A Cultural Significance of Kesar Saga in Ladakhi Community: A Case Study of Saboo village in Leh.

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Rinchen Angmo


Oral transmission has been the hallmark of literary tradition in Ladakh. Kesar Saga is one of the most popular epics orally transmitted through generations in the region. This literary epic has been the source of inspiration and entertainment for ages for the people of Ladakh as a popular bedtime story, folktale and a cultural narrative it encompasses knowledge structures of Ladakhi traditions. However, like any other literary work, it has been interpreted differently in different sub regions of Ladakh. The style of narration of the Kesar epic develops in both prose and poetry and it could lasts for months. It is popularly believed by the common masses in Ladakh that Kesar saga has around eighteen episodes. Through its multi-generational characters, this epic encompasses vast experiences of life, love and hatred, faith and betrayal, trial and triumph, bravery and sacrifice weaved amusingly to capture the imagination of the listeners. Taking the above context in consideration, the paper discusses the epic Kesar from a community point of view as to how common masses in Saboo village see to it. This paper takes a case study of Saboo village in Leh and engages with oral testimonies of common masses. These oral testimonies are examined as primary text in the paper which was collected as part of my preliminary field work. The epic being a great source of knowledge and entertainment, the proposed paper brings to light how the Kesar epic has influenced the cultural identity of the community in the Saboo village in Ladakh. The paper refers to the concepts of Microhistory and Memory in the works of Ingrid Winther Scobie and Alistair Thomson and illustrates the value of tracing relationship between folk literature and cultural identity of a community from the ordinary perspective.

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