Grant Period: Over one year
Vagish K Jha holds a Master degree in Philosophy and Masters in History from J.N.U, New Delhi. In the field of communication, he has ventured into journalism, theatre, television and has also written articles in national dailies and magazines.
Vagish himself comes from the Mithila region. He is charged by the possibilities the project affords for exploring a little-known area of Indian folklore and performance. According to him, the rich variety of oral ballads from the Mithila region of north Bihar draw on diverse mythological, historical and contemporary themes and receive patronage from different ‘backward’ castes and other marginal social groups. Vagish proposes to undertake research into the oral ballads, generating information on the content and social/performative context of the ballads. This data bank is expected to facilitate future in-depth study of the ballads by different scholars and cultural practitioners.
Collaborative field research will serve to identify the folk ballads, outline their basic theme or story, provide the social context of the ballads (i.e. their association with community/caste/ religion), note the season or occasion when the ballad is performed and the duration of performance, outline the rites and rituals associated with the ballads, identify bards or performers, and record useful local contacts.
Most of the questions pertaining to the project focused on its methodology, owing to Vagish’s conviction that such a baseline survey ought to precede any comprehensive documentation of the ballads, from whichever disciplinary position. In his responses to these questions, he consistently tries to reconcile the need to record basic factual information about the ballads and the importance of being sensitive to their fluid and dynamic nature. He does not consider the ballads only ‘historical artefacts’ but wished to also see them as part of the communicative process of social interaction and as repositories of collective memory.
Vagish has identified five research assistants with varied backgrounds, some of whom come from the Mithila region. He emphasises the importance of following a dynamic and flexible work plan and putting in place a mechanism for collective evaluation and sharing of experiences after each stage of the research. Following the survey, the collected data will be collated and a comprehensive report prepared in order to pave the way for the next phase of systematic and in-depth documentation.