Mahasu region located in the Western Himalayan ranges is very interesting area for field work in Folklore Studies. Several ethnic groups and other communities inhabiting this region, are still practising age-old social activities and beliefs. It is stretched up to the plains in lower Shivalik belt on the one side and Tibetan border on the other and covers one of the thickly populated tracts in the uplands.
Folklore is comparatively a new field of scientific study of culture and new definitions of the terms relating to this study are being coined. Since its inception, it has been associated with ‘primitive’ and ‘savage’ people. This inference is not only partial but is capable of giving a wrong notion of the studies related to folklore. This new field of study is apprehensive of some risks and stakes including the arduous task of field study and documentation of social habits including the study of myths, rituals, belief and folktake etc. in unbiased and scientific manner and cravings of scholars for designing new definitions on the basis of printed literature produced from different angles. It is not easy to understand the context of living social and cultural history with all its undercurrents and absolutely necessary contents. We cannot undertake the study of folklore while sitting in a library and our knowledge of language can hardly be of any significant value for understanding the psyche of folkmind. What we require the most, is the oneness with the social and cultural life of the people about whom we want to collect material for documentation and assessment. Classification and evaluation of folk material cannot be taken by hypothesis only as it requires bulk of information coupled with very authentic and specific approach to reach some conclusions. The conclusion with regard to one group or community, can hardly be applied in the same fashion to another set of people. Folklore, thus, is very sensitive and tender field, not suitable and convenient for those who don’t have the capacity and aptitude to understand society as a whole.
The term ‘primitive’ or ‘savage’ is not a soothing gesture in any way to a particular society as to associate the study of folklore with only primitive or savage people having social practices whose roots are engraved in antiquity, is not appropriate. ‘Folk’ and ‘Lore’ two independent terms denote that it is a study of the knowledge and wisdom of the common people who may not either be primitive or savage in any case. It is, thus expedient that broader view of the term ‘Folklore; be taken and the people who are studied are not rated among primitive or savage as every race or community has its own set of behavioral functioning and to call a society backward or highly civilized, is only a subjective approach. The division of various fields of folklore study also requires some rethinking. Up to the present times, myth or mythology is not considered an essential component of oral literature. This approach has, obviously jeopardized the scope of scientific study under the new discipline. The study of myth is comparatively more difficult than to collect material relating to folksongs, folktales, caremonies, rituals and other social beliefs.
Stith Thompson has rightly put it that, ‘the essential of all folklore study is collecting and attempting to understand that which has been collected’. The creative genius of the common people has much to depend on traditional knowledge and the myth-making or setting trends is the major obligation of creative genius who is one among the thousands of his society. If at all, the redesigning of the components of folklore is possible, in my humble opinion, these should be (i) the study of myth (ii) the knowledge and documentation of ritual, (iii) the in-depth knowledge of social beliefs, and (iv) the study, collection and documentation of folk narrative, including folk ballads, folk songs, folk tale, proverbs, sayings and any other aspect related to narration or speech.
With this approach in mind, the present volume on folklore, is devoted to the study of Divinity Cults, Myths and related legends. The society, in this part of the country, cannot be properly understood in the absence of the study of divinity cults. In the forthcoming volumes on the subject, other aspects referred to above, would be taken up and finally an index of folklore of the region is proposed to be compiled to make it a compact and comprehensive study. In order to allow this volume a sense of completion, the last Chapter has been devoted to the crude classification of myths, but this is not, at all, final as much more material on other aspects of folklore would be forthcoming and more information on myths, motifs and narrative may be included, analysed and classified.
I am greatly indebted to the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla through its Director, Professor Mrinal Miri, a scholar of repute and his colleagues for providing me with an opportunity to spend time at the Institute as a Fellow and take advantage of the facilities including the invaluable library service to compile the present volume. I have no intention and ambition to claim that the work being resented , is of some merit but in case it is of any use to the scholars and researchers in the field, I shall consider my endeavour to have paid dividends. I am aware of the shortcomings in the volume and, if allowed time and grace by the Almighty, shall try to effect modifications and corrections wherever possible, in the forthcoming volumes.
I am grateful to all those who equipped me with the information on folklore and atmosphere to work on this monograph. My sincere gratitude is due to Shri S.A. Jabbar, Academic Resource Officer, Shri A.K. Sharma, Public Relations Officer, Dr. Debarshi Sen who willingly discussed matters relating to the present project and to Shri Joginder Singh Verma who never appeared to be fatigued and lacking in spirit while getting the matter typed and fed to computer time and again. I shall be failing in my duties if I don’t express my gratitude to my wife Pushp Lata Sharma, my son Pankaj Lalit and his wife Poonam for all their assistance in the accomplishment of the project.
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