Folklore is perhaps as old as mankind. This term was suggested by William Thoms, a British antiquarian in 1846. Thoms has realized that scholarly work on materials of folkloristic nature was being carried on under various labels such as "Popular Antiquities" or "Popular Literature" and therefore needed a single label to designate this area of inquiry. He therefore suggested "a good Saxon compound Folk-Lore - the Lore of the people" to replace all other somewhat cumbersome terms, in a letter to the Athenaeum1. This he suggested in a letter written on August 11, 1846 to the editor of Athenaeum. The letter was published on August 22 same year in number 982 of the journal. .

Thoms' coining of the term folklore, as he himself accepted in the same letter, does not mean, as some people believe, that work on materials of folkloric nature began with the coining of this term. The truth is that materials of folklore had been studied with scholarly interest long before Thoms coined the term. Besides the works of the Grimm Brothers, particularly of J. Grimm, whose "household tales"2. See, Deutsche Kinder and Hausmärchen [Tales for the Children and the Family] (Berlin, 1912). appeared in 1812, and was recognized by Thoms himself3.	For a nice appreciation of Thoms' letter, it is better to read the letter in original as it has been reproduced in Alan Dundes' The Study of Folklore, p.4-6, instead of depending on second hand information. , and which is very often used as evidence by Western scholars to trace the growth of folkloristic studies4. See, also Alan Dundes' comment on Thoms' letter in The Study of Folklore, p.4., scholarly collections of folklore materials were done in Asia, particularly India. One should have no doubt about Kathasaritsagara, Pañcatantra or Jataka of being much older works than Grimms'5. It is true that the folklore studies in the modern times began in Europe particularly with the works of the Grimm Brothers. At the same time it is also true that India enjoyed the prestigious position of having a great tradition of studying folklore. Such works as Kathasaritsagar, Pan?chatantra and Jataka testify to this fact. It is hard to believe that this great tradition of collecting and studying folklore could have come to an abrupt end, although rapid historical changes which occurred on the subcontinent might have interrupted the tradition. However, due to the lack of research into this area of folkloristics, it is too early to comment on this issue. See, Jawaharlal Handoo, "Towards a Theory of National Folklore Planning", Journal of Indian Folkloristics, Vol. 3 : 5/6 (1980), pp. 24-35.

Thoms himself, as I said, appreciated the work of Grimm and wished if someone like him could do similar scholarly work in British Islands. Consider his following remarks :

"… until some James Grimm shall arise who shall do for the Mythology of the British Islands the good service which that profound antiquary and philologist has accomplished for the Mythology of Germany. The present Century has scarcely produced a more remarkable book, imperfect as its learned author confesses it to be, than the second edition of the "Deutsche Mythologie" and, what is it? -a mass of minute facts, many of which, when separately considered, appear trifling and insignificant, ---but, when taken in connection with the system into which his master-mind has woven them, assume a value that he who first recorded them never dreamed of attributing to them [Athenaeum, No. 982 (August 22, 1946), pp. 862-63].

This then should dispel the wrong thoughts some scholars of folklore might be having about the beginnings of folkloristic studies. That folklore studies had begun much earlier than the coining of the term "folklore" by Thoms, needs hardly to be emphasized.


At the time Thoms coined this term, it seems he had a very clear idea in his mind as to what he meant by folklore. This, however, does not mean that Thoms presented a definition of folklore in the manner we would have expected him to attempt one, keeping in view our present standards and controversies. But Thoms certainly had some kind of an itemized view of folklore in mind. His words and phrases such as "manners", "customs", "neglected customs", "fading legends", "fragmentary ballads", etc., do present a rough outline as to what folklore meant to him and also present a picture of his increasing awareness of folklore, which was "closely associated with nineteenth century intellectual currents of romanticism and nationalism" (Dundes, 1965:4).

William Thoms' contribution in coining and introducing the term "folklore", as we realize it now, had two important consequences for the global folklore scholarship. In the first place it lead to the establishment of an academic discipline known as folklore (or folkloristics) in many parts of the world. Secondly, it also generated a long and unending controversy, perhaps unknown in the history of any other discipline of equal strength, about the definition and, more often than not, about what should and should not be included in the gamut of this new field of inquiry.

Historically speaking, many new fields of inquiries, sometimes investigating similar data ushered into the era of cultural studies, almost under similar circumstances, since Thoms coined the term folklore. With the result a variety of overlappings occurred in the sense that many disciplines began studying the same cultural phenomenon, and at times on identical lines. This arose controversies regarding the boundaries of each area. The inevitable result was that each discipline armed with imperialistic concept of annexing as much as possible, began trying to bring the other discipline under its own umbrella. For example, since folk literature (text bases ballads, epics, myths, etc.) were being studied, both by literary scholars, representing the discipline of literature, and folklorists, sometimes on similar lines and sometimes differently folklore studies denying it the status of a separate discipline with its own distinct characteristics. (And in fact folklore studies began much later than the establishment of strong departments of literature everywhere. This trend continued and still continues even in many developed countries of the world) 6. See, Alan Dundes (ed.), The Study of Folklore, p.v. . Similarly, when non-literary artifacts of cultures were studied by folklorists, anthropologists behaved exactly in the manner scholars of literature had in the case of studies carried on text-oriented folk literature. The real problem was, and still continues, that the data a folklorist normally studies falls within the province of two or more disciplines and this generates controversy regarding the boundaries of the disciplines in question. Moreover, each discipline at times was studying the same thing differently depending on the indigenous methods of the discipline concerned. Unlike pure sciences, such as Physics and Chemistry where the concept of a molecule or atom may be studied by both and may in fact generate a similar theoretical attitude in both the sciences and both may as well study the same substance or a phenomenon in an identical manner and yet not cause any controversy, social scientists seem to be behaving entirely differently. They do sometimes seem to recognize the fact on a purely theoretical level, that a given phenomenon needs to be studied by an united effort irrespective of the hard-to-define lines drawn between various disciplines, but when it comes to practical handling of the data among various cultures they seem to ignore this theoretical postulate. Folklore, unfortunately, has been a very bad victim of these double standards.

Very few scholars seem to have realized that the links which connect folklore on the one hand with humanities and on the other with social sciences, are so strong that ignoring them might put, not only folklore studies, but even those subjects that represent humanities and social sciences, into jeopardy. While it seems necessary to draw a line, however thinner it might look, between the areas a folklorist studies and the areas that come under the gamut of related disciplines, at least for marking the boundaries of the discipline, the fact remains that folklore still concerns many disciplines and will certainly be studied across disciplines and sometimes with entirely different perspectives. For example, an anthropologist studying a given phenomenon of a culture say kinship system, almost always uses folklore data as supportive evidence to sustain his conclusions about kinship system. Similarly a literary scholar tends to relate a literary piece or its certain aspects such as theme etc., he studies to an item or items of folklore. A historian, particularly in the present times when academic faith in written histories has begun to shake7. See, Don Yoder, "Folklife Studies in American Scholarship" in Don Yoder (ed.), American Folklife (Austin, 1976), pp. 3-18. , uses folkloric evidence for reconstructing the real history of the masses. Known as "oral history", this kind of history-writing is practiced in communities or cultures who lack all forms of written documentation of their past. Obviously the objective here too is to write the history and not study the folklore item for its own sake. A linguist or a psychologist in the same manner uses folklore data for their own purposes. Their main concern has primarily been, and rightly so, to study a given phenomenon in their own purposes. Their main concern has primarily been, and rightly so, to study a given phenomenon in their own fields of inquiries and use folklore data as supportive evidence whenever possible. A folklorist, on the contrary, studies a given item of folklore for its own sake and in doing so he relates the item to the culture as a whole. Thus in a way both types of scholars engage themselves more or less in a similar exercise. However, a real folklorist nevertheless uses his own techniques and methods to study an item of folklore. For example a folklorist, if he is a narrative specialist, studies the structure, language, motifs and style of a narrative; its problems of diffusion, dissemination, aspects of narration and the narrator, besides the factors other scholars sometimes study. It is precisely at this point that a folklorist's work becomes different than the work of a literary scholar, or a historian. That folklore items need the attention of such scholars as well, besides the folklorist himself, needs hardly to be emphasized. In a country like India this kind of collective attention gains more prominence in view of the fact that Indian heritage, Indian history and the complex Indian cultural system. This complexity is such that no folklorist can describe it correctly or interpret it accurately without the help of scholars representing other related disciplines.

Before commenting upon the concepts of material culture and folklife - a new dimension added to traditional folklore scholarship - it is important for a student of folklore to have a rough idea of what falls under folklore and what remains outside it.

Although it is difficult to suggest a ready-made framework in which folklore items of various cultures or nations can be fixed, yet there does exist an internationally accepted format which, with a little modification, can be followed in respect of each culture or nation. This concept has been the guiding principle for collection, indexing, archieving and above all analyses of global folklore data. However, if a culture shows that the format does not suit its requirements, which theoretically speaking, seems very rare, then a new format needs to be devised. The point is that there is no known human society which does not posses folklore. All available evidence leads us to believe that all human societies have folktales, myths, folksongs, proverbs, riddles, ballads, folk dances, etc. Despite this universal trait, there however are some genres which seem to be culture-specific. For example, it has been noticed that some cultures are particularly rich in certain genres. It is well known that the fairy tale (märchen) is primarily a narrative genre of Indo-European peoples which ahs diffused into other cultures and in the process also undergone some changes. The types of transformed märchen one finds among American Indians, Central and South African cultures are the fine examples of this kind of diffusion. Similarly, based on my own observations, the Dravidian cultures of southern India seem very rich in the genres of folk dance and drama than the Indo-Aryans of northern parts of the country; who seem to have thrieved in narrative forms. Moreover, it is to have thrieved in narrative forms. Moreover, it is also true that diffusion and diverse dissemination of folklore materials result in the mixing up of certain genres or in other words two or more genres may lose the distinction by which they could be separately recognized. This loss may be functional, structural or even both. For instance, in Tamil and Kannada it seems proverbs and riddles are in free variation in certain situations.

However, despite these problems of genre and analytical categories, folklore has been defined differently by different scholars8. See, the twentyone definitions of folklore published in the Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend edited by Maria Leach (New York, 1949-50). See also, Utley's evaluation of these definitions "Folklore : An Operational Definition" in Alan Dundes (ed.) The Study of Folklore, pp. 7-24. . These definitions not only define the folkloric phenomenon, but also try to list the genres which make this phenomenon. Naturally, as I said earlier, the controversies emerged, and these as expected centred around the same old problem trying to draw a line between cultural anthropology and folklore studies. Within these definitions, and outside them in the wider academic circles - both of anthropology and of folklore - there was at least one thing on which by and large all seemed to agree and that was folk literature or to use Bascom's term "verbal art"9. William R. Bascom, "Folklore and Anthropology", Journal of American Folklore, 66 (1953), pp. 283-90; "Verbal Art", Journal of American Folklore, 68 (1955), pp. 245-52. . Scholars generally seemed to be in agreement that verbal art or folk literature is folklore and is a separate area of inquiry, different from cultural anthropology. But when it came to stretching the word folklore to include, besides verbal arts or oral literature, material culture, social folk customs, performing folk arts, etc., generally designated by the term folklife, the controversies became more evident. Scholars began suspecting that both the student of folklife and cultural anthropology might be finally studying the same subject matter with identical theoretical perspective and hardly different conclusions. Ward H. Goodenough puts to rest such speculations in his following remarks:

"The separation of cultural anthropology and folklife study … is not a reflection of an intrinsic difference in their respective subject matter; rather it is a reflection on how Euro-American scholars have identified themselves with the peoples whose customs and cultures they study. Anthropology - because of its early concentration on peoples with hunting and horticultural economics, on the mistaken assumption that they were fossilized relics of a general past human state - has come to be associated popularly with the study of so-called primitive peoples. But the designation primitive peoples. But the designation primitive hardly fits the people who produced the civilizations of Central and South America, of West Africa and of the Orient. Consequently anthropology has come to be viewed more recently as the study of non-Western peoples. The disciplines of rural sociology and folklore in the United States and of folklife in Europe, on the other hand, dealt with Western peoples. There is nothing wrong with such a division of labour on practical grounds. What has been wrong is the false assumption by some that it represented a basic difference in the kinds of phenomena studied, an assumption following from an ethno-centric conceit of the sort expressed in the idea 'the white man's burden'" (1976 : 19-20).

He further states:

"We are reaching a point where we can say that folklife represents that aspect of cultural anthropology which concentrates on the study of one's own national cultural heritage. When an American studies Japanese community he is doing anthropology, whereas his Japanese colleague is studying folklife. When a Japanese anthropologist studies an American community, he is doing anthropology, but an American working in same community is studying folklife" (Ibid. : 20).

Many anthropologists and folklorists might not agree with Goodenough as far as this definition is concerned. However, it clearly demarcates the areas of folklife studies and cultural anthropology. Goodenough, as it seems, concentrates on local and non-local (or native and non-native) aspects of cultural studies and makes it the dividing line between cultural anthropology and folklife study. He, in fact, believes that the subject matter and the approaches of both are invariably the same. While there can be no doubt about the subject matter being the same for both; the claim that the approaches of studying them are also same seems highly doubtful. Wouldn't Goodenough agree that given the same subject matter to a folklife specialist and a cultural anthropologist for study, the results would not be the same. For example, the study of the "Folk Boats of Eastern French Louisiana"10. William B. Knipmeyer [Introduced and edited by Henry Glassie] in Don Yoder (ed.), American Folklife , (Austin, 1976), pp. 105-49. , "The Whitaker-Waggoner Log House from Morgan Country"11. Warren E. Roberts in American Folklife , pp. 185-207. , or "Tollgate Lore from Upstate New York: A Contribution to Folk-Cultural Studies"12. David J. Winslow in American Folklife , pp. 209-38. published in the same volume in which Goodenough makes the above distinction, are not, strictly speaking, the kind of studies the cultural anthropologists normally do. One of the basic differences is in the manner the data as his 'own'; looks at it from the viewpoint of his 'self' being a part of the phenomenon. Furthermore, he also hesitates to treat this phenomenon as 'past' instead looks at it as a part of the present and not far form 'civilization' but a living aspect of his civilization. These and other attitudes certainly change the dimensions of theoretical bias; and folklore specialists begin thinking of their area of inquiry as a living phenomenon with hopes both for the present and future. "Our only opportunity", writes Nils-Arvid Bringéus, "of obtaining an all round study of folklife is still and always will be the present way of life itself … In the future we must not simply be content with reminiscences instead testimonies. We must also study what is alive. We must learn to find easier ways of getting into homes, not just old people's homes, to densely populated areas instead of to the sparsely ones. The ethnologist is looking for the normal situation. Superficially it may mean that ethnology becomes less historical. But its objectives in the study of society must still be to demonstrate the part played by tradition as the motor of our culture. Consequently, a historical perspective is needed in an analysis of the present and in planning the future" (1968). Thus, it is clear that folklife studies do not focuss on the ramnants of primitive cultures "still alive today", instead such studies focuss on the individual in the midst of social conflict, the present and the future.

Richard M. Dorson, has outlined four broad sectors of folklore and folklife studies. These are:

1) Oral literature,
2) Material culture,
3) Social folk custom, and
4) Performing folk arts13. See, "Introduction : Concepts of Folklore and Folklife Studies" in Dorson (ed.), Folklore and Folklife : An Introduction, (Chicago, 1972), pp. 1-50.
Let us examine these four groups in respect of folklore and folklife data of India.
Oral literature called verbal art or expressive literature are "spoken, sung, and voiced forms of traditional utterances". Traditionally this has been known as folk literature as well. Oral narrative is one big sub-division of this group, which in turn has its own manifold distinctions. For example, myth, fairy tale or märchen, romantic tale or novella, religious tale, folktale, legend, animal tale, anecdote, joke, numskull tale, etc., are the major forms of oral narrative genre. Each of these forms will have many sub-forms depending on the culture in which the form or forms are available. For example, myths have many forms particularly in India. Etiological myths are very common in out country, and so are religious myths. Many of these ancient myths and the religious tales have been recorded in ancient works such as the Kathasaritsagara, etc. Similarly we have the world's best tradition of written animal tales as evidenced by famous Pan?catantra and Jataka. Legends too have many forms, but the historical legends of western India, particularly of Gujarat and Rajasthan are very famous. Mythical legends and religious tales of south India are also very well known.

Another major sub-division is oral poetry or folk poetry. This too has its own family of related forms. For example, folk epics, ballads, folksongs, lullabies, work songs and songs associated with ritual and rites (sam*skaras) such as birth, marriage and death are commonly found in almost all parts of India. And so is the rich oral poetry connected with festive occasions, feasts and ceremonies. Holi", Di"pavali", Pongal, Onam, Durgapuja and Baisakhi" are well known such festivals of India.

Proverbs and riddles are also an important part of oral literature. Unlike prose narrative forms and oral poetry, proverbs and riddles do not show much multiple existence, but are highly structured set forms of oral literature. While proverbs and proverbial expressions have, due to reasons of their important functions in societies, now formed an inseparable part of the written literatures throughout the world; riddles have stayed in the folklife and still function in folk societies as important devices for imparting knowledge about cultural semantics, logic and the behavioural paradigms among the younger members of such societies. Many collections of proverbs and riddles in various Indian languages have appeared now.

Folk speech "embraces the local and regional turns of phrase that deviate from the standard language" (Dorson, 1972 : 2) which is usually taught in schools in an informal manner. One of the main characteristics of folk speech is that it is more restricted to oral circulation. Within the total vocabulary of every speaker there is a large number of words that he never writes and seldom uses in formal situations. These words or expressions may be taboo words or expressions or they may be a kind of passive vocabulary. Moreover, these characteristics of folk speech are not only limited to vocabulary but these exist at the level of grammar, idiom and phonetics. For example, slang in this respect is folk speech. India abound in language diversity and therefore the potential of folk speech research is great on this land. Besides these major forms of oral literature, there are minor forms which also fall under the above rubric. These are, chants, prayers, laments, cries and even hollers.
In contrast to verbal art or oral folklore, is physical folklore generally called material culture. According to Dorson, "material culture responds to techniques, skills, recipes and formulas transmitted across the generations and subject to the same forces of conservative traditions and subject to the same forces of conservative tradition and individual variation as verbal art" (1972 :2). This aspect of folklore and folklife is visible rather than aural. The kind of questions that concern a student of material culture are varied. He might want to know how men and women in tradition-oriented societies construct their homes following the traditional norms of folk architecture. He might as well want to know how people in traditional societies "make their clothes, prepare their food, farm and fish, process and earth's bounty, fashion their tools, and implement and design their furniture and utencils" (Dorson, 1972 : 2-3). A student of material culture knows that this kind of folk behaviour existed prior to and continues alongside mechanized industry and therefore he might also compare the two traditions - the folk and the modern - and try to establish correlations. For example, a student of folk architecture may discern certain patterns in the overall folk architecture of a given folk culture area and then find their modified, improved versions in the modern present day architectural styles of the same region thereby proving the continuity of folk designs in the modern urban civilization. By a similar endeavour he might come up with similar results as regards food, tools, methods of agricultural production, etc. In India most of such work is done by cultural anthropologists although admittedly not from the same view-point a folklife expert would have done. For example, despite the massive anthropological effort in the sub-continent very little has been done in the area of folk costumes, folk architecture and folk food. A real folklife study in India will make some impact on the Indian folklore scholarship when we shall have books and specialized papers on the fishermen of coastal Kerala, carpet-making of Mirzapur, the Patas of Midnapur, the pottery and toy-making of Assam, the dyers and quilt makers of Rajasthan, the agricultural tools and bullock carts fashioned by Gadia Lohars, the boat-makers of Kashmir, the huts of high altitude living Gojars, the ox-rearers of Haryana, the silk weavers of Sambalpur and the basket making crafts of Meiteis and Tangkhul Nagas of Manipur. All these matters are the genius of Indian folk culture, threatened by the rapid growth of industrial society and still ignored and neglected. However, the potential of this area is very great in a country like India where most of the people still live in tradition-oriented societies and follow their folkways of life.

Folk arts and crafts, as is well known, are objects of material culture that simultaneously give pleasure and serve some practical social and economic end. "if a pleasure-giving function predominates the artefact is called art; if a practical function predominates it is called craft … the interior of a house is designed primarily as economic; its exterior is designed primarily to be seen, and its function may be classed as primarily as aesthetic" (Glassie, 1972 : 253).

One of the most interesting and fascinating aspects of material culture of India is its arts and crafts. These arts have followed definite continuity in the history of folk art of this country. Yet these art forms have not received the attention they deserve and are still in a state of neglect. Many of our well established museums and archives have not kept a corner for these traditional art forms. It is only recently that some attention has been given to preserve these forms of art. However, the style of life in Indian villages and the folkways of Indian masses in general have, and still are, helping these arts to survive the thrust of the changing times and the disdain Indian scholars have shown towards them.

Glassie's above interpretation does not touch upon the relationship of folk arts with social custom, religion or ritual. In the western context, which however seems the basis of Glassie's interpretation, it might not be so significant; but in India these arts and crafts besides having aesthetic and practical functions, have at times a ritualistic-religious function as well. In this sense then the study of Indian folk arts and crafts falls under both rubrics: Material Culture and Social Folk Custom. However, knowing that these categories are made more for reasons of academic arrangement for simplified teaching rather than to challenge or meddle with the highly complex problem of folklore genres, we though it proper to include a brief introduction to this aspect of folklife in the section on Material Culture, and thus follow the pedagogically oriented Dorsonian classification.

Folk arts in India have a vast range in terms of form, diversity and function. The decorative paintings on the rural homes, having both aesthetic and the ritualistic significance is a Pan-Indian phenomenon. Although the motifs of such paintings might vary from one region to another or from one folk culture zone to another, the structural unity seems by and large the same. For instance, the snake and sparrow motif is predominant in South and East coast; and animal, tree and flower motifs seems to dominate such art in northern plains. The ritualistic Rangoli", the Mehndi decoration on bride's hands, the Thapa of festive occasions are some of the best examples of this kind of folk art in India.

The impact of these artistic expressions on the Indian mind has been so great that one finds these basic folk designs, irrespective of their aesthetic or ritualistic objective, forming, the fundamental pattern of the higher artistic expressions such as architectural excellence of temples, etc. Some of this folk art has also begun to influence the modern socio-economic structure of our cottage industry. For example, the Sanganer prints, Kashmir rugs, Muradabad brassware, Karnataka sandal and rosewood inlay works, leather work of Tamilnadu and the bamboo work of central and north-eastern India are becoming prestigious export items of modern Indian cottage industry. These are, as is well known, the polished versions of the ancient folk art of this country. Studying these folk arts and the changes that have occurred to them is certainly one of the most interesting and challenging areas of Indian folklife studies.
Another important area of folklore and folklife, very close to material culture, is the field of social custom. "Here the emphasis is on group interaction rather than on individual skills and performances" (Dorson, 1972:3). Investigations in this area are more concerned about the family and community observances of the people living in villages, tribal belts and even industrial areas of Indian cities. Of particular importance are the rites de passage of birth, initiation, marriage, death and similar rites. These rites, as is well known, have special significance in Hindu life and therefore have a well spread field. songs and tales and other forms of oral literature associated with these rites form an essential part of the first sector, i.e., Oral Literature, while as social custom and ritualistic observances are studied in Social Folk Custom.

Similarly the ritual and custom associated with the festivals, such as Holi", Di"pavali in north and central India, Durgapuja in the east and south, Gauri"-Ganapati in the west coast, Pongal and Onam in deep south and hundreds of similar festivals also form an important segment of Social Folk Custom. These festivals, just like the rites may have literary as well as ritualistic aspect. Most of these festivals in our country seem to be embedded with agricultural activity and therefore follow a calendrical cycle. Moreover these may also be closely associated with the concepts of Indian world view ad the religious practices. For example, there are thousands of little customs and ritualistic practices being observed by Indian village folks for the sake of rains, agricultural prosperity and for warding off natural calamities such as floods, famines, etc. Among the tribal populations such practices are more common.

The religious aspects of Social Folk Custom in India are multidimensional and highly complex. This aspect also encompasses the most complex caste hierarchy we have in our society and the world has ever known. This also concerns the network of interrelations the caste hierarchy has with the religious hierarchy. For example, besides the by and large pan-Indian mode of worshipping the Hindu Pantheon, there are other modes of worship in India which seem to be very ancient and are still practised by a sizeable population. Despite intense acculturation that has taken place between the established pan-Indian modes or "great tradition" and the local modes of worship, the "little tradition" one finds elements which do distinguish one from the other. The Bhuta and Teyyam worship in the south-west coastal India is a good example to show the process of intense acculturation and the survival of indigenous cultural traits14. See, Jawaharlal Handoo, "The World of Teyyam: Myth and the Message", Journal of Indian Folkloristics, Vol. 2 : 3/4 (1979), pp. 65-88; see also, George L. Hart III, "The Nature of Tamil Devotion" in Deshpande and Hook (ed.), Aryan and Non-Aryan in India, (Ann Arbor,1979), pp. 11-33; K.K.N. Kurup, The Cult of Teyyam and Hero Worship in Kerala, (Calcutta, 1973); Barbara M. Boal, "Kond Ritual Practices and Prayers: Conservation and Change", Journal of Indian Folkloristics, Vol.2 : 3/4 (1979), pp. 89-110. Similarly the religious practices of many tribal groups of the country, who did not maintain close contact with the established mainstream religious system also shows maintenance of indigenous modes of worship which have obviously been preserved carefully. Even in the established pan-Indian religious systems, there seem to have appeared, from time to time, fresh waves of religious thought which have created new sub-divisions and made the already complex caste system of the land more complex. These and other aspects of Social Folk Custom naturally become the concern of a student of Indian folklore and folklife.
The fourth and the last sector of folklore and folklife studies may be designated as the Performing Folk Arts. This sector concerns primarily traditional music, dance and drama. The word performance in the growing new thought of folkloristics, especially in the contextualists' jargon, is associated with every item of folklore, irrespective of its generic applications. According to this school all items of folklore when delivered are performed. However, performance here strictly means the conscious presentation of these arts - dance, drama, folk music, etc. - by individuals or groups who carry these art forms from one generation to another. Dorson further clarifies it. According to him, "while the renditions of a folktale or a folk song are now usually referred to as performances, they are more casual in nature than the conscious presentation of these arts by individuals or groups with folk instruments, dance costumes and scenario props. The performing arts intersect each with the other and often appear in conjunction" (Dorson, 1972 :4).

One of the most important areas of this sector is the traditional music, which is "passed on by ear and performed by memory rather than by the written or printed musical score" (List, 1972 : 363). Besides having its limited independent place in the genre of performing folk art, traditional music, as we are aware, usually crosses generic barriers and forms part of many other genres. For example, folk dance, folk drama, dance-drama, oral poetry, ritual and prayers always carry some element of music with them.

Folk music, more often than not, is confused with popular music. Avoiding the pitfalls of controversy about 'folk' and 'non-folk', suffice it to say here that "folk music and popular music are not synonymous terms although as forms they share common traits. Popular music may or may not be transmitted by the musical score. It is often varied in performance and at times is improvisatory in nature. Popular music, however, is generally an ephemeral commercial product intended for mass consumption rather than a tradition known and practised in a restricted area or by a sub-culture" (List, 1972 : 364). However, in India, cities and villages have always been in contact and popular and folk music have influenced each other. Folk music has not only influenced popular music in India but also some of the classical forms of music. In recent years we find popular forms (such as the cinema music) and the classical forms influencing the folk forms. For example, many folksongs have been created or rather designed on the basis of popular cinema or movie tunes and so have the cinema song writers used many folk tunes in their lyric productions. The classical music has similarly penetrated into folk forms. The music of the Tot?t?ams of highly ritualized Teyyam performances in coastal Kerala seems to imitate the classical musical scores of the Vedic rituals15. See, Jawaharlal Handoo, "The World of Teyyam: Myth and the Message", Journal of Indian Folkloristics, Vol.2 :3/4 (1979), pp. 65-88. . If one compares the musical scores of both one would clearly notice that the classical forms have been adapted for the expression of folk content.

India has a rich tradition of ancient folk music. The cultural diversity of the land multiplied the forms of these traditions and made them more colourful and enchanting. The potential of collecting, preserving and even using the traditional music of this country for mass entertainment and other cultural purposes is so great that even a generation of hard work may not be enough. Moreover, for the sake of theoretical purposes also traditional music of India has a hidden potential. In fact it can, perhaps, answer many complex questions ethno-musicologists have been facing not only in respect of Indian traditional musical systems, but of the entire south Asian musical phenomena. For example, there seems a kind of inbuilt categories in Indian folk music which might answer the problem of genres scholars find hard to explain in this kind of folkloric phenomenon. Traditional musical systems and associated dance forms have generic names. Kajari", Li"la, Phag, Bhajans, Jhumars, etc., are not mere names of folk tunes but folk categories denoting genres and their complex relations. In a way they look as simple terms for complex folkloric phenomena.

Of equal importance are the traditional musical instruments of this land. In fact a particular kind of folk music is, at times, identifiable by its instruments only. Just as a tale or a folksong is passed on from one generation to another by word of mouth so is the instrument and the kind of music associated with it passed on from one generation to another by ear and memory. The impact of instruments on folk music in India, as elsewhere, is so strong that many kinds of folk traditions are known by the name of the instrument or instruments. For example, Lad?i"shah of Kashmir, Pen?a of Manipur, Kamsa of Karnataka, are not only the names of instruments but strong folk musical traditions.

Not much serious work has been done in the area of folk musical traditions of India. In fact the area of -- a well developed branch of folkloristics in the West -- is yet to take shape in our country. The work of government sponsored Sangit Natak Akademi at New Delhi and its regional counterparts in the States have begun to collect and archive folk music of various regions of the country. A few non-governmental agencies have also taken up the task of collecting and archiving these rich treasures of folklore 16. A variety of good collections have been made by Rupayan Sansthan, Borunda, Jodhpur, Rajasthan: a voluntary organization. American Institute of Indian Studies in collaboration with the Ford Foundation has also begun the work of establishing a tape archives of Indian folk music in Poona and Delhi. The Folklore Unit of the CIIL has also a modest folk music archives. . However, these efforts do not match the vastness of folk music that India is, and should be, proud of.

A similar situation exists when we talk of folk dances and the highly sophisticated classical dance forms of India. That they have not only influenced each other, but have in fact nourished each other is a fact that hardly needs emphasis. "In the Indian sub-continent", writes Kapila Vatsyayan, "… dance forms … have survived, whose origins can be traced back to pre-historic times; new forms have grown up in other places; the buoyant tenacity with which they have continued in spite of many momentous historical, sociological changes presents a bewilderingly rich and complex phenomenon" (1976 :14). Scholars who believe that folk and classical dance traditions have remained separate are in fact ignoring the multidimensional complexities of Indian culture. The interdependence of these equally strong traditions can be measured only when we try to fathom the depth of these complexities. "Each cultural unit of India", comments Vatsyayan again, "is one such multidimensional sphere, which moves around its own axis, and has a relationship of interdependence and communicability with other such units" (1976 : 16).

Folklorists who specialize in performing folk arts of India, particularly dance forms are sure to face the problem of classical and non-classical or the so-called "great tradition" and "little tradition". The success of a skilled folklorist does not lie in wasting his energies in drawing lines between folk and non-folk traditions (which however do not seem to exist; or even if they do, they are in such a everchanging and floating condition, that it would be a kind of deceptive illusion to claim that one can hold on to such lines); but in viewing the entire phenomenon of continuities, of changes, of mutations, and transformations; for these are so essential for a living civilization that India is17. See, Kapila Vatsyayan, Traditions of Indian Folk Dance, (New Delhi, 1976), pp.9-31. .

Like folk music, the area of Indian folk dances is also very vast. Most of the time they go together and share many important characteristics. Furthermore, these art forms not only require the keen eye of an expert as far as the ear and action is concerned, they also need equal attention for the costumes, stage, instruments, the audience and the overall interaction of all these aspects, which are essential for the totality of the performance. For example, studying Vatal Damaly of Kashmir, Kud of Jammu, Gaddi" of Himachal Pradesh, Jagar, Rasali"la, Ramali"la, Naut?anki" of Uttar Pradesh, Bhangr?a of Punjab, Phalgun Daph of Haryana, Chhau of Bengal, Jadur, Rijai Langi, Jata-Jatin of Bihar, Saila, Rina, Kaksar and Mancha of Madhya Pradesh, Paik, Maya Shavari" of Orissa, Jhumar, Gauri" of Rajasthan, Rasa, Garba of Gujarat, Tamasa, Jatra, Bhavai of Maharashtra, Dhimsa, Garagabi, Ki"lu Guralu of Andhra Pradesh, Podi-Kazhiat?t?am, Karagam, Kollat?t?am of Tamil Nadu, Bi"su Kamsale, Yaks?agana, Vi"ragase of Karnataka, Teyyam, Kathakali, Mohini"at?t?am of Kerala, Bi"hu, Oja Pali of Assam (see, Kapila Vatsyayan, 1976), will be incomplete without looking into the structure of actions of the dancers, their costumes, the structure of the stage (fixed or mobile), the audience-dancer interaction, etc. in other words capturing the total performance, in an holistic manner, is what is desired of a good study of Indian folk dances.

Dance in the lives of our tribal people has the same status as drums, we are told, have among the people of Africa. For dances of the tribal people of eastern India retain their originality, simplicity and spontaneity. Be it Kimbu or Zeliang of the Nagas, Loho of the Jaintias, Wangala of the Reangs. In the tribal context at least one thing certainly is less blurred: there are no "little traditions" and there are no "great traditions" either.

Folk drama is another important field in the performing folk arts sector. Drama in folk communities has been very little discussed in folkloristics, primarily because it has not often been regarded as a folk genre. And even when it has been so designated, it has commonly been discussed as a part of performance types in festivals and rituals18. See, Roger D. Abrahams, "Folk Drama" in Dorson (ed.), Folklore and Folklife : An Introduction, pp. 351. 18. However, in recent years more folkloristic work on south Asian data has widened the scope of studying folk drama and has also helped the theoretical growth in both anthropology and folkloristics, so much so that anthropologists like Peacock believe that semantic aspects of cultural change and the cosmological categories of human societies can be accurately deciphered through drama and more particularly through folk drama19. See, James L. Peacock, "Class, Clown, and Cosmology in Javanese drama: An Analysis of Symbolic and Social Action" in P. Maranda and E. Maranda (ed.), Structural Analysis of Oral Tradition, (Philadelphia, 1971). .

Drama of any sort "calls for the play world by the players generally through the use of conventional symbolic objects -- masks, costumes, a special area for playing -- and conventional stylized action. Drama, in other words is primarily recognized as a play activity and therefore is closely related to game, dance, and ritual. All of these call for the establishment of a play world that is recognizably removed from the real world and yet in many ways similar to it" (Abrahams, 1972 : 354). A folk drama's special characteristic is that it differs from the written, sophisticated drama in performance, audience relationship and in mode of transmission.

The traditions of Indian folk drama are vast. Most of the forms of folk drama, as said earlier, are associated with ritual and festival and have close affinity with music and dance. Some of these forms, as is well known, are mobile and resemble the village drama of Africa 20. See, Abrahams, op. cit., pp. 354. See also, Balwant Gargi, Folk Theatre of India, (Seattle, 1966). , and yet many have fixed stages as one notices in the classical drama whose tradition is equally strong. It is interesting to note that classical forms of dance, drama and music in India have, and still remain, a kind of urban phenomenon. In ancient days also these classical forms seem to have flourished in and around palaces and temples. Rural India seems to have never grasped these classical forms and does not grasp it even now. Rural folk has always lived with its own folk forms, preserved them and enriched them. This is true of folk drama as well. However, despite these characteristics, there has been enough contact between these two strong traditions and this contact has resulted in what we noticed now in Yaks?agana and Kathakali: a layer of sophistication or classicalization over the traditional core of folk drama. This classicalization is evident in the texts as well. Folk drama's text is not fixed, but classical drama's text remains always fixed. Folk forms whose texts have now become fixed or frozen evidence this kind of classicalization. Besides the above examples, a very popular folk drama of north Karnataka S"an"gya-Balya clearly exhibits this contact. This contact is now becoming more frequent and meaningful in view of the fact that modern dramatists and literary scholars are turning to their own cultural traditions in search of meaning and metaphor relevant in the modern context. Therefore, not only are dramatic folk plots or characterization becoming important for these modern experimentalists, but even the stage, folk idiom, folk costume and other aspects of folk traditions are presented in the modern context in such a manner in which the traditional meaning and the metaphor become a continuum: i.e., relevant always and meaningful in every era.

Many fascinating forms of Indian music and dance are, however, linked with what is now being labeled as dance-drama and recognised as a kind of a new genre; on the assumption that it contains the elements of both the dance and the drama. For instance, Yaks?agana of Karnataka, Kathakali of Kerala, Tamas?a of Maharashtra, Tamil Vi"thinat?akam of Andhra Pradesh and Thirukkothu of Tamil Nadu are some of the famous dance-drama forms of India, according to this assumption. However, one has to be cautious in following these genre-models developed primarily on Western data, that make distinction between the folk drama and the dance-drama. The Oriental, particularly Indian folk drama, almost always carries the elements of dance and music within it so much so that it is possible to drawn a line between the dance, the music or the drama part of it. It was in view of this fact only that I suggested to see Indian folkloric phenomena, particularly the phenomenon of performing folk arts, holistically in an Indian manner and from an Indian point of view instead of fixing it in an a priori Western genre-model. That the elements of dance and music are inseparable parts of Indian folk drams seems in fact a fundamental characteristic of south Asian drama and needs a different treatment than given so far by experts.