INDIA is rich in folktales, much like several other communities in the world. But what distinguishes us is that these are even today part of our lives, beliefs and rituals. Every region in the country boasts of its local gods and their deeds and adventures.
Kusum Budhwar, with her deep bonds with the Kumaon region has compiled the folktales and legends of Central Himalaya under the title Where Gods Dwell. As such the Himalayas enjoy a pre-eminent status in our history, it being worshipped, with an additional aura of being the father of Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Kailash is in the Himalayas and several Hindu pilgrimage centres are strewn on it. And hence, the folktales of the Kumaon-Garhwal region have an enormous presence of Shiva and related deities. Most of these stories are sung and recited as ballads during special occasions and perpetuated through the tradition of katha vachak.
No doubt the stories have a high content of human emotion among the deities, like anger, spite, revenge and malice. But then that is what makes the people feel closer to the heroes of the ballads. And then there is a moral to be learnt from all the stories.
Budhwar, who has authored books and written several travel articles, has arranged the stories in different clutches, like Nanda Devi Stories, Local Deities, Romantic Sagas and Legendary Places. Nanda is considered the presiding deity of the region, a daughter of the Himalayas.
Inseparably inter-twined with the stories are the local culture, traditions and rituals that add a special flavour to them. An interesting read that takes us through the romance, battles and reconciliations of the gods who are benign on us.
(Penguin Books, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi 110 049)