The Valley of the Kauravas
by Prof. Dr. William Sax, Head of Department of Anthropology and Acting Director, South Asia Institute
Date: 1 March 2011, 6:30 pm
Venue: India International Centre Annexe
Lecture Hall III
Please join for tea at 6 pm.
Every winter, during the “dark months” of Karttik, Agahan, and Paush local versions of Mahabharata are performed throughout the Garhwal region of the Western Himalayas, where they are called panwal, gainda, pandav lila, and a variety of other names. Local Rajputs believe that they are direct descendants of Nakula, and that these performances are a kind of funeral ritual for Pandu (hence they are also called shraddha). In short, performances of Mahabharata are not merely aesthetic, but are bound up with everyday life, ideas of kinship and descent, and religious practice. In far Northwestern Garhwal, Mahabharata is even more closely related to daily life. Throughout this region, local people were traditionally ruled by territorial gods through their oracles, and the ruling gods of the upper Tons River basin were identified with Karna and Duryodhana, while the population was (and still is) divided into "Kauravas" and "Pandavas." In this paper, I discuss the multiple ways in which Mahabharata informs the lives of local persons.