Ritual, Performance, and Transmission: The Gaddi Shepherds of Himachal Himalayas
Oral Tradition, 2015, 29 (2): 271-90
20 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2015
Date Written: June 29, 2015
Nawala, a sacrificial ritual offering made to Shiva, is central to the identity of the Gaddis, nomadic mountain shepherds of Himachal Pradesh — Northern India. Over a long period of time the Gaddis were encouraged to give up shepherding and settle in the plains among agricultural communities. Displaced from their ancestral habitat and nomadic ways, the focus of their ritual performances changed. Examining one ritual text as a prism for folklore and social change, this essay analyzes how dislocated “identity” negotiates and reinvents itself through ritual performance. The transformation of ritual text, disappearing lineages of traditional singers and ritual specialists, new interpretations and transmission agencies, as well as the eventual preservation and transmission of ritual-lore through audio and video technology chart the trajectory of identity transformation and engagement with modernity.
Keywords: Himalayan shepherds, religion, ritual, folklore, change, ethnography
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