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Of Vanishing Traditions

Jaskiran Chopra

Edited by Malashri Lal and Sukrita Paul Kumar
Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, 2012, pp. 360, Rs. 325.00


Chamba Achamba seeks to record and narrate in detail the unique and rich cultural traditions associated with the beautiful area of Himachal Pradesh which has always been synonymous with natural splendour, music, festivals and legends that fascinate.   Almost every one of us has heard stories about the charm of Chamba, the various tales that surround its origin and the artistic traditions that have been handed down by one generation to the next.   All these have inspired this Sahitya Akademi publication made possible by the labour of love undertaken by Malashri Lal and Sukrita Paul Kumar. Ranging over the subject of folklore theory and narrating the women’s perspective on Chamba and Bhar-mour, this unique collection brings together essays, narratives and an anthology of songs, poems and folktales ‘Dedicated to the Sisters of Chamba & Bharmour.’   The mention of ‘Chamba’ opens up a vista in the imagination, taking one to pristine mountain landscapes, miniature paintings, ‘rumal’ embroidery, and rich folklore. The town, the district and the valley where the town is located, share the name of Chamba. The town of Chamba is located at the junction of the Ravi River and its tributary, the Sal River, with the Shah Madar hill forming the backdrop on its eastern side. The Ravi flows in East-West direction forming deep canyons. Besides exploring this romanti-cized surface, this book seeks to discover the reality underneath it by interacting with the people of Chamba town and the rural area of Bharmour, especially the older women.   Lal and Paul Kumar construct a cultural map of amazing Chamba which is based on traditional tales, poems, legends, songs, mythology and domestic and community practices. We find almost everywhere in the book, echoes of the Sui Mata legend. History and legend meet in this story of Raja Sahil Varman’s wife, Sunaina Devi, who sacrificed herself so that the new city established on the banks of the river could have a flow of fresh water from the Sarota/Ravi stream. There are various adaptations of a basic tale which sees woman as the initiator of culture. Sunaina was deified as ‘Sui Mata’ and her legacy to women in Chamba is the annual fair held from the 15th of Chaitra to the 1st of Baisakh, to which are admitted only women and children.The authors/editors find that Sui has left a sweet-sad memory of the joy of giving along with a sadness ...

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