From Shrine to Stage: The Challenges of Archiving Ritualistic Performances with Reference to the Tejaji Ballad of Rajasthan
The Ballad of Tejaji occupies an important place in the sung oral tradition of agrarian folklore over large tracts of Rajasthan and into Madhya Pradesh. Tejaji is glorified for the manner of his death in which he gave up his life to fulfil his promise to a snake. In return, blessings are bestowed upon him so that any snakebite victim who ties a thread in his name will be saved. Men come together at night to sing this ballad during the monsoon months, when the possibility of encountering snakes is highest. The author is in the process of recording the 20-hour ballad in its entirety for the first time, with funding from the World Oral Literature Project. The ballad will be transcribed in Hadoti, translated into Hindi and English, and published in book form. These audio-visual and written records will document this cultural heritage for the future, but will also constitute a fossilised archive of a constantly changing tradition. In my presentation, I will consider the challenges of archiving ritual performances that are gradually shifting from the shrine to the stage.