pandey 1982:343; my translation)

These and other examples suggest that women in the U.P. variants are uncomfortable or afraid to act independently of male support and protection.

The dominant Hindu ideology, as expressed in both classical and folk traditions, often presents us with the apparent contradiction of the submissive and outwardly male-controlled woman who at the same time has unique spiritual or magical powers, power generated perhaps through the element of control itself.10 Female characters in the U.P. variants have special visionary and magical powers, but the female power most frequently called on is the power of sat, or truthfulness. Sat most often refers to the specific power resulting from female chastity (truth). For a married woman, this power derives from her faithfulness to her husband and hence, in part, from his control and protection. The female character who is most dependent on this power in the U.P. epic is Lorik s wife, Majari. She remains the faithful wife (pativratā) during Lorik s long absence. Upon his return from Haldi, Lorik sets up a bazaar outside Gaura Garh, and Majari and her friends plan to go there to sell yogurt, not knowing it is he. On the way, there is a river they must cross, but no boatman to ferry them. At first Majari and her maidservant jointly appeal to their power of sat to dry up the river, but nothing happens. Majari questions her servant as to how she might have been defiled, because she knows her own chastity is intact. The servant admits that she was touched by her younger sister’s husband as he awakened her from a nap. Majari then makes the appeal alone, and the river parts for them to cross.

In the context of a caste epic, Lorik, whose role is to protect caste honor and integrity, cannot afford to lose the battles in which he engages. To ensure victory, he is often granted divine protection and even intervention by the goddesses Durga and Vansatti. Further, Lorik has other means of supernatural help. His weapon is a “lightning sword” that emits flames (bijalī kā khadg); his horse is a celestial mount who, at the end of one variant, carries Lorik to Brahma’s heaven. Although Lorik is never actually deified or considered to be an incarnation of a deity (processes common for epic heroes in many other Indian oral epic traditions), he comes close to deification and takes on divine and superhuman qualities in U.P.11 In an Awadhi version, we are told of his existence in the heaven of Indrasan before his birth. The god Brahma asks him to take birth on earth to a barren woman who has been performing austerities for twelve years in hopes of obtaining a child. Lorik is reluctant and can be persuaded to do so only when he is promised that three beautiful celestial females will accompany him to become his three wives: Majari, Canda, and Jamuni (Pandey 1982:327, 577).12 In this same version, flowers rain down from heaven upon his birth, and as a child, Lorik shows his mother extraordinary miracles. We are reminded of the precocious, naughty, and divine child Krishna, who was also raised in a cowherds’ community. In fact, the Krishna biographical model continues in Lorik as lover and then warrior.

In the U.P. epic variants, however, Lorik as lover and the episode of the elopement are underplayed when compared with Lorik the warrior and the battle scenes.13 This makes sense for a caste epic, since elopement and the freedom of individual choice it implies threaten caste endogamy and strict maintenance of caste boundaries. Further, the implicit freedom contradicts the social control of women articulated elsewhere in the U.P. variant; in the elopement episode, Canda is portrayed as a stronger, more willful woman than she is elsewhere in the epic. While the elopement cannot be left out totally and have the story still be the “same,” the hero and the heroine in U.P. do not take full responsibility for what appears to be individual choice; they justify their elopement at some cosmic level. In the scene in which Lorik first manages to enter Canda s room for the rendezvous that begins their illicit relationship, she resists his advances as a virtuous woman should, asking if he has no shame. He answers her by reminding her of the scene in the heaven Indrapur when he is given three celestial beings to come down to earth with him to become his wives, assuring her that she is one of these women.

The northern, U.P. tradition is, in sum, a male, martial epic that has been appropriated to promote a particular kśatriya image of the Ahir caste.14 A common saying in eastern U.P. is, “If Loriki is recited for one month, there will be a battle somewhere” (Pandey, oral communication, June 1982).15 The martial ethos of the epic is perhaps most dramatically visualized in a bazaar pamphlet titled (in Hindi) Lorikāyan: The Battle of Hardīgarḥ (interestingly, this episode is the only one that has been published in this popular format).16 Its cover pictures Lorik as the classical Indian warrior, standing on a battlefield holding up a broken chariot wheel, with bodies and weapons strewn across the field and arrows flying through the air.

The Chhattisgarhi Variant as Regional Epic

Older Chhattisgarhi informants told me in 1980 that in Chhattisgarh, too, candainī singers used to be primarily from the cowherding Raut caste. One Raut performer sang some opening lines of candainīsimilar to the above-cited Awadhi proverbs, that reflect this earlier association between the caste and epic:

They eat sweet dried jaggery.

They suck sweet sugarcane.

The Rauts sing sweet candainī

Each of the twelve months.

But its multicaste audiences and the seemingly easy adaptation of the epic to innovative performance styles available to performers from a wide spectrum of castes suggests that it was never “caste owned” in the sense that it is in U.P. The respective castes’ self-image provides a possible explanation for differences in the caste-epic relationship.

One fifty-year-old Raut male gave the following account of the dispersion of the caste: In “former days,” all the Rauts of the area used to go to Garh Rivan (the home of Lorik in the epic and the present-day village mentioned above) to celebrate the Raut festival of mātar.17 Then one year, King Kadra, of a basket-weaving caste, battled against the Rauts. Many Rauts were killed, and the survivors scattered from Garh Rivan and settled “here and there.” Since that time, according to the informant, Rauts have no longer gathered at Garh Rivan to celebrate mātar but, rather, celebrate it in their own villages. We cannot know from such an account whether the caste was, in fact, ever a power martial or administrative power. Their perception, however, is that they were once stronger and more unified than they are now.

In the more recent past, Chhattisgarhi Rauts have traditionally seen themselves as “village servants” who herd and milk the village cattle, rather than warriors who protect caste honor and boundaries.18 Lorik, as a Chhattisgarhi Raut, is not portrayed as the U.P. martial hero brandishing a sword, riding on a horse, but mainly as a lover whose only weapon is his herding staff and who travels on foot. Further, reflecting a Chhattisgarhi ethos in which women have more mobility and arguably higher status than their sisters in the Gangetic plain, the heroine is the primary initiator of action in Chhattisgarhi performances; it is frequently she who protects and saves Lorik rather than the other way around. Thus, while the singing of the epic may have first been associated more closely with the cowherding caste of its singers, the tradition as it has been documented in the last fifteen to twenty years reflects little to suggest a strong caste identity.19

Part of what gives the epic tradition its regional identification in Chhat-tisgarh today is its performance contexts and the broad social base of its audiences and performers. Two basic performance styles of candainī have developed in the region. Both styles are most commonly called simply candainī, but when the styles are distinguished, the first is called candainī gīt, or song, and the second nācā, or dance-drama. As mentioned earlier, traditionally, candainī gīt singers were male members of the Raut caste who sang the epic both professionally and semiprofessionally to primarily male audiences, but with women sitting on the sidelines. Rauts sang without musical accompaniment; but essential to their performance was a companion (rāgī or saṅgvārī), who joined in the last words of every line and served as a respondent. Today, it is difficult to find Rauts who still sing in the gīt style without instrumental accompaniment. The only such singer I knew died in 1988, and not one of his sons was interested in learning or continuing his father’s tradition. As a Brahmin overseer of a village headman’s estate told me in 1993: “How can this [that is, style with no musical accompaniment] compete with video halls? There’s no mazā [enjoyment] without instruments. Even day laborers have television now. … These days Rauts can’t afford instruments. It was their own decision [though] not to work as village servants [to work instead in urban dairies, restaurants, and so forth]. So, with no instruments, there’s no interest. Earlier, Rauts could get whatever they needed from their masters [mālik]. Today, what do instruments cost? Rs. 1,500. The villagers don’t even ask [them to sing].”

The dates and circumstances in which members of the Satnami caste took up the gīt style of candainī performance are undocumented and vague in caste and regional memory. When I was looking for epic performances in the 1980s, however, I was frequently told that I would find candainī only in those areas with large numbers of Satnamis. The Satnamis are a sect to which members of the outcaste Camar (leather-working) caste converted in the 1800s; yet conversion did not raise their status from that of the lowest-caste groups. It is probable that when they began to sing candainī professionally, it began to attract more diverse audiences and to take on its current regional identification. The Satnamis added musical accompaniment to the gīt performance style, including, minimally, harmonium and tabla; but they have retained from the Raut performance style the combination of lead singer and one or more rāgī (companions), whose response lines end with mor or tor.20

Because I have little comparative data to use from “purely” Raut performances, it is difficult to know exactly how the narrative may have shifted when the Satnamis began to sing the epic professionally, particularly in its portrayal of the “villain” character, the Camar Bathua, who tries to accost Candaini in the jungle. In one Satnami performance, however, Lorik meets Bathua again after their initial confrontation in the heroine’s maternal village. Bathua reappears as the bodyguard of a foreign king whom Lorik has offended (by chopping off the nose of one of his subjects); so the king sends Bathua to punish him. This time their confrontation is martial, and Lorik is unable to defeat the untouchable physically. He is pinned to the ground, and Candaini has to beg Bathua for mercy. The Camar gives in but says Lorik must tie him up so that the king will think he has been defeated, not compassionate. Lorik eventually wins the kingdom through both battle and trickery and names it after the untouchable Bathua. When I later discussed this episode with several non-Satnami villagers, they told me that Satnamis have tended to glorify the character of Bathua and that a Raut singer would never have included such an episode, glorifying the heroism of the Camar.

The second candainī performance style, called nācā (literally, dance), includes song and dance, spoken conversations between characters, and narration in the gīt, responsive style.21 According to nācā performers, the nācā developed in the early seventies in direct response to the strong influence of the increasingly popular Hindi cinema, an essential element of which is also song and dance. A nācā troupe consists of up to eight or ten performers, some of whom are actors, and some, musicians. An important feature of the nācā is the inclusion of costuming and minimal props. The hero Lorik carries a herding staff and wears traditional Raut festival dress, decorated with peacock feathers and cowrie shells; male performers put on saris and typical Chhattisgarhi jewelry to act out the female roles. The musicians sit at the side of the stage and accompany the songs of the actors or provide their own sung narration in the candainī gīt style. Candainī is only one of many narratives performed in the nācā style; but nācā troupes that specialize in candainī do so to the exclusion of other narratives. Although this style has grown in popularity, it is expensive to patronize; therefore, while more popular than the gīt, the nācā may be performed less frequently. When sufficient funds for the nācā cannot be raised, or if troupe members are singing nonprofessionally, the gīt style, without dance, can still be heard.22

The performance context of the nācā is important in establishing the epic s regional character. Troupes are usually multicaste, heavily represented by Satnamis but also by other middle-level castes, including Rauts; one performance troupe I met consisted of ten members from six different castes. Troupes are hired by village/neighborhood councils for annual village fairs or festivals, particularly durgā pūjā and gaṇés caturthī,23 or as independent entertainment events. Occasionally, a family will sponsor a performance to celebrate the birth of a son or a wedding.

Nācā audiences, too, represent the caste spectrum of a particular village or urban neighborhood, male and female. Nācā are performed in public space such as a village or town square or main street, accessible to everyone. Persons from surrounding villages frequently walk several miles to attend nācā in neighboring villages. The enthusiastic and responsive participation of women in the primary audience of the candainī nācā stands in sharp contrast to the all-male audiences and performance contexts of the U.P. variants of the epic. In 1980 when I asked female audience members if women ever sang candainī in Chhattisgarh, they all answered negatively. I did hear segments of the epic narrative and reference to its characters in other female performance genres, which they did not, however, identify as “candainī,” because of the performance context and singing style. To sing “candainī” means to sing in a public context and, more specifically, to incorporate at some level the responsive singing style of the candainī rāgī, with his end-of-line words of tor or mor. What these women were singing was identified by context and rāg (melodic structure) as a harvest-dance song (suā nāc) rather than by content as candainī.

In recent years, a handful of individual female performers have performed the gīt style of candainī professionally, accompanied by male rāgī and musicians. They are self-taught and have gained meteoric popularity because of their unusual position as professional, public female performers. Several audience members told me, “Who wouldn’t go to hear a woman? There’s more entertainment in that!” One such female performer is Suraj Bai, who, in 1987, was hailed in a local English-language newspaper as “the melody queen.” She had represented Chhattisgarh at national and state folk festivals and had performed on nationwide television and radio; yet, the newspaper article bemoaned, she still worked as a day laborer. Over the last five years in Chhattisgarh, the epic tradition of paṇḍvānī is experiencing a similar rise in popularity, attributable primarily to the fact that the tradition is being performed by two professional female singers, Tijan Bai and Ritu Varma, who have gained notoriety through their performances on television and radio.

Although candainī female performers are still unusual, the worldview expressed by both female and male performers of the Chhattisgarhi epic is a female-centered one.24 The heroine Candaini is the dominant character in the pair of lovers and the initiator of most of the epic action. In fact, in several episodes she actually saves or protects Lorik, a reversal of the situation in the U.P. variants. Candaini and other women are not portrayed as property to be exchanged and protected; rather, they are resourceful and take initiative, relying not on the ritual power of their chastity as women frequently do in dominant-discourse narratives but on their own intuitive common sense.

Candaini’s dominant role in the Chhattisgarhi epic first becomes evident as she makes the decision to leave her husband when their relationship is not fulfilling to her. Then, it is she, rather than Lorik, who initiates their relationship; she sees him in the competition with her assailant Bathua and sets about to seduce him. In one version, she asks her brother to build a swing for her next to the path that Lorik uses every day to get to his wresding grounds. As Lorik passes by, Candaini asks him to swing her. When he declines, she curses him. This so angers him that he violently swings her, causing her to fall off the swing and giving him the opportunity to catch her (Elwin 1946:349).

The next time they meet, Candaini suggests a joking sexual relationship with Lorik by calling him her devar (younger brother-in-law), with whom such a relationship is permissible. Having grown up in the same village, they would normally call each other “brother” and “sister,” precluding a sexual relationship; changing the terms of address is often one of the first indications of a change in the nature of a relationship in Chhattisgarhi rural life and oral traditions. Finally, Candaini openly invites Lorik to visit her during the night, telling him how to get past the various guards that stand at the entrance to her palace (compare this with her reluctance in the U.P. version of a similar scene, cited above).25 As their relationship develops, it is she who suggests and pushes for the elopement to Haldi.

Candaini’s resourcefulness and courage are illustrated by numerous examples from Chhattisgarhi episodes of the epic. In one performance, when the couple is eloping and their way is blocked by a flooded river, Candaini, not Lorik, figures out how to cross. She first procures a small boat from the ferryman (kevaṭ) stationed at the crossing. Lorik accuses her of negotiation of more than transportation with the kevaṭ, however, and in jealousy splits the boat and its owner in two with his sword. He then goes into the jungle and cuts down some green wood to build a raft, which, of course, immediately sinks. It is Candaini who knows it must be built with dry bamboo, tied together with lengths of a forest vine. The kevaṭ’s wife then comes to bring him his morning bāsī (rice left over from the evening meal that ferments overnight in the rice water and is commonly eaten as breakfast in rural Chhattisgarh). Seeing her dead husband and suspecting the eloping couple of his murder, she creates a magical (jādū) mouse that hides on the raft.

Halfway across the river, the mouse bites through the ropes holding together the raft. Candaini manages to reach the far shore, but Lorik does not know how to swim and starts to drown. The heroine unties her braid, jumps in, and saves him, presumably by pulling him ashore with her hair.26 Having swallowed a lot of water, Lorik is not breathing. An old woman passing by advises Candaini to grab Lorik by one leg and drag him around in a circle to get the water out of his lungs, which successfully revives him. Her ingenuity and physical strength in this episode stand in sharp contrast to the U.P. scene in which Lorik’s wife calls on the power of her chastity to cause the river waters to part.

A female worldview is again reflected in a wonderful episode of the eloping couple’s journey through a kingdom of all women. Candaini sends Lorik into the town to buy them some betel leaf (pān). He is tricked by the pān-seller to follow her home, where she “keeps her best pān” (to feed pān to a member of the opposite sex in Chhattisgarhi folklore is to initiate a sexual relationship or is a metaphor for intercourse itself).27 Once thepān-seller has trapped Lorik in her house, she threatens to beat him with a bamboo pole and stuff his skin with straw, poke his eyes out with a needle, and, finally, brand him with a hot crowbar unless he promises to marry her. After each threat, he gives in, only to recant a few minutes later. In the end, Candaini comes looking for her partner and meets the pān-seller in the bazaar. The p<w-seller begs the epic heroine to help her with a man who refuses to marry her. Candaini discovers a sari-clad Lorik in the woman’s courtyard, having been so disguised so as to hide his male identity in the all-female kingdom. Once his identity is made known, the two women agree to play a round of dice to determine who will win him as husband. Note that while this is a reversal of the gender roles in Sanskritic, male dicing games, which are played to win a woman as a marriage or sexual partner, the motif of women dicing over the fate of men is found in other Chhattisgarhi folk narratives (see Chapter 3). Candaini triumphs in her dice game with the pān-seller and frees Lorik from his captivity. One can hardly imagine the martial hero of the U.P. variants of the epic permitting the pān-sellers physical humiliations to be forced on him or to be dependent on rescue by a woman in a women’s world.

Even in several episodes in which Lorik takes the primary role in a confrontation, it is still a woman who tells him how he can win, and the means are rarely traditional “heroic” ones. The first such confrontation is between Lorik and the Camar Bathua. Candaini’s mother says the only man who can successfully confront Bathua is the “sporting hero Lorik” (Elwin 1946:345). Lorik’s wife, Majari, however, warns him that he will not be able to defeat the Camar in a normal wresding competition. She suggests the confrontation be one in which both men are buried up to their waists in separate pits by the other man’s wife. The man who can first get out of his pit and beat the other man will be the winner. Lorik agrees to this. When the women are burying each other’s husbands, Majari begins to throw gold coins on the ground. This so distracts the Camar’s wife that she only loosely packs the dirt around Lorik and then runs to pick up the coins. Meanwhile, Majari has time to bury Bathua firmly. When the time comes for the men to try to get out of their pits, Bathua is stuck, and Lorik jumps right out and soundly beats the Camar.

Candaini’s beauty and a male’s desire for her are the source of several major conflicts in the Chhattisgarhi variant, and in these situations she is physically threatened and needs physical protection like the women in the U.P. versions. However, as we have seen above, if Lorik were left to his own strength and resources, he might or might not be able to provide Candaini with the necessary protection. Judging by her resourcefulness in other situations, one senses that if she had no male to protect her physically, Candaini would come up with alternative solutions. Furthermore, when her chastity is protected by Lorik, only her personal honor is at stake. The personal honor of a Chhattisgarhi Raut woman does not necessarily extend to the honor of her family and caste. One of the main episodes in the U.P. variant making this connection between the three levels of honor—the story of Lorik saving Majari from having to marry a king outside the Ahir caste—is not present at all in the reported and performed versions I have seen in Chhattisgarh. The other U.P. episode making this association explicit is Lorik’s defeat of Bathua, which saves the honor of Candaini and the Ahir caste. In Chhattisgarhi versions, Candaini’s mother, in asking Lorik for help, is not as concerned with honor as with physical safety: Bathua is terrorizing the entire village, so that everyone is afraid to go out of their homes, and the cattle are dying from lack of fodder and water (Elwin 1946:345).

As the role of women increases in importance in the Chhattisgarh variant, we have seen that the character of the hero also shifts. He is no longer the ideal protector and warrior. When he does engage in battle, he usually employs nonmartial, often unheroic, means to win; when the battle is honest, he battles without the aid of large armies, elephants, or other military paraphernalia that support him in U.P. versions. He is a simple cowherd whose weapons are his own physical strength and herding staff. In this epic variant that centers around elopement love, the hero’s status as warrior is less important than that as lover.

An important way in which Lorik’s role of lover is highlighted in Chhat-tisgarh is through the elaboration of the character of Bawan Bir, Candaini s impotent first husband. His impotence and passivity give emphasis to Lorik s sexual prowess and virility. One nācā performance portrayed Bawan as a buffoon who is always wiping his nose with his fingers and licking the snot off of them. During the twelve years of his impotence, he wanders the forest as a sādhu (religious ascetic) but is easily frightened by any strange noise and welcomes Candaini s company when she comes to the forest to try to persuade him to give up his asceticism. Both Satnami and Raut versions agree that Bawan Bir s impotence is the result of a curse cast on him by the goddess Parvati. A Satnami version of the curse incident recounts that Bawan used to tease the Raut girls who picked up cow dung in the jungle everyday One day, Parvati took the form of one of these girls, and Bawan began to tease her. She revealed her true form to him and cursed him to impotence for his audacity. The Raut version says that one day Bawan Bir left a leaf cup of milk sitting on the ground, from which he had drunk. Shiva, in the form of a snake, came up to the cup and drank out of it. Subsequently, he began to acquire the rather obnoxious personality of Bawan Bir, quarreling with and scolding his wife Parvati. When Parvati realized why this personality transformation had occurred, she cursed Bawan to impotence.

Bawan Bir is also impotent in the U.P. epic variant, but the fact is given little elaboration in the performances reported by S. M. Pandey. In the Awadhi version, we learn of the impotence in a single line. The performer tells his audience that Bawan is a eunuch with no hair on his body, but he gives no reason for the condition, although (according to Pandey) the audience knows the reason is a curse from Durga. Another story circulates in Ballia, U.P., that Bawan encircled his large penis around a Shiva liṅga (a phallic representation of Shiva) and that the god cursed him to impotence for trying to compete with him (Pandey, oral communication, June 1982). Whatever the reason, Bawan s impotence is overshadowed in the U.P. versions by his martial nature. He, too, is a powerful warrior when he battles and defeats Lorik s older brother and confiscates all their family wealth and cattle, and again in the battle in which Lorik regains this wealth at the end of the epic.

Appropriating the Performative “Exterior” of the Tradition

In our examination of the candainī epic tradition as it has taken root in two very different social/cultural contexts within its broad performance range from U.P. to Chhattisgarh, we have seen how it has responded to and reinforced the identities of caste and region both textually and performatively. In U.P, the epic serves to represent the caste to itself and to other castes in the region, in the Ahirs’s effort to consolidate and raise their caste status. The epic in Chhattisgarh is more self-reflexive, mirroring the region to itself, contributing to a Chhattisgarhi self-awareness of difference, particularly, for example, regarding the status of women and marriage customs.

From the information available to us, it seems safe to say that the Ahir caste in U.P. has appropriated the epic as part of a specific cause. To say the region has “appropriated” the epic in the Chhattisgarhi contexts described above is, perhaps, to give unwarranted self-conscious agency to a relatively loose social body.28 In the last ten to fifteen years, however, “appropriation” is the word to describe the emergence of “new” performance contexts and audiences for candainī, both within and outside Chhattisgarh. The tradition has been self-consciously crafted and packaged for both Indian and international audiences outside Chhattisgarh as representative of the region (not caste, class, or gender). This appropriation coincides with increased availability of mass media technologies and communications (television and radio), as well as the academic and popularized interest in “ethnicity” that has developed in India over the last decade (as evidenced, for example, in international Festivals of India and modified “ethnic dress” as high fashion among the upper middle class of urban India).

Radio, television, and the cassette industry have provided significant new contexts for folklore performance, including the epic. Akashvani (All India Radio) has local (Chhattisgarhi) and national (Hindi) programming, with regularly scheduled folklore programs as a part of both. Such programming expands the social boundaries of groups to whom many performance genres are traditionally available; songs that women used to sing among themselves while transplanting rice or in the privacy of their courtyards are now blared over speakers from tea stalls and bus stands in urban neighborhoods and village main streets. Although the epic was spoken of as being “Chhattisgarhi” even before its appearance on media channels, its performance on radio and television has solidified the epic’s geographic regional identity, drawing its boundaries more literally than “live” epic performances, since such programming is limited to specified districts. The epic has also become uniformly available throughout these districts, even in those villages and neighborhoods where it has never been performed except over the airwaves.

In 1985 when I was trying to trace down various performance traditions (specifically the suā nāc) in the burgeoning town of Dhamtari, I was frequently asked why I didn’t simply turn on the radio on Wednesday afternoons for Akashvani’s Chhattisgarhi folklore programming, from which I could simply tape the “best singers” directly from the radio, without all the complications of live performance. Both radio and television performances are taped in rather sterile recording rooms, with specific time frames (much abbreviated from any live performance), and without a live audience with whom to interact and jointly craft the performance (try to imagine the kathānī kūhā performing without the live audience on whom he so depends as a “coperformer”). Further, these performances are taped under the direction of radio station personnel who often have certain aesthetic criteria that they feel “typify” the particular Chhattisgarhi genre in question, although most of them are not “native” to the region. These criteria include less repetition, more instrumentation, and a particular voice quality and stage presence of singers. When I articulated some of these differences between a half-hour radio performance of a candainī episode and its elaboration during a four-hour, late-night epic performance in a village square, adding that there was litde manoraṅjan (literally, entertainment, but with the implication of emotional satisfaction) hearing it over the radio, the same informants who had urged me to tape from radio generally agreed wholeheartedly, although they often felt somewhat differently about television performances. In the mass media, the epic is taken out of its traditional performance contexts and recontextualized in a setting in which it “represents” on an external performative level through style and instrumentation but in which its interior is frozen, unresponsive, and generic.

Radio and television programming has affected the careers of particular singers who have been chosen and promoted by the staff. This has been the case especially for the female epic performers referred to above. Once heard repeatedly on local radio or television, they are then invited to statewide folklore singing competitions and folklore festivals in major urban centers, such as New Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and even London, to “represent” Chhattisgarh. As individual singers themselves become famous, the genres associated with them have become more popular as well, both within and outside the region.

Representative of the growing “academic” interest in Chhattisgarhi folklore by members of an urban, educated class, who have not traditionally participated in epic performance as singers or audience, is the playwright/ director Habib Tanvir, born in Chhattisgarh’s heartland (Raipur), now living in New Delhi. His troupe, Naya Theatre (New Theatre), consists of actors and actresses drawn from Chhattisgarh’s villages, the majority of whom are nonliterate “traditional” dancers and performers. Along with his interest in experimental theatrical forms, an overriding concern of Tanvir’s is to promote the appreciation and preservation of Chhattisgarhi folk performance traditions. To this end, he has held numerous folklore workshops in Chhattisgarh itself for performers of these traditions. The aims of these workshops are for performers to share with one another their repertoires and for Tanvir himself to document them, often then integrating their themes and forms into his “new theatre.” In a 1985 interview while in Calcutta staging his play Charan Das Chor, Tanvir explained this task as follows: “I had to work in two ways. I had to purify their forms and themes to make them more authentic and contemporary. I found that the folk form was getting spoiled and diluted by the combined influence of urbanization, mass media, and low-grade Hindi films. The first part of my job was to weed out the falsities and purify the form. Not for the sake of purity, but because the folk form is both beautiful and a powerful medium for a message” (Bose and Bhattachaijee I984:n.p.).

For one of his Chhattisgarhi folklore workshops, held in the late seventies, Tanvir called together the “best” candainī singers he had met in his tours of the region. Singers from a range of castes shared their stylistic and thematic repertoires. One of these singers was the Satnami Devlal; he was also one of several workshop participants then chosen to go to Delhi to work with Tanvir for several more weeks. According to Devlal, Tanvir stressed to the singers the importance of keeping their tradition alive and that one of the ways to do this was to keep the entire narrative in performance, singing it “from the beginning,” when the hero and heroine were children, and so on, rather than focusing so exclusively on the elopement episode.

I attended (and was the primary patron of) one of Devlal’s candainī performances that resulted in a “failed performance,” with most of the audience of about two hundred walking away within the first hour of the performance. I have analyzed the reasons for this elsewhere (Flueckiger 1988), but one important reason cited by audience members was that he was singing “stories we don’t know,” ones from this reconstructed, larger repertoire of epic episodes. Devlal was also experimenting with form. He framed the performance as if it would be a nācā, a form influenced by the corrupting “low-grade Hindi films” to which Tanvir referred, but he did not wear the expected costume or perform the expected “song and dance.” So another major complaint of the dissatisfied audience was that “he should have worn a sari.”

Over the years during which I have returned to Chhattisgarh since 1980, literate and nonliterate residents of Chhattisgarh have voiced a certain unease about Tanvir s appropriation of Chhattisgarhi folklore for display outside the region. Even as he is attempting to promote an appreciation of the region and its performance genres, many inhabitants feel that the process serves no benefit to Chhattisgarh itself. Several residents of the town in which Devlal performed, who have known him since his childhood and over the years during which he developed his epic-singing skills, complained that when Tanvir chose particular singers such as him, they often forgot the Chhattisgarhi roots from which they have come, were no longer satisfied to sing in “traditional” contexts, demanded too much money, and were no longer responsive to their audiences.

Drawing on a workshop held for candainī performers, Tanvir later wrote a script based on the epic to be performed by his Naya Theatre troupe, called Son Sagary the name of one of Lorik s beloved cattle. I was able to sit in on one of the rehearsals of this play in 1985. The actors and actresses of the troupe are Chhattisgarhi, as is the language of the play; it opens with a traditional vandanā (invocation to the goddess Sarasvati) and is framed and interspersed with lines sung in the traditional gīt style. But, performed on a modern urban stage, outside traditional performance contexts, it is not “our Chhattisgarhi candainī” as understood by most singers and audiences in the region. Although, according to Tanvir, there is room for improvisation, the lines are relatively fixed, memorized, and performers are unable to be verbally responsive to particular contexts and audiences.

In newly emerging performance contexts such as radio, television, and the modern stage, the epic has become decontextualized, so that it can be performed anywhere. In a sense, audiences of the epic performed through these media are not “live”; they are dispersed, unknown and unseen. Further, the Chhattisgarhi dialect of the sung “text” is itself often not understood fully, if at all, by newly emerging Hindi- or English-speaking audiences.29 What characterizes the epic for these “new” audiences is its performative exterior, the unique singing and instrumental styles of epic performance, which themselves become relatively frozen, or at least enough so that they are recognizable as “Chhattisgarhi.” In these contexts, the epic tradition has become an artifact, frozen in time and space, held up for admiration and nostalgia. Thus while perhaps unresponsive to what may be perceived to be more traditional shifting performative and social contexts “on the ground,” so to speak, it is responsive in a very different way to newly emerging middle-class audiences.

The candainī living epic tradition has shown a tenacious ability to adapt to shifting and emergent performance contexts: to take up the cause of a caste trying to raise its status in U.P., and in Chhattisgarh, to integrate non-Raut singers into the circle of its performers and instrumentation and the nācā song and dance into its performance style as it competes with Hindi cinema and video halls. Over the last decade, however, at the same time as performers continue to be drawn from low-caste groups, the performance contexts of the Chhattisgarhi epic have bifurcated. The first are those live performances in traditional, late-night, open-air village squares in which primarily lower-class-caste audiences continue to interact with and help to shape the interior “text” of the tradition. It remains to be seen how flexible this interior can be in its interaction with a rapidly changing social world, how long or in what ways its performances can compete with video halls and movie theaters, and who the singers and performers will be in the next generation as literacy rates rise. The second context is physically distanced from its audiences, on stage or Over the airwaves, audiences that now include an increasingly educated middle class. For these audiences, the epic s narrative interior no longer reflects “who we are,” but its performative exterior may nostalgically remind them of “who we were.”

1 See Blackburn and Flueckiger 1989:2–7 for a discussion of the ways in which Indian epics challenge and expand the Western analytic category of “epic” Finally, we conclude, it is the scope and intensity of a community’s identification with a particular narrative that is the feature that most distinguishes epic narratives from other narratives in a given regional or caste repertoire in India.

2 This affirms Gregory Nagy’s assertion that one can identify “epic” only by placing the tradition under consideration in relationship to other genres performed by a particular folklore community (April 1994).

3 See Blackburn and Flueckiger 1989:4 for distinctions between Indian epics according to their “types of heroism”: martial, sacrificial, and romantic. See also Menez 1994 and Jason 1977.

4 The epic tradition has been reported in the Hindi dialects of Maithili, Magahi, Awadhi, Bhojpuri, and Chhattisgarhi, in the provinces of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh (U.P.), and Madhya Pradesh (M.P.). Its hero and heroine are not deified and thus the epic is not tied to a particular religious cult.

5 The Awadhi variant was recorded in Allahabad District (U.P.) and published as The Hindi Oral Epic Loriki (1979); the Bhojpuri variant was recorded in Benaras (U.P.) and published as The Hindi Oral Epic Canainī. Notice the difference in the pronunciation of the heroine s name in U.P. dialects and Chhattisgarhi—Canaini and Candaini, respectively. She is also called Canda in both regions.

6 Episodes of Elwin’s version are surprisingly similar to the episodes I heard in performance, even though they were documented forty years earlier.

7 One such volume is V. K. Khedkar’s The Divine Heritage of the Yadavas (1959).

8 As this book goes to press, the chief minister of the province of Bihar and (recently) exchief minister of Uttar Pradesh are both Yadavs (Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav, respectively), suggesting, at least on some levels, the success of the movement. In the fall of 1994, Mulayam Singh Yadavs government was embroiled in controversy over his proposal for reservations for “backward” and “scheduled” castes in educational institutions and government employment, a policy he said would “fight communal forces” in the province.

9 What is allowed to happen to an Ahir woman directly reflects upon the ability of the Ahir male to protect her; an individual womans honor is equated to the honor/prestige of the entire caste. See Flueckiger 1989 for other examples of this equation.

10 See Egnor 1980 and Reynolds 1980 for discussions of this power (śakti) as located in specific ethnographic contexts and Beck 1982 for a similar manifestation of female power in a south Indian epic tradition.

11 In one Bihari version, Lorik is an incarnation of Krishna, sent to earth to be a companion to the goddess Durga, who has come to earth to claim her inheritance; but this version seems to be an exception to the norm for this tradition (Grierson 1929).

12 Who Jamuni is remains unclear to me in my readings of the transcriptions and summaries provided by Pandey (1979; 1982); she is totally nonexistent in the Chhattisgarhi variant.

13 In Pandey’s published transcriptions of Awadhi and Bhojpuri versions (1979; 1982), over half the total number of lines in each version have been sung before the relationship between Lorik and Canda seriously develops and the elopement takes place. The elopement episode itself is much shorter than the episodes of any individual battle.

14 I add the characterization “male” because women are not part of its primary audiences and may listen to its performance only when it is held in a setting that allows them to “overhear” from behind a curtain or wall. According to S. M. Pandey (oral communication, June 1982), Ahir women may know the general outline of the narrative but have not incorporated its characters and plot into their own female performance genres.

15 I heard a similar saying in the Phuljhar village in which I lived regarding the Ma-habharata (except, instead of a battle, it was said an argument would erupt), in an explanation for why Ramayana performances were more common—a wonderful indigenous articulation for the creative power of performance.

16 Many oral epics in India are published in these bazaar pamphlet forms; the Chhattisgarhi candainī, however, has not yet been so published. This particular U.P. publication and its cover illustration seem to be patterned after the popular pamphlets of another martial epic performed in U.P., the Alha Kand, which are also named according to its numerous battles.

17 See Babb 1975:36—37 for a description of mātar as celebrated in the Raipur plains.

18 This image is changing, however. During my last trip to Chhattisgarh, in the summer of 1993, I heard many complaints from village landlords that Rauts were no longer willing to “serve” the village, that they were choosing to commute to the city for work instead. It has left many landowners desperate for “servants” (naukar), and many are being imported from the neighboring province of Orissa, where there is high unemployment and hence a willingness to relocate for work. It is doubtful that the Rauts will reappropriate the epic now to promote this newly emerging identity, for they had already abandoned the epic as performers, although still participating as audience members of the Chhattisgarhi regional folklore community.

19 Rauts do have another narrative performance tradition whose musical accompaniment, bamboo flutes (bimages gīt). It remains specifically associated with the caste, even when listed in the core Chhattisgarhi folk repertoire. I have heard this genre performed only once, in an attenuated, midday demonstration just for me. I do not, therefore, have sufficient performative data to include the genre in this book.

20 One informant told me that the difference between the candainī and paṇḍvānī traditions (and note how they are being paired in this comment) was this characteristic line ending of mor and tor of candainī and bhāīya or bhāīge (literally, brother) of paṇḍvānī. Two examples of the ways in which the rāgī joins in with the gāyak follow. The tor and mor are semantically empty, although they literally mean “yours” and “mine.”



aur rājā mahar ke

ye din tor

ya beṭī canda ho

ye din tor

Of King Mahar,

on this day

She is the daughter Canda.

on this day

rājā ye mahar ke beṭī

beṭī tor

kaise gaurā ma barḥe

barḥe tor

The daughter of King Mahar

the daughter

Grew up in Gaura.

grew up

21 Many nācā performers are able, therefore, to perform in the gīt style and may do so for their own entertainment.

22 See Flueckiger 1988 for a description of one performer who experimented with combining elements of gīt and nācā in a public performance for which there were not sufficient funds to hire an entire nācā troupe.

23 Both these festivals originated in and are specifically identified with regions outside Chhattisgarh—Bengal and Maharashra, respectively—where they are the major festival of the year. But they are commonly celebrated, with more or less dhūm-dhām (festivity, energy), in towns and cities all over north and central India. For both festivals, elaborate images of the respective deities are “seated” for a period of nine days in neighborhoods throughout the city, and various kinds of entertainment groups, including nācā troupes and bhajan maṇḍalī (devotional singing groups), are often hired to perform in front of the deity.

24 See Velcheru Narayana Rao (unpublished ms.), “What Is Folklore in India?” for a discussion of the Sanskrit classification of members of low castes and women within a single category.

25 A dhobin (washerwoman) catches Lorik leaving the palace in haste with a womans scarf on his head instead of his turban; thereafter, she serves as a go-between for the lovers. Compare the use of the flowerseller to gain entrance into the palace by the hero of the kathānī kūhā’s narrative in Chapter 5.

26 Loose hair in Chhattisgarh has sexual connotations unless framed in ritual contexts of mourning or goddess possession.

27 See Chapter 2 for a similar example of the use of prasād imagery in the friendship songs of unmarried girls.

28 There are genres other than the epic that have been appropriated by folklore groups and communities within the region, however, in a self-conscious way. For example, in 1985 one village headman talked specifically about the role he thought local festivals could play in establishing a sense of village identity and improving morale. He told me he had introduced the festival of gaurā to his village several years ago for just such a purpose (see Chapter 8 for a description of this process).

29 The Chhattisgarhi dialect itself varies widely within the region and is not totally mutually intelligible between speakers living even one hundred miles apart or between literate, high-caste city dwellers and nonliterate villagers.

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