Folklore and Folklife of Gandhavas:
Exploration through Field Research


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Under the Folklore and Folklife Study Project, we have completed the first 7 months of the first year. During this period, intensive research works have been conducted on two folk groups of Nepal: Gandharvas and Gopalis. In this connection, a brief report is presented here regarding the progress we have made as well as the achievements gained from the project in the attempt of exploring the folklore and folklife of the Gandharva community. The progress in the study of Gopalis will be disseminated in the next issue of Newsletter.


The topics that follow will highlight the progress and achievements of the study project.


Preparatory Works


The project office started the works right from the beginning of June 2005. In this month, the necessary preparatory works were completed including the purchase of tools and accessories (like memory cards, rewritable CDs, digital video cassettes, etc.), and the preparation of field sheets, questionnaires/schedules, etc.


Pre-Field Work


In the month of June itself, field researchers were appointed, and a preliminary survey of the field area was conducted. Prof. Dr. C.M. Bandhu had surveyed the Gandharva folk group residing in the villages adjacent to Pokhara sub-metropolitan city – like Batulechaur, Hemja, Badahare, and Tallo Gagan Gauda. From the survey, Prof. Bandhu found about 300 households of the folk group living in these villages; and he recommended that it would be feasible to conduct the field work in and around Batulechaur village, with a close cooperation of the members of Nepal Gandharva Community Development Centre (henceforward NGCDC) located in the village. He had mentioned the name of some important informants willing to help the field work at Batulechaur. He also suggested that the field researchers should try to find more knowledgeable, skilled and talented Gaines (Gandharvas) from some other localities nearby. In the first week of July 2005, the research group surveyed the necessary reference materials related to the Gandharvas and got the background information about this community. Besides, the project office conducted an  orientation programme for the field researchers before their departure to the field area. In the orientation, they were provided with the necessary technical skills for handling the equipments (like  digital camera, video camera and the sound recording device). They were also given the necessary guidelines regarding the data collection methods and procedures.


Field Work


The field researchers worked for data collection in and around Batulechaur village from the 2nd week of July to the 1st week of October 2005 (3 months altogether). The research team comprises 4 members: Prof. C.M. Bandhu (Team Coordinator, linguist), Mr. Kusumakar Neupane (folklorist), Ms. Meena Manandhar (sociologist), and Mr. Man Bahadur Sahu (anthropologist). Their work was divided into 4 main areas of folklore and folklife study, whereby Prof. Bandhu, Mr. Neupane, Ms. Manandhar and Mr. Sahu had collected the data in the areas of Folk Language and Folk Communication, Folk Literature and Performing Arts, Socio-Cultural Folklife and Folkways, and Material Folk Culture and Folk Heritage respectively.


The field researchers used several tools for data collection including the digital tape recorder, digital photo camera, questionnaires, diaries, notebooks, etc. During the field work, they met Gaines (Gandharvas), talked with them, interviewed them, took the photos, and videoed the scenes related to the concerned areas of study. The researchers tried to be very close to the Gandharva community by participating in Gandharvas’ daily life activities as far as possible. They tried their best to make the informants feel free in their presence. They participated together with the Gandharva people in singing, dancing, and even in their death ritual as Malami (the participant in the cremation procession). From such activities, they felt it easy to build up rapport with Gandharvas, which facilitated them a lot to collect the required information.


Mohan Bahadur Gandharva, 80, playing Arwajo, Arghaun The project team leader Prof. Tulasi Diwasa and Cameraman Mr. Siddartha K. Shakya had also visited the field area for monitoring and facilitating the works, and for video recording the relevant aspects of Gandharva folklore and folklife. Prof. Diwasa interviewed 10 key informants including a lady Sarangi player (the only woman playing this musical instrument found in the field area during research). On this occasion, he also inaugurated the Karkha (a form of traditional ballad found among Gandharvas) singing competition held on 24th September 2005. The field researchers had taken a lot of initiatives to make the event successful by encouraging the Gandharva people to organize that programme. It was the first event ever held in Nepal, which became a very important occasion for the researchers to collect several traditional Karkha ballad songs found among Gandharvas. The programme was organized in Pokhara by NGCDC in collaboration with Nepali Folklore Society. There were 21 individual and group participants in the competition altogether, who came not only from the different villages of Kaski but also from different places of Tanahun, Baglung, and Palpa districts. Mr. Lal Bahadur Gandharva and Govinda Gandharva were declared first prize winners in the competition, and Prof. Diwasa gave away prizes to the winners. On the occasion, 10 senior Gandharva singers were honoured for their contribution in the Karkha singing tradition. Group Photograph on the occasion of Karkha competition


Problems during the Field Work


Despite the researchers’ success in collecting the required information to a great extent, they have also faced some problems in the field work. In the beginning, some people of Gandharva community made a doubt in the researchers’ activities. Some of them thought that there would be no point in helping the researchers, since there was no benefit for them in return. Some informants had even asked for money before giving assurance for helping the research team. However, this problem was overcome after appointing the Research Assistants from the local people on recommendation of NGCDC. Although the local informants had expressed their commitment in helping the field work, the researchers could not get sufficient cooperation at Batulechaur due to the local people’s busy work schedule. Moreover, probably due to their tendency to follow modernized life style and practices, many traditional forms of Gandharva life and culture were already disappeared from that village. Therefore, the researchers were compelled to go to the places like Hemja, Arghaun, Badahare, Lamachaur, and Gagan Gauda in order to collect the necessary information. Hari Bahadur Gandharva, 44, making sarangi, Badahare


Post-Field Work


After completing the field work, the research team came back and submitted the detailed report to the project office. The project office has preserved all the information collected in the form of digital audio/ video recordings and photographs. Now, the work of documenting the collected information is going on. The researchers are working to finalize the analysis and interpretation of data, which will be published later. The researchers have also brought some representative items of Gandharva material culture and handed them over to the project office. These items include Chakati (small mat made of straw), Sarangi (a typical musical instrument like fiddle), Arwajo (a musical instrument having the strings played with fingers), Perungo (used for keeping chicken and small animals), Sibring (used to keep fish) Tanglo (a fishing rod), etc.


Collection and Achievements


The research team has audio recorded several oral texts from the field area with the total length of 29.36 hours. They have taken 469 photographs, and made video recording in altogether 12 cassettes (12 hours in length). Besides, the project office has also preserved the video recordings done by the project team leader Prof. Tulasi Diwasa and Siddhartha Shakya in 18 cassettes (18 hours in length). Now, to be more specific, the project office has got the information related to the folklore and folklife of Gandharvas as described below. (The details are available in the project office.)


I. Folk Language and Folk Communication: Prof. Dr. C.M. Bandhu


Prof. Bandhu has taken altogether 44 photographs. He has audio recorded oral texts from different informants, with the total length of 6.16 hours. Besides this recording, he has spent about 330 hours with the informants in the field. Prof. Bandhu conducted interviews with different informants, which cover a wide range of subject matter. It includes communication, oral history, riddles, poetry, folk tales, language, belief and practices, singing in the villages, curses and oaths, code language, local dialect, etc. From his collection, altogether 20 onomastics words, 3 prayers, 75 folk riddles, 75 proverbs and proverbial expressions, 200 special vocabulary items, 72 curses and taunts, 30 oaths, etc. have been collected.


II. Folk Literature and Performing Arts: Mr. Kusumakar Neupane


Mr. Neupane has taken altogether 140 photographs. He has also audio recorded different kinds of oral texts from the informants, with the total length of 18.46 hours. He has spent more than 345 hours with the informants in the field. The subject matter covered in his collection includes folksongs/ballads, religious songs, festival and ritual songs, personal memories, narratives, folk tales, etc. From his collection, altogether 3 interviews, 5 folk narratives, 5 myths, 3 folk tales, 5 personal memories, 4 personal biographies, 16 folk ballads, 47 folk songs, 14 religious songs, 14 seasonal/festival songs, 5 ritual songs, and 1 folk game have been collected. Besides, Mr. Neupane has also produced video recording of 9 hours in total.


III. Socio-Cultural Folklife and Folkways: Ms. Meena Manandhar


Ms. Manandhar has taken altogether 95 photographs; and she has audio recorded the oral text from different informants with the total length of 1.57 hours. Besides, she has spent more than 275 hours with the informants in the field. The coverage of subject matter in her collection includes several things related to the Gandharvas’ social customs and manners. She has also collected numerical data from 48 households of different places. She has made altogether 8 participatory tours and observations, conducted 44 open and close interviews, and 2 group discussions. She has mainly collected the data related to food habits, women’s participation in fishing, daily wages labour, schooling, women’s speech, income source, rituals like marriage and death, gender issues, decision making procedures, family structure, religious beliefs, etc.


IV. Material Folk Culture and Folk Heritage: Mr. Man Bahadur Sahu


Mr. Sahu has taken altogether 190 photographs. He has audio recorded different kinds of oral texts from the informants, with the total length of 2.37 hours. He spent more than 420 hours with the informants in the field, making several participatory observations and interviewing the key informants. He collected the information in a wide range of subject matter including folk rituals, folk food, folk art and crafts, folk god and goddesses, folk medicines, folk feasts and festivals, folk furniture, folk weapons, folk architecture, kinship system, agricultural practices and livestock management, life history, historical information of the study area, employment opportunities, etc. From his collection, altogether 23 names of folk foods, 44 folk medicines, more than 17 folk gods/goddesses, more than 12 folk weapons, about 13 folk furniture items, and about 15 types of traditional technology and wisdom have been recorded. He has also made a video record of 2 hours.


Concluding Remarks


To conclude, despite some problems mentioned earlier, the project has been a very significant step towards documenting the information related to several aspects of Gandharvas, one of the scheduled castes in Nepalese society. After the achievements of the research works conducted in this folk group, Nepali Folklore Society is highly inspired towards more intensive ethnographic and folkloristic research, and working in similar sorts of studies among other ethnic communities under the Folklore and Folklife Study Project. The achievements of the further works conducted under the project will be disseminated in the days to come.