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WORLD LIVING HERITAGE FESTIVAL: ORAL TRADITIONS

JASMEEN DUGAL  (click here to know more about this blogger)

When I heard that one of the sessions I would be attending at 'World Living Heritage Festival' by The Maharana of Mewar Charitable Foundation in the historic City Palace Udaipur was ''Oral Traditions: A Saga Of Perishing Heritage'' by Dr. Rima Hooja and author Tripti Pandey, with presentations by Phad artist Kalyan Joshi and Khuman Singh, it piqued my interest. For the uninitiated, like I was, oral tradition is a vehicle of preserving intangible cultural heritage inherited from our ancestors. In simpler words, it's a community's knowledge, cultural values and collective memory passed down by word of mouth from one generation to another i.e. living our heritage by communicating proverbs, nursery rhymes, legends, myths, epic songs and poems, prayers, chants, dramatic performances and more for the next generation to live with a sense of identity. Its importance is not the cultural manifestation itself but the knowledge, values and skills that are passed on.

 

'Are oral traditions still relevant?' 'Are they being replaced with technology?' 'What effort can be made on an individual level to preserve and pass them down generations? These were pointers up for debate. Almost every guest present had recollection of oral traditions passed down by his or her grandparents whether they hailed from Rajasthan, Punjab, Nepal or France. Significantly, a question loomed large — in today's frenetic pace, can we carve out the time and make the effort required to prevent oral traditions from becoming extinct? A concerted attempt is necessary on an individual level to reach out to elders in the family or community and imbibe the tradition… and then encourage our children to practice ancestral traditions and maintain it for the next generation. The onus lies on each of us. Guests also expressed the pressing need to reverse the trend of folk songs being replaced by film songs during weddings and festivals, a time when different generations gather together in celebratory mode. These are just few of the small, effective steps we should all take to live our heritage. And here I want to cite another example i.e. the impromptu folk dance at the conclusion of this session; after ushering out the men, ladies acquainted with the steps demonstrated it to us and we all danced to a Rajasthani folk song played on YouTube! I repeat, simple, joyful and effective.

 

On a national level, intangible cultural heritage is important in maintaining cultural diversity in the face of globalisation to ensure it's not demolished by monoculture. Each state must identify its oral traditions with the participation of local communities, draw up inventories for conservation and present it to the public. In many regions, performing oral traditions is a specialised occupation and the community holds these performers in the highest regard as guardians of collective memory. The most important part of safeguarding these traditions is maintaining its everyday role in society… as living heritage; i.e. a way for the oral tradition to be preserved is by showcasing it, perhaps at classical music concerts and folk dance at sightseeing destinations. If in a concert, half the public is engrossed or singing along, without even knowing what it means, that itself makes it successful.

 

In conclusion, what I learnt from the session ''Oral Traditions: A Saga Of Perishing Heritage'' during World Living Heritage Festival 2016 is how oral traditions are traditional, contemporary and alive at the same time. Safeguarding it doesn't mean freezing it in museum archives; it's about transfer of knowledge down generations which contributes to social cohesion and instills a sense of identity and pride. Oral traditions therefore, based on the above definition, is vital in transforming heritage culture from a dying tradition to a living treasure.
 

WORLD LIVING HERITAGE FESTIVAL
Kalyan Joshi, Tripti Pandey, Vrinda Raje Singn, Dr. Rima Hooja, Abhimanyu Singh Arha
 
WORLD LIVING HERITAGE FESTIVAL
session ''Oral Traditions: A Saga Of Perishing Heritage'' during World Living Heritage Festival 2016
 
25-MARCH-2016
 
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