On the Evolution of Genealogical Narratives in the Western Himalayas

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How do genealogical accounts in sparsely literate regions come into being, and what forms do they take? What are the factors that help sustain their appeal over centuries of oral transmission? Finally, what happens to their content when the story is committed to writing? This article addresses these questions by examining the evolutionary stages of a martial-historic oral epic from the western Himalayas. In looking into the details of the events that brought a local lineage to dominance, it delineates the multiple strands of bardic composition—acculturative, sociological and mythic—that address social, political and religious issues of relevance to its audience so as to produce an account of the past that is both credible and efficient as a tool for legitimating political dominance. Although largely faithful to the oral tradition, the story’s transition to script is shown to produce changes that affect its historicity and its capacity to deliver a persuasive explanation of the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-470
Number of pages28
JournalReligions of South Asia
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 23 May 2012


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