Free and Open to the Public.
Molly Kaushal (Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts), “It draws me to it like a magnet”: Life and Lila in Village Kheriya
Kheriya is a poverty-ridden village of rag pickers, tongawallas and small-scale farmers growing garlic in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. It has a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims who come together to stage Ramlila during the months of September-October. Individual selves in Kheriya are enmeshed with Ramlila in multiple ways. Personal history of each is filled with sorrow, grief and personal loss. These lives converge on the Ramlila stage, which becomes a site for healing and self-recovery, giving rise to a unique aesthetic experiencing. Some of the major roles in the Ramlila are played by Muslims including that of Ram and Sita. Even the little swarupas are often chosen from among the Muslim children and it is they who are offered the daily aarti and puja on stage. Ramlila in Kheriya in many other ways defies the notions of purity and pollutions as it has come to be associated with the tradition of staging lila.The present talk will discuss the origin of this tradition in 1970-s when Kheriya was beset with caste rivalries, violence and daylight robberies and murders, alongside life- journeys of some of its actors in order to understand the aesthetics of its presentation.
Molly Kaushal is Professor of Performance Studies and Head of Janapada Sampada Division for Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), where she teaches on Indian folklore and conducts research and documentation projects. She is the Principal investigator of the project Living Traditions of Ramkatha and Mahabharata, and has made significant contributions in the field of folk and tribal traditions, building a massive audio-visual archive, bringing out translations and other publications, and creating a platform for dialogue between artists and scholars. Her extensive research about the Gaddi community of Himachal Pradesh has culminated into a number of academic papers and also a film titled Landscaping the Divine: Space and Time among the Gaddis. Her current research focuses migrant communities in megacities, tentatively titled "Changing Urbanscapes and Emerging Ritual Spheres in the Context of Formation of Regional and Political identities".