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Songs of freedom

DNPUN27932 | 6/25/2010 | Author : PALLAVI KHARADE | WC :462

FTII director Pankaj Rag is out with his book on folk tales and songs that were popular during India's first war of independence

When he’s not busy managing the country’s premier film and television institute, Pankaj Rag likes to explore his passion for literature and music. In fact, his latest book 1857-The Oral Tradition is a by-product of this interest he nurtures. The book talks about folk songs and tales that were popular during the revolt of 1857 and were mainly used to motivate Indians.
Rag, the director of the Film and Television Institute of India has written books on archaeology and has penned down a collection of poems and also a book titled Dhuno Ki Yatra on Indian music directors.
“I got interested in the subject while I was doing my MA in history. I used to collect information on folk tales and songs. When I decided to go a little deeper into the subject, it took shape of the book,” he says.
Rag further adds, “When it comes to the revolt of 1857, mainstream historians have always relied on official sources such as correspondence of the British officials or written correspondence of the freedom fighters. 1857, was a popular revolt which saw people from all walks of life participate. To understand the aspirations, hopes, issues of the people at large, one needs to dig deeper.”
Rag says the oral tradition during a particular period is one of the best sources to look into the mental, physical and cultural aspects of common man, who participated in the revolt through study of folk songs, folk tales and anecdotes. “This book tries to look at the memories of past and reinterpretation which provide us with many narratives of 1857, from the viewpoint of collective experiences and popular consciousness,” he explains.
The book, which consists of four chapters, looks at the oral traditions and contemporary literature of 1857 in eastern Uttar Pradesh and adjoining areas of western Bihar, where there are many folk songs especially on Kunwar Singh.
“The washerman in this area still sing a Bhojpuri folk song on the defeat of Kunwar Singh. The wordings of the song are Babu Kunwar Singh tohre raj bina ab na ragibo keseria (Babu Kunwar Singh, after your defeat, we won’t dye our clothes in saffron any longer).
The second chapter compares the famous song penned by famous poet Subhadra Kumari Chauhan on Jhansi Ki Rani with the images of the Rani in the folklore, and also raises questions regarding the complexities of the first war of independence.
The third chapter explores popular participation and tribal folklore in the areas of Mandla, Rajgarh and Nimar in MP.
The fourth and final chapter looks at the oral tradition in 1857 in Avadh. “All these chapters analyse different aspects of 1857, including notions of honour, bravery, loyalty, masculinity and ethics.”
The book, published by Roopa and Co was released last month.

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