Jeffrey G. Snodgrass

in Casting Kings

Published in print August 2006 | ISBN: 9780195304343
Published online September 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199785063 | DOI:

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In this chapter, Bhat caste history and identity are presented, with particular attention paid to these bards’ claims to be “traditional” puppeteers. It is shown that such a claim, like many others made by members of this caste of professional story-tellers, is a tactical lie used to reap profits in the Rajasthani tourist industry. The chapter takes readers on the same bewildering journey experienced by the author during his initial months of anthropological fieldwork in India, a period during which he was repeatedly and creatively lied to by his informants. In turning the chapter’s attention to these deceptions, as well as to Bhat tales that comment on the power of such deception, the book provides a colorful introduction to these bards’ caste identity, and especially to the manner that such an identity revolves around the ability to cunningly manipulate both stories and people. This introductory chapter, which is written in a manner reminiscent of a mystery novel and which delves deeply into Bhat oral histories and folklore, also provides an entertaining self-reflexive account of anthropological research and writing about other cultures.

Keywords: Rajasthan; bards; Bhats; tradition; tourism; puppetry; folklore; story; anthropology; fieldwork

Chapter.  15947 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Hinduism

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