Casting Kings: Bards and Indian Modernity by Jeffrey G. Snodgrass

By Jeffrey G. Snodgrass

In response to 3 years of fieldwork within the Indian kingdom of Rajasthan, Casting Kingsexplores the best way semi-nomadic performers referred to as Bhats comprehend, and in addition subvert, caste hierarchies. Bhats (literally, "Bards") now entertain quite a few sponsors - village consumers, overseas travelers, city Rajasthanis, govt officers, and improvement specialists - with ballads and puppet performs detailing the exploits of Rajasthan's long-dead kings. at times, Bhats recommend that their old wisdom and poetic abilities were inherited from royal ancestors who sang the praises and stored the genealogies of Rajasthan's former kings and princes. In different contexts, in spite of the fact that, Bhats affiliate themselves with Dalits - a time period reserved for India's former untouchables. As Jeffrey G. Snodgrass delves deeper into the complexities and contradictions of Bhat artwork and identification - methodically and sometimes humorously peeling away layer after layer of deception to reveal the style within which Bhats use their legacy of bardic crafty to govern previous and new consumers alike (the writer between them) - the complexities and contradictions of contemporary India are likewise published.

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Casting Kings: Bards and Indian Modernity

According to 3 years of fieldwork within the Indian nation of Rajasthan, Casting Kingsexplores the way semi-nomadic performers referred to as Bhats comprehend, and likewise subvert, caste hierarchies. Bhats (literally, "Bards") now entertain quite a few sponsors - village buyers, international travelers, city Rajasthanis, executive officers, and improvement specialists - with ballads and puppet performs detailing the exploits of Rajasthan's long-dead kings.

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How could they not, my informants asked, given that Bhat bards kept old memories and past glories alive, and in many cases these were all that their lords now possessed? I was thus promised a real treat when I finally had a chance to visit my informants’ natal villages. Accompanied by Bhats, I would be feˆted in a manner befitting royalty. Bhats also told me that many of their former patrons own the tourist hotels where Bhats now market their puppets. I was informed that the tourist industry offers a neat solution to Rajput financial troubles.

Bhats eagerly fleshed out the details of their caste history. In presenting themselves as “traditional” (paramparik) puppeteers, Bhats meant that they had inherited their art from their ma-bap (mother and father), who in turn had inherited skills from their own parents, and so on back in time. My informants stressed the ancient roots of their puppetry, the way it had been passed on from generation to generation. So old was their art, in fact, that it was hard for them to estimate its true age. Some suggested a few hundred years, others a few thousand, and still others a few hundred thousand.

Seeing his condition, and thinking their lord was really dying, the inhabitants of the palace began to wail and recite the Hindu funeral chant, “The name of Ram is truth, speaking truth is truth . . [Ram nam satya hai satya bolna satya hai . . ” In time, the bards arrived at Resamji’s village. ” One of them recited an insulting poem (1): Abandoned our houses, our horses have died, Upon our head a great debt, You have died Resamji? What a bother! On hearing this poetry, the king, covered by his funeral shroud, became agitated, thinking that he was losing face before these wandering minstrels.

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