Accepted Papers:

Replication and innovation in the folk narratives of Telangana: scroll paintings of the Markandeya Purana 1625-2000  


Anais Da Fonseca (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) University of London)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper presents scroll paintings of the Markandeya Purana from Telangana India, ranging from 1625 to 2000. In observing the modification of the visual narrative through its replication, I argue that changes reflect the social and cultural context of the communities involved with these paintings.

Paper long abstract:

In the Southern Indian state of Telangana, itinerant storytellers narrate genealogies of the local castes using a scroll painting on cloth as a visual aid to their performance. These scrolls are the only archive of these otherwise oral narratives; hence key markers of their evolution. Once a scroll commission has been decided, performers bring an old scroll to the painters and request for a 'copy'. Often considered identical, a closer look at several scrolls of the same narrative highlights a certain degree of alteration. This paper focuses on the Markandeya Purana, used to narrate the origin of the weavers' caste of Telangana. On the basis of five painted scrolls of the same story, ranging from 1625 to 2000, I will observe the nature and degree of modification undergone by the visual narrative. In so doing, I wish to question the extant of the concept of replication. While performers decide for changes in the overall organisation and iconography of the narrative, painters are responsible for the materiality, technique and style of the scroll. I will illustrate each of these aspects and argue that changes reflect the social and cultural environment of the communities involved in the production, presentation and reception of these scrolls, i. e. painters, performers and patrons. I will consider variation but also fixity to be speaking for the necessities of the communities. Finally, I will explain that through reproductions over the course of time, aspects of the visual narrative have become conventions while others are repeatedly revised.

panel P33
New approaches to manuscript variations in South Asia