Sri Devnarayan Katha is an oral narrative extolling the life and deeds of Sri Devnarayan a widely venerated deity of Rajasthan. Bhopas or itinerant, costumed singers recite and perform the narrative during all night vigils against the illuminated backdrop of a pad, a long, intricately painted cloth scroll. The Katha provides a fascinating insight into the elaborate and richly complex social history and sacred significance of Sri Devnarayan and his devotees. The transcription presented here is based on recordings made in Eastern Rajasthan in 1991. It uniquely maintains the structure of the original Marwari oral rendering as a dialogue between one of the foremost singers Sri Hukmaram Bhopa and his partner Sri Motaram Gujar.
While providing insightful descriptions on how performances are conducted and who the performers are, the introductory chapter of this book (provided in English as well as in Hindi) raises a wide range of innovative issues pertinent to our contemporary understanding of verbal arts and oral traditions:
How is the oral recitation structured? What is the relationship between verbal and visual narrative? To what extent is meaning conversationally or dialogically produced within and through the narrative? These and other questions provide a fresh, new perspective on our understanding of the nature of oral traditions and their place within Indian culture.