Audio | Manasamangal song cycle of the snake goddess, Manasa: A tribal goddess appropriated into the Hindu pantheon: The Travelling Archive – West Bengal & Bangladesh

To listen to the recordings, search for “Manasamangal” and click the play button beneath “Listen to a song from this session” on the Travelling Archive website >>

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The four recordings in this session come from an ongoing project on Manasamangal or the Song Cycle of the Snake Goddess, Manasa, which we have been recording, bit by bit, in different places in Bengal for some years. The idea is that over a period of time we will have different versions of the story of Manasa sung in different forms and styles across a whole range of places within Bengal and beyond, showing it as a living and evolving tradition.

The Manasamangal, also known as the Padma Puran, is a Mangalkavya sung for Manasa (the Mangalkavyas are devotional paeans to some local deity, composed in Bengal between the 13th and 18th centuries). This ritualistic song cycle is performed as a timeless but also living tradition in Bangladesh and eastern and north-eastern India; even in southern India. It is performed usually in the monsoon month of Sraban, i.e. from mid-July to mid-August, when it is the time of the snakes in a land of flooding rivers and swamps. […]

The Manasa Mangal is a song cycle with important historical, anthropological, ecological and political implications of contemporary relevance. It upholds the image of a cosmos where the human and divine and animals and plants are bound in a relationship of harmony. The stories around the origins of Manasa and her place in the Hindu pantheon—tribal or Hindu, of partial or full godhead—lead to further questions about our social and racial relationships. Who is Manasa? What does she symbolise? More than a hundred years ago Ananda Coomaraswamy and Sister Nivedita had written: “[The] legend of [Chand Sadagar and] Manasā Devī . . ., reflects the conflict between the religion of Shiva and that of female local deities in Bengal. Afterwards Manasā or Padmā was recognized as a form of Shakti . . . and her worship accepted by Shaivas. She is a phase of the mother-divinity who for so many worshippers is nearer and dearer than the far-off and impersonal Shiva. . .” The related question concerns Behula; who or what is she? Is she creating, or following her destiny? Is she a free will, an indomitable spirit expressing her own desire for life and love or herself an object of desire, dancing to please the gods? […]

Manasa is said to have been an Adivasi (tribal) goddess who later got appropriated into the Hindu pantheon; in the past she was only worshipped by the lower castes. Hence her puja is also very humble, materially she does not ask for much. It is mostly the women who come to seek her blessing on behalf of the whole family. Among them are also many Muslim women, some even in burqa, who have come with their offerings. They will not be allowed to enter the temple, so someone else will place their offering before the icon of Manasa—again untouchability and desecration—but it seems as though people naturally accept this system of simultaneous exclusion and co-habitation. So long as them and their families are blessed, so long as ‘mangal’ reigns. […]

Source: Welcome to The Travelling Archive
Date Visited: Thu May 05 2016 10:33:10 GMT+0200 (CEST)

The Travelling Archive shares with readers and listeners selections from a growing collection of folk music of Bengal, recorded in the field by Moushumi Bhowmik and Sukanta Majumdar from 2003. […]

The Travelling Archive is not merely the story of a personal journey through a world of music, but it is also about other journeys that musicians and scholars have been making, mainly in Bengal, as well as in other places within the Indian Subcontinent, for at least a hundred years. In so doing, The Travelling Archive tries to take its own collection beyond regional boundaries, while placing this research in the larger context of similar research on folk music. […]

Source: Welcome to The Travelling Archive
Date Visited: 16 December 2020

This journey was begun in 2003 by Kolkata-based singer and writer Moushumi Bhowmik, soon to be joined by sound recordist and sound designer Sukanta Majumdar. As the two travelled together, a map of endless possibilities began to unfurl before them. Over the years the road has taken many turns. From recording and documentation, the project has evolved to explore new ways of research and dissemination, through archiving and working with archival material; writing and publication; presentation-performance and lectures; collaboration with museums and art galleries; even launching a record label with selections of field recordings.

Source: Welcome to The Travelling Archive
Date Visited: Thu May 05 2016 10:47:43 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Tapan Chitrakar presents the traditional Manasamangal Pat

Source: PataChitra: Manasamangal – YouTube
Date Visited: Thu May 05 2016 10:53:50 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Although Chitrakars origin is difficult to be precisely determined, historical and mythological memories coincide that their existence is traceable to the 13th century. Different accounts explain their standing in the Indian caste system. The Patua are a unique community, in that their traditional occupation is the painting and modelling of Hindu idols, yet many of them are Muslims. Their name Patua is a corruption of the Bengali word Pota, which means an engraver. They are also widely known as Chitrakar, which literally means a scroll painter. […]

They are mentioned both in Hindu, Buddhist or Islamic classic or historical literature, as they moved back and forth from Hinduism and Buddhism to Islam. The Patuas paid little attention to faith, while looking for patronage. Chitrakars themselves might have converted to Islam as a strategy to avoid the oppression by a hierarchy of subcastes created during the Sen Dynasty. This was an extremely slow process with the Patuas, as seen by the fact that every Patua has two names, one Hindu and one Muslim.

Patuas, like the Kumars, started out in the village tradition as painters of scrolls or pats telling the popular mangal stories of the gods and goddesses. For generations, these scroll painters or patuas have gone from village to village with their scrolls or pat singing stories in return for money or food. Many come from the Midnapore of West Bengal or else from the 24 Parganas and Bhirbhum. The pats or scrolls are made of sheets of paper of equal or different sizes which are sown together and painted with ordinary poster paints. Originally they would have been painted on cloth and used to tell religious stories such as the medieval mangal poems. Today they may be used to comment on social and political issues such as the evils of cinema or the promotion of literacy. […]

Source: Patua – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Date Visited: Tue Jul 05 2016 11:08:32 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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