(B2-2) The Voice as a medium of popular religiosity in India: Religious Pluralism and Practices of Social Distinction

Detailed information on the German site

The Project is part of interconnecting platform F Transcultural Entanglements.

Subproject: Mobile Performances of Hindu Texts: The Voice of Morari Bapu in Multiple Media (Mrinal Pande)

This ethnographic project addresses the recent transformations of popular Hinduism by focusing upon the religious cum artistic practice of Ramkatha, i.e. staged narratives of the epic Ramayana. One of the most successful contemporary Indian Ramkatha performers is Morari Bapu, a former school-teacher turned narrator. His career unfolded alongside the Hindu nationalist movement in Gujarat, since the late 1980s, and today his Ramkatha performances reach widely dispersed audiences - live or on television across India and the globally dispersed Hindu-Gujarati diaspora.

The study examines the aesthetics and dynamics of the Ramkatha ethnoscape through participant-observation in everyday practices and how they are performed through a fluid enactment of relationships between multiple human and non-human actors. The focus is on the charisma of Morari Bapu, and how he transcribes politics in Gujarat. Negotiated through a telling of Hindu religious stories, the voice of Morari Bapu is a major medium of performance transposed into multiple channels such as theatre, stage, music, and spectacle. This work concerns about his voice and how it is understood as a vehicle of meaning and has been imagined, created, and reproduced across mobile contexts. Besides being socially constructed, the Ramkatha heavily relies on technologies for its production and continuation.  Thus, cultural worlds are embedded in a range of different technologies and the implications of this interplay are affecting and changing the communicative possibilities and patterns of interactions. The project explores how these transnationally disseminated practices re-contextualize and perform with media-induced changes.