Spinning a Yarn

For centuries,the legends of King Gesar have been doing rounds in Ladakh.

Written by Pallavi Pundir | Published:September 20, 2012 3:25 am

For centuries,the legends of King Gesar have been doing rounds in Ladakh. An endangered nomadic community,armed with stringed instruments and percussions,has been travelling through the Silk Route,telling,or better still,singing stories called the Kesar Saga,about King Gesar of the kingdom of Ling of the 12th century. These performing artistes will perform at the International Storytellers’ Festival,which begins on September 23 at India Habitat Centre,Lodhi Road,and Epicentre,Gurgaon.

“The aim of the festival is not just to introduce the audience to such artistes but also to use it as a platform for these performers,” says Prarthana Gehlot,Director of the festival. With Delhi-based storytelling enthusiasts Rachna Bisht and Shaguna,she introduced the festival in 2010. This festival is a part of Ghummakkad Narain,a literary event,which is an initiative of NIVESH,an NGO,and Himalayan Hub for Art,Culture and Heritage,in collaboration with UNESCO.

Another set of nomadic artistes come from the Bundelkhand region. Two storytellers use instruments and dance to narrate war stories called Alha Udal. “Alha and Udal are names of two characters,both warriors. The performance is a narration of the tales of valour and bravery that the duo have witnessed. The performers use khadi boli mixed with Hindi,and a long,winding pipe called the narsimha is their main instrument. Sadly,we don’t have the dance bit at the festival,” says Gehlot.

From the land of rich oral traditions is the prominent Polish storyteller Michal Malinowski,instrumental in the revival of Polish storytelling movement. He is also the Director of The Storyteller Museum,which is involved with documentation of indigenous folklore in Poland and other countries. The artiste will bring with him local legends and fairy tales. Storytellers Joanne Blake and Xanthe Gresham from the UK complete the line-up.

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