Vasudha Pande is an Associate Professor at the Department of History, Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi. Her research focuses on modern Kumaun, studying caste, religious and regional identities. She has also written on the divergent historiographies of Gorkha rule in Kumaun and Far Western Nepal, and on the issue of borderlands in Kumaun, Far Western Nepal and Western Tibet.
This essay will look at the making of the social imaginary of Kumaun through the study of print media and the performance practice of a popular ballad from the region: Malushahi. During the last two centuries, this classic love story has seen various incarnations. It has been a part of many print versions in Kumauni, Garhwali, Hindi and English—as poetry, prose, a novel, plays, and stories for children. It has been included partially or in full in various folk collections of Kumaun. It has also generated a reasonable amount of discussion in academic circles. A definitive version of the text in Kumauni, Hindi and English, with notes and information about the singer Gopi Das, was produced by the anthropologist Konrad Meissner. Folklorists, historians, litterateurs, linguists, ethnomusicologists and anthropologists have paid great attention to both the form and content of its narrative. It has also been sung and recorded in many versions for radio, video, film, CD, DVD, and VCD. Various versions are available on YouTube. Probably its most popular form is that of a musical written and directed by Mohan Upreti and performed regularly since the 1980s by the Parvatiya Kala Kendra, Delhi. The transformation of this ballad from the folk repertoire to a modern musical and part of the canon of Kumauni literature marks the emergence of a Kumauni identity.
The author would like to thank Dr. Andrew Alter for his input and support, and the two anonymous reviewers for their comments, which have improved this piece considerably.
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Pande, Vasudha. 2018. The Making of a ‘Kumauni’ Artifact: The Epic Malushahi. HIMALAYA 38(1).
Available at: https://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/himalaya/vol38/iss1/17