The Hindi Oral Epic Tradition: Bhojpuri Loriki.
The text is preceded by a number of short independently paginated introductory chapters. These provide an English summary of the story, information on the singer, a member of the ahir caste who passed away in 1982, and a comparison of the Bhojpuri version to those published earlier along with comments on the meter. The meter is highly irregular but the singer skillfully compensates for the widely varying number of matras by prolonging, lengthening or adding syllables. Portions of the text are also in prose or a mixture of prose and verse. The Bhojpuri text itself fills pages 1-425 and is followed by a Hindi commentary (pp. 427-624), an index of names (pp. 625-38) and a Bhojpuri vocabulary (pp. 629-772).
Some elements in this rambling epic, Pandey points out, are indebted to classical sources, as, for example, the account of the highly irregular birth of Samvaru which echoes that of Karna in the Mahabharata. But as Pandey notes, this influence was far from profound (p. 35). It is far more rewarding to look for parallels in other vernacular literatures. Pandey twice (pp. 13 and 50), suggests that a scene where Durga assumes the form of a mosquito to enter a temple (masake rup dhaike) is taken from the Ramcaritmanas episode where Hanuman changes himself into a mosquito (masak) to enter Lanka. However the passage he refers to in Tulsidas seems rather to say that Hanuman transformed himself into "a form [small] like a mosquito" (masak saman rup dhari 5.3.1). (Surasa, mentioned above, could on the other hand be a borrowing from Tulsi.) Be this as it may, a more obvious parallel to the hexapodous guise of the goddess can be found in Bengali mangal poetry where folk deities, including Durga, are often described changing into insects (usually a white fly); in one story the goddess is swallowed in this form by Goraksa Nath. In the Bhojpuri Loriki Durga undergoes this metamorphosis in order to enter Piranapur, a land ruled by the witches Hiriya and Jiriya (who are referred to in a formula as bamgalini). Piranapur is referred to as a kingdom of women (raj stri ka) and this clearly echoes a widespread tale about how Goraksa Nath rescues his guru, Minanath, from Kadali, another kingdom of women. One notes how here Durga has Lorik disguise himself as a yogi when he enters Piranapur and how Hiriya and Jiriya attempt to transform Lorik into a sheep (bhera); in some versions of the Goraksa tale Minanath is transformed into a sheep, as is the companion of Guru Nanak in a Panjabi hagiographical tale borrowed from it. Other correspondences could be cited; here it is sufficient to point out that the Loriki is rich in motifs and themes also found in other story cycles and other literatures.
The Bhojpuri recording is reproduced in standard Devanagari script which is a common way of presenting dialect materials in Indian publications. The text is obviously not primarily intended for linguists. The Hindi commentary consists of a lengthy paraphrase which makes it possible to follow the story in detail. In the notes to the first sixty-two pages of the text, the commentary includes definitions of difficult Bhojpuri words but for some reason this is discontinued. The very useful, but limited Bhojpuri vocabulary includes many words which are Standard Hindi. When the Bhojpuri Loriki was recorded thirty years ago the illiterate Sivnath Caudhari told Pandey that new singers lacked patience and did not want to learn the epic properly. This is a dying art and the rapid spread of electronic entertainment will hurry its extinction. Thus the Bhojpuri Loriki is not only invaluable for making this material available but for preserving it from oblivion.
W. L. SMITH UNIVERSITY OF STOCKHOLM
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|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Apr 1, 1997|
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