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Forward Thinking, October 2013

Modern anthropology acknowledges that under and behind the so-called Sanskritic ‘great traditions’ are the ‘little traditions’ – the belittled Bahujan traditions which are the indigenous cultures of India

In my October 2010 editorial I had concluded, “Sometimes ‘forward thinking’ involves looking into the rear-view mirror of history and wisdom.” In keeping with FORWARD Press’ mandate to revisit our true history while being faithful in writing the first drafts of history (as in the FP Sept. 2013 Cover Story), this issue focuses on Bahujan traditions. Modern anthropology acknowledges that under and behind the so-called Sanskritic ‘great traditions’ are the ‘little traditions’ – the belittled Bahujan traditions which are the indigenous cultures of India.

Our Cover Story by the renowned anthropologist Prof. Badri Narayan scans the historic horizons for Dalitbahujan heroes who today are helping in the development of new emancipatory cultural forms that subvert the brahmanical ‘great traditions’ and, in fact, challenge even the modern brahmanical ‘history of India’. What follows is a whole special section on Bahujan traditions from various parts of the country: Lorik, the hero several parts of North India like to claim as their own regional protector of the common folk; the traditions of a heroic Ravan in Punjab; the folk culture that has grown around the historically beloved Maithili Raja Sahles in the Terai areas of Nepal and in north-eastern Bihar; the Bhaldeo-Baliraja celebrations in Khandhesh, Maharashtra.

Ever since FP’s October 2011 Cover Story on Durga and Mahishasur, a discourse, debate and a movement to commemorate a Mahishasur Martyrdom Day has begun and continues to spread. Arun Kumar gives us an update on the latest developments. Much more research needs to be done on the various ‘little traditions’ around Mahishasur across the country before the lost cultural ground can be reclaimed and tables turned against the mythological brahmanical tide that has all but drowned the indigenous truth-based traditions. Only brahmanical sophistry can turn the historical truth into ‘legends’ and ‘myths’ while claiming the most fantastic and even immoral myths as ‘pure truth’.

The ultimate case in point is the so-called Vaman-Baliraja great tradition. The ‘little traditions’ across India agree that Baliraja or Mahabali was a great and good king of the majority indigenous population; that he was tricked into losing his vast kingdom to the dwarf Vaman or Baman; and that the return of the righteous king is awaited for the liberation of his oppressed subjects. Anthropological and ethnographic researches need to be carried out across the country to piece together the common thread and to eventually overturn the dominant metanarrative which has literally demonized Baliraja and his subjects.

Elsewhere in this issue, our Roving Correspondent Sanjiv Chandan ably assisted by the research of Rajiv Suman, has contributed a survey of the historical ideological crosscurrents that intersect every October in Nagpur, at the very geographical heart of India: starting with Gandhi jayanti in nearby Sevagram Ashram, followed by the mass commemoration of Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism on Vijayadashmi, the very day observed by the RSS as Shakti Puja Day when they perform symbolic worship of weapons.

One last area for research and discourse is contrasting the two mahatmas – Phule and Gandhi. FP launched the debate with Braj Ranjan Mani’s sharp critique in October 2010. Who will take that debate forward?

Published in the October 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, culture, literature and politics. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +917827427311, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in)

The titles from Forward Press Books are also available on Kindle and these e-books cost less than their print versions. Browse and buy:

The Case for Bahujan Literature

Mahishasur: A people’s hero

Dalit Panthers: An Authoritative History

Mahishasur: Mithak wa Paramparayen

The Common Man Speaks Out

Jati ke Prashn Par Kabir

Forward Thinking: Editorials, Essays, Etc (2009-16)

About The Author

Ivan Kostka

Ivan Kostka is founding editor, Forward Press

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