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Where Gods Dwell (Central Himalayan Folktales and Legends)
Where Gods Dwell (Central Himalayan Folktales and Legends)
Description
Introduction

The idea behind this book is to share with the English reader the rich folklore of the central Himalayas, a region spanning present-day Garhwal and Kumaon. After years of living overseas, when my husband retired from the Indian Foreign Service, we decided to make Kumaon our summer home, a place to retire to form the heat of the Delhi summer. In 1998, we knew little about this area of our country and even less of its history and cultural traditions. But we were eager to learn all we could. To that end we were posted to a new country to travel widely with the land, to interact keenly with local inhabitants and to read up comprehensively about the area. This book is a product of all that research travel was our greatest teacher and, in these past years, we have don’t it,extensively, covering almost all the districts that comprise this region. In the course of these tours, we met several interesting people who were more than willing that we may have otherwise failed to notice.

Language posted a bit of a hurdle while researching and collecting data. Most of the material was available either in Hindi, Garhwali or Kumaoni. While my Hindi was somewhat rusty from discusse over the years, knowledge of the other two languages was non-existence. Further, I found to my dismay that only a handful of writers in the English language had cared to record the folk tales of this region and that too in passing, most of them appearing in memories or travelogues. In contrast, quite a large number of Hindi scholars had turned their attention to this rich folk literature and analysed it fairly exhaustively.

The very nature of a folk tale is that it passes on by word of mouth, often down several generations, and may alter in the telling by becoming more subjective as it acquires the narrator’s personal; interpretation. With this reality comes the problem of multiple versions of the same story before rewriting it in English, ensuring scrupulously to stay with the essence of the story but passing over its glaring inaccuracies and muddled references with regard to time or place. Credibility-testing flights of fantasy or imporabable situations are part and parcel of a good tale, but when medieval heros and heroines are cast in modern outfits jewelry and make-up (complete with wrist-watches) and are found shopping around railway stations and lighting up cigarettes, then the wisest course is to exclude such references as they detracted from the story!

What I have not included in this work are the pan-Indian mythology tales such as the myth of creation, the churning of the ocean, Kudru and Vinta, the descent of the Ganga, the marriage of Shiva and Pravati and episodes from the two great episodes from the region and justify why the central Himlayas are known as Devbhoomi or ‘Abode of the Gods’. The only reason I can give for their omission is that they are well covered elsewhere besides known all over the country. Instead my readers are offered whimsical, imaginative stories associated with high adventure, romance pastoral gods, local heroes, medieval warriors, sacred spots and historical anecdotes, all of which are equally popular in these parts but little known outside.

The Puranas from an inexhaustible pool for Hindu mythology legends and folk tales, and just as storytellers from elsewhere in India borrow from this great source, the people of this region do the same thereby building up a considerable fund of stories that are variations of the originals. Bearing in mind the preferences of their audience, the recounters of these stories alter and adapt the characters, themes and locales to suit tastes.

Here is an example. One interpretation of the cause of the great war in the Mahabharata is said to be the cham tree. Supposedly, this large tree grew on the boundary between the territories of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Each side claimed it to be theirs. To settle the dispute, it was suggested that a branch be broken. If the sap emitted milk, then it belonged to the Pandavas. Everybody agreed, but when the Kauravas saw the milky sap they refused to give up their claim and the alteration escalated into war.

The theatre of the great Mahabharata is believed to have been in this region and there is a belief to have been in this region and there is a strong belief that the Kauravas and Pandavas belonged to these parts. The heroes and villains of the great epics are heavily tinted in local shades, none being too white or two dark. That is why it is hardly surprising to find that alongside the righteous Pandava brothers, the infamous Duryodhana and karna too have a following with temples built in their honour.

This book is arranged in sections, each focusing on a particular theme and containing a set of related stories. It opens with tales about Nanda Devi, the accepted patron Himalayas. Most mighty snow peaks that are visible from here either bear her name are somehow connected to her.

The goddess permeates will aspects of life-she is creator, mother, daughter, protector of harvest and guardian against disease. In her stories, she mirrors the life of the women, their joys, sorrows and aspirations.

The rulers of this region were ardent worshippers of the goddess and initiated grand festivals in her honour. Let me mention two interesting anecdotes related to the Nanda Devi idol. The first tells of the origin of the worship of Nanda and Sunanda in Kumaon. Raja Baz Bahadur Chand of Kumaon (1638-78), in the course of a military campaign against Garhwal, captured the strategic Juniyagarh fort near Karnaprayag and took away the ancient Nanda Devi idol from the temple there. This idol was installed as a victory symbol in his place at Almora. (the Old Fort). Now that there were two images enshrined in the royal place, he introduced the worship of the twin goddesses as sisters, Nanda and Sunanda. The Second story relates to the Nanda Devi temple of Almora. In the nineteenth century, G.W. Trail, the British Commissioner of Kumaon (1817-36), went on tour to Nandakot where he was struck by snow blindness. When no other treatment worked, he turned to the local soothsayers for help. They told him that his ailment was a result of the goddess’s ire and he could appease her only by building a new temple for her and installing her image there. That is exactly what he did and, of course, was released from her curse!

The ever popular Ramola Gathas, which deal with the lives and deeds of the Ramola clan, fall into two broad categories. The first dwells on the way of life of the cattle herders and the issues that preoccupied them. The Ramolas originally belonged to the ancient tribes of the plains who subsequently moved to the hills, away their kith and kin, looking for better pastures for their animals. These stories describe their animals. These stories describe their lives in remote mountains-living in isolation , rearing livestock, making the arduous annual journey to the Bhabbar plains to sell, the herd, leaving their families unprotected for long spells during which the families would face problems due to the absence of the menfolk. The stories give insights into their religious beliefs, dependence on magic and adherence to superstition. The second category of stories deals with the adventures of three of the nine Kunwar brothers whose exploits take them northward into the higher Himalayas. These stories have a strong element of fantasy and tell of incredible lands, bizarre experiences and strange beings. They describe interactions with people living in remote areas and the lands that lie beyond Tibet. Tibetans are reffered to as Huns in these stories and are distinct from the Bhotiyas who live in the Johar, Dharma and Vyas valleys. The undercurrent of hostility between people of the lower and upper Himalayan regions is palpable and might be reflective of historical conflict. These stories also give vague hints of some sort of military.

 

About the book

Kusum Budhwar introduces us to Kumaon and Garhwal’s rich and rarely translated folk literature by reteling the colourful and exuberant stories of the region. Whimsical and imaginative, these are tales of high adventure, luminous love and romance, benevolent pastrol gods, local heroes, brave medieval warriors, sacred sites and historical anecdotes, all of which are equally popular in these parts but little known outside.

Arranged in sections, each focusing on a particular theme, the book opens with Nanda Devi, the patron goddess of the region, believed to be the daughter of the Himalayas. In the sections that follow we become intimately acquainted with the enchanting adventure sagas of the Ramola clan, the Ramola Gathas; the romantic ballads ‘Malushahi’ and ‘Haru Heet’; the tale of Chyongompa, the demon bird; and the simple stories, imbued with faith, of local gods and goddesses like Golu Dev and Devmangla, among others.

Where Gods Dwell not only allows us to savour the stories of the hills, resonating with the cheerful cadences of mountain streams and the dark silence of the forests, but also offers us a rare glimpse of the culture, life and society of the people of the region whose lives are shaped by the rugged terrain they inhabit and who revere the mountains on which they make their home.

 

Contents

 

Map ix
Introduction xi
Nanda Devi Stories 3
Local Deities 37
Romantic Sagas 91
Ramola Gathas 131
Tales of Valour 163
Legendary Places 199
Capital Tales 232
Fantasy And Humour 241
Acknowledgememts 270

Sample Pages

















Where Gods Dwell (Central Himalayan Folktales and Legends)

Item Code:
NAG237
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Edition:
2010
ISBN:
9780143066026
Language:
English
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8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Pages:
296
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Weight of the Book: 206 gms
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Introduction

The idea behind this book is to share with the English reader the rich folklore of the central Himalayas, a region spanning present-day Garhwal and Kumaon. After years of living overseas, when my husband retired from the Indian Foreign Service, we decided to make Kumaon our summer home, a place to retire to form the heat of the Delhi summer. In 1998, we knew little about this area of our country and even less of its history and cultural traditions. But we were eager to learn all we could. To that end we were posted to a new country to travel widely with the land, to interact keenly with local inhabitants and to read up comprehensively about the area. This book is a product of all that research travel was our greatest teacher and, in these past years, we have don’t it,extensively, covering almost all the districts that comprise this region. In the course of these tours, we met several interesting people who were more than willing that we may have otherwise failed to notice.

Language posted a bit of a hurdle while researching and collecting data. Most of the material was available either in Hindi, Garhwali or Kumaoni. While my Hindi was somewhat rusty from discusse over the years, knowledge of the other two languages was non-existence. Further, I found to my dismay that only a handful of writers in the English language had cared to record the folk tales of this region and that too in passing, most of them appearing in memories or travelogues. In contrast, quite a large number of Hindi scholars had turned their attention to this rich folk literature and analysed it fairly exhaustively.

The very nature of a folk tale is that it passes on by word of mouth, often down several generations, and may alter in the telling by becoming more subjective as it acquires the narrator’s personal; interpretation. With this reality comes the problem of multiple versions of the same story before rewriting it in English, ensuring scrupulously to stay with the essence of the story but passing over its glaring inaccuracies and muddled references with regard to time or place. Credibility-testing flights of fantasy or imporabable situations are part and parcel of a good tale, but when medieval heros and heroines are cast in modern outfits jewelry and make-up (complete with wrist-watches) and are found shopping around railway stations and lighting up cigarettes, then the wisest course is to exclude such references as they detracted from the story!

What I have not included in this work are the pan-Indian mythology tales such as the myth of creation, the churning of the ocean, Kudru and Vinta, the descent of the Ganga, the marriage of Shiva and Pravati and episodes from the two great episodes from the region and justify why the central Himlayas are known as Devbhoomi or ‘Abode of the Gods’. The only reason I can give for their omission is that they are well covered elsewhere besides known all over the country. Instead my readers are offered whimsical, imaginative stories associated with high adventure, romance pastoral gods, local heroes, medieval warriors, sacred spots and historical anecdotes, all of which are equally popular in these parts but little known outside.

The Puranas from an inexhaustible pool for Hindu mythology legends and folk tales, and just as storytellers from elsewhere in India borrow from this great source, the people of this region do the same thereby building up a considerable fund of stories that are variations of the originals. Bearing in mind the preferences of their audience, the recounters of these stories alter and adapt the characters, themes and locales to suit tastes.

Here is an example. One interpretation of the cause of the great war in the Mahabharata is said to be the cham tree. Supposedly, this large tree grew on the boundary between the territories of the Kauravas and the Pandavas. Each side claimed it to be theirs. To settle the dispute, it was suggested that a branch be broken. If the sap emitted milk, then it belonged to the Pandavas. Everybody agreed, but when the Kauravas saw the milky sap they refused to give up their claim and the alteration escalated into war.

The theatre of the great Mahabharata is believed to have been in this region and there is a belief to have been in this region and there is a strong belief that the Kauravas and Pandavas belonged to these parts. The heroes and villains of the great epics are heavily tinted in local shades, none being too white or two dark. That is why it is hardly surprising to find that alongside the righteous Pandava brothers, the infamous Duryodhana and karna too have a following with temples built in their honour.

This book is arranged in sections, each focusing on a particular theme and containing a set of related stories. It opens with tales about Nanda Devi, the accepted patron Himalayas. Most mighty snow peaks that are visible from here either bear her name are somehow connected to her.

The goddess permeates will aspects of life-she is creator, mother, daughter, protector of harvest and guardian against disease. In her stories, she mirrors the life of the women, their joys, sorrows and aspirations.

The rulers of this region were ardent worshippers of the goddess and initiated grand festivals in her honour. Let me mention two interesting anecdotes related to the Nanda Devi idol. The first tells of the origin of the worship of Nanda and Sunanda in Kumaon. Raja Baz Bahadur Chand of Kumaon (1638-78), in the course of a military campaign against Garhwal, captured the strategic Juniyagarh fort near Karnaprayag and took away the ancient Nanda Devi idol from the temple there. This idol was installed as a victory symbol in his place at Almora. (the Old Fort). Now that there were two images enshrined in the royal place, he introduced the worship of the twin goddesses as sisters, Nanda and Sunanda. The Second story relates to the Nanda Devi temple of Almora. In the nineteenth century, G.W. Trail, the British Commissioner of Kumaon (1817-36), went on tour to Nandakot where he was struck by snow blindness. When no other treatment worked, he turned to the local soothsayers for help. They told him that his ailment was a result of the goddess’s ire and he could appease her only by building a new temple for her and installing her image there. That is exactly what he did and, of course, was released from her curse!

The ever popular Ramola Gathas, which deal with the lives and deeds of the Ramola clan, fall into two broad categories. The first dwells on the way of life of the cattle herders and the issues that preoccupied them. The Ramolas originally belonged to the ancient tribes of the plains who subsequently moved to the hills, away their kith and kin, looking for better pastures for their animals. These stories describe their animals. These stories describe their lives in remote mountains-living in isolation , rearing livestock, making the arduous annual journey to the Bhabbar plains to sell, the herd, leaving their families unprotected for long spells during which the families would face problems due to the absence of the menfolk. The stories give insights into their religious beliefs, dependence on magic and adherence to superstition. The second category of stories deals with the adventures of three of the nine Kunwar brothers whose exploits take them northward into the higher Himalayas. These stories have a strong element of fantasy and tell of incredible lands, bizarre experiences and strange beings. They describe interactions with people living in remote areas and the lands that lie beyond Tibet. Tibetans are reffered to as Huns in these stories and are distinct from the Bhotiyas who live in the Johar, Dharma and Vyas valleys. The undercurrent of hostility between people of the lower and upper Himalayan regions is palpable and might be reflective of historical conflict. These stories also give vague hints of some sort of military.

 

About the book

Kusum Budhwar introduces us to Kumaon and Garhwal’s rich and rarely translated folk literature by reteling the colourful and exuberant stories of the region. Whimsical and imaginative, these are tales of high adventure, luminous love and romance, benevolent pastrol gods, local heroes, brave medieval warriors, sacred sites and historical anecdotes, all of which are equally popular in these parts but little known outside.

Arranged in sections, each focusing on a particular theme, the book opens with Nanda Devi, the patron goddess of the region, believed to be the daughter of the Himalayas. In the sections that follow we become intimately acquainted with the enchanting adventure sagas of the Ramola clan, the Ramola Gathas; the romantic ballads ‘Malushahi’ and ‘Haru Heet’; the tale of Chyongompa, the demon bird; and the simple stories, imbued with faith, of local gods and goddesses like Golu Dev and Devmangla, among others.

Where Gods Dwell not only allows us to savour the stories of the hills, resonating with the cheerful cadences of mountain streams and the dark silence of the forests, but also offers us a rare glimpse of the culture, life and society of the people of the region whose lives are shaped by the rugged terrain they inhabit and who revere the mountains on which they make their home.

 

Contents

 

Map ix
Introduction xi
Nanda Devi Stories 3
Local Deities 37
Romantic Sagas 91
Ramola Gathas 131
Tales of Valour 163
Legendary Places 199
Capital Tales 232
Fantasy And Humour 241
Acknowledgememts 270

Sample Pages

















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