Nivedita Rao

Arts Research and Documentation

Grant Period: Over three years

Nivedita Rao has an M.A. degree in History from Centre of Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She has worked with the Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Mumbai, and the Archeological Survey of India. Nivedita has also worked as a lecturer at the Department of Ancient Indian Culture, Senior College, Kishinchand Chellaram College, Mumbai. 

Cultural historian Nivedita Rao’s study of the bharuds, allegorical poems composed by Sant Eknath in the mid 15th century, is expected to address the need for a more critical engagement with the performing arts.

Nivedita seeks to understand bharuds as a contract between the performer and the audience. Unlike the written text which can be read silently and alone, the study of the bharud as a performance will enable her to focus on the stylisation of the story and the rendition by the actors. Her study would investigate the specific techniques used in the written versions as against the linguistic alterations that accompany the oral renditions. A focus on the use of images, styles of articulation, varying emphases on sections of the text, the deployment of parallelism, paralinguistic features and performance markers, Nivedita feels, would enable her to distinguish between the written, the oral and the dramatised as specific cultural forms. She would also like to examine the amount of creative freedom allowed to the performer and the methods of transmission and training.

Apart from scrutinising the texts, Nivedita will study the social histories of the performers in an attempt to excavate the social conditions determining the makings of this cultural tradition. She will look at how the entry of new social groups into the performance sphere has impinged on and altered the form. In addition, she will examine the impact of urbanisation and the changing market economy on bharuds and their performance, as well as the more recent efforts of right wing parties to control the cultural resources of these marginalised groups.

Nivedita envisages her project as involving extensive archival and library research and meticulous field work, especially during the pilgrimage of the vari. She expects to take three years to complete her research because she teaches at the Kishinchand Chellaram College, Mumbai.