Marginalia: On Storytelling Traditions of India

Yesterday’s interview with the founders of Kahaaniya for Kids (Stories for Kids), led to a search for some more history regarding the various interactive and oral storytelling traditions of India – street performers, puppet theater, song and dance recitals, live narratives without any music, performance or props and other such that still continue to this day, passed down, mostly orally, generation to generation. Also, different regions across India have their own styles and traditions, as you will see.

There are growing concerns that these performance storytelling traditions are dying due to globalization and urbanization and, yes, TV soaps.

So, attempts are being made to preserve them. There is an Indian Storytelling Network that organizes conferences and camps across Indian cities and towns and helps storytellers network and learn from each other. Another similar networking organization is The Kahani Project. They aim to crowd-source audio stories and then distribute them to visually-impaired children in various institutes for the blind. All their stories come from volunteers.

Sadly, in a country where spending money on the arts is considered frivolous and the internet continues to make other forms of entertainment more easily accessible, such volunteer organizations will find it difficult to thrive.

Of course, this issue is not unique to India. Many countries and cultures have ancient oral / performance storytelling traditions and are working to preserve them. Stay tuned for more on this shortly.

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