Becoming a Musahar and Making Space: Storytelling as an Art of Telling History in Eastern Tarai
Abstract: Oral narrative or storytelling is an ancient cultural practice of making connections between past and present. This narratological (Homo Narrans) episteme of storytelling (somewhere poetic recitation or art painting) is elementary method of cultural connections, historical reproduction and understanding of transformation as well as diversity among the people of throughout generations. Maharae Gaune (Public event of mythical storytelling about Dina-Bhadri) is a collective initiation ritual of the Musahars because they mentally travel from mythical spatial temporal landscape to the present with the expert storyteller. They remembered and refreshed divine power of their ancestors that was really crisis in this moment. Storytelling is political both in its messages and in its practices. Beside therapeutic function of psychological unity and empowerment of story, if they listened the whole story of Dina Bhadri, they would become the Musahar in perfect sense of history and culture.
The quest of understanding oral narratives and interpretation of stories, folklore through anthropological lens is marginalized in Nepalese academia. The double propose of this paper is to explore marginal voice of history through storytelling practice among marginalized communities like the Musahars and to explore anthropology of telling culture as narrative tool, particularly teaching learning practices of Nepalese scholarship in anthropology, as an self-reflexive art of history making in different communities. This paper is both theoretical and empirical. The first part deals with anthropology of storytelling and the second part is about understanding the Musahrs community through storytelling practice.
These dramatic performances of storytelling events have been creating social-cultural space of the Musahars for centuries. Apparently non-political act of telling myth and stories to the youth is micro political act of production of space among them. The science of storytelling literally connects geometrical meaning of physicality as well as metaphysical space of human creation. This movement from transcendental space to spatial space was possible through storytelling. The paper clearly talks about blurred boundary of history, myth and story. Moreover, organic reproduction of blurred space through organized storytelling events is interesting historical consciousness as well as construction of Musahar self in Tarai. The stories of being and becoming Musahars are articulated differently.
The research is based on historical ethnographic engagement of the researcher with the Musahar community since 2008 to present. The paper is primarily based on a chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation that I have been writing at Cornell University as a visiting researcher. Most of the oral narratives were collected different phases of fieldwork from 2010 to 2013 at Siraha.