Of Jogis and mediators, musicologists and administrators: an elaborated field note

by John Napier

© all rights reserved

Anecdote and outline

For the last few years, through intermittent periods of fieldwork, I have been attempting to document and to understand musical performances of a caste of singers, the Jogis, in Eastern Rajasthan . Like anyone entering “the field”, I have relied on the knowledge and generosity of various local people who have enabled me to reach those who I have desired to study. In working in the districts surrounding Alwar, I am indebted, like so many, to Harischand Dixit, a retired schoolmaster, who amongst many other things, has established a folk music institute in Lacchmangarrh, headquarters of the a tehsil east of Alwar. I was a few days into my fourth field trip of my study when Dixitji came to meet me. In the course of conversation he suddenly became rather agitated about what I was doing. Why was I studying the music of these Jogis? They were not good people, they were beggars, they cheated and lied, and they drank. There were much better things to study in Lacchmangarrh. Why did I not instead study doppli rāg-tāl bandhi, a genre related to North Indian classical music, comprising a song duel between two teams of men, vying to show knowledge of a greater number of compositions in specific rāgas? As well, it was performed by ‘good people’.

This incident stands, I believe, at the intersection of two historical threads within folkloristic study. The first of these is the persistence, more than fifty years after the repeal of the Criminal Tribes Act which gave it most virulent legal form, of prejudice inscribed in colonial ethnographies. I will show how this view has become inscribed within the performances of the Jogis, which I have elsewhere maintained are something of a ‘self-ethnography’.1 Here they remain embedded, latently subaltern. The second thread is that of the mediation of a folk tradition, as the distinct agendas of different persons, acting as mediators between tradition and modernity, between the rural and the urban, and between India and other parts of the world, come into play. However, in examining this thread, I question some of the generalised assumptions that are frequently made in considering mediators, suggesting that over-concernedness with ‘othering’ and with mis-representation may characterise the mediated as disempowered even within their traditional context. I believe that the stories that Jogi sing tell otherwise.

Analysis of these threads suggests the possibility of a third intersecting thread. This is of a further type of mediation and mediator, a mediator who is potentially quite pernicious when pretending to either disinterest or objectivity, and even when, or perhaps most strongly when engaged in the ritual of intellectual self-flagellation: the academic. In other words, this paper has implications for the assessment of how we carry out and understand our research in hierarchic situations.

Jogis: ethnographic description and self-description

By Jogis, I refer to the householder Nāths or Jogis, not to the ascetic Kānphatas, nor to the Sanpera or Kalbelia Jogis. These three groups are interrelated. As adherents of thesampradāya of the medieval teacher and ascetic Gorakh Nāth, they take the title “Jogi”, a vernacular of the Sanskrit “Yogi”, practitioner of Yoga: in this case a form of Hātha Yoga concerned with the direct or alchemic immortalisation of the body, rather than the more commonplace goal of mokśa.2 As a jati, Gryhastha Jogis or householder Nāths, or as one Kānphata disparagingly put it, the ‘Familywale’ Jogis, probably developed through one of three processes. The explanation sometimes offered by Kānphatas is that the Gryhastha Jogis are the descendents of Kānphatas who failed in their vows of celibacy, (though this possibility is denied by some Kānphatas themselves). A second possibility is that they are descendents of those who had joined the rising Gorakh Nāth sect, still maintaining families whilst in the intermediate stage, Aughari, before becoming Kānphatas proper. Thirdly an extant jāti may have adopted the practices of the Gorakh Nāth sect during its heyday.3

Aspects of the relationship between the Kānphatas and the Gryhastha Jogis, and more generally between householder and renouncer are articulated in some of the Jogi repertoire, most notably in their two best known sung stories, or kathās, those of Raja Gopicand and of Raja Bhartrihari. These stories, which tell of kings who must become Jogis, are in counterpoint with the Mahadevji ka byāvalā, (The Wedding of Mahadev) which of course is the story of a Jogi (the god Śiva is described thus) who must marry, and adopt some of the trappings of family life.4 The Mahadevji ka byāvalā , which also goes by the name of Śankar ka byāvalā or Śiva ka byāvalā is unique amongst the Jogi repertoire in dealing directly with such deities (though Gorakh Nāth is from time to time said to be an incarnation of Śiva).5

The ghosts of the administrators

Dixitji’s assessment of the Jogis was familiar for several reasons. Firstly I have had the conversation before, at our first meeting. It was also assessment comparable to that of several other people with whom I talked. In all fairness, some Jogis drink, but more importantly, their traditional occupation included māngada. This word is frequently translated as mendicancy or begging, thus carrying connotations of failure, underemployment or laziness that are not necessarily appropriate.6 For Jogis, māngada may involve a routine practice of performing song fragments and implicitly protecting a village from several agricultural pestilences, in exchange for payment, traditionally uncooked flour, but more commonly other readily available foodstuffs or money. Thus it is contractual, and its nature as such may extend to negotiations over payment for other types of performance, in which Jogis will often drastically exaggerate their needs and the amounts given them by others, and underplay, if that is possible, their means. However, this level of transactional ambit claiming is hardly a deceit unique to Jogis or mendicants: after all not a few of us might like to see the writers of real estate advertisements declared a ‘criminal tribe’, and we suspect that used car salesmen exaggerate the price that a car cost them whilst understating what they could possible get for our own.

But the criticism is familiar from another source: written, late nineteenth century and early twentieth century accounts by British ethnographers and administrators. Here the clear distinction is made between the ‘monastic’ and ‘householder’ groups in terms of behaviour, though in terms of identity the distinction is unclear, or its lack of clarity glossed over. The accounts frequently proceed through a relatively neutral description of the Kānphatas, followed by a half derogatory, half salacious account of some of their yogic practices, amid hints of duplicity and magic.

This class,7 or order, is of many kinds. Some are prognosticators of future events; others lead about animals of monstrous formation in order to excite religious wonder and curiosity; others have their ears split and wear in them a kind of ear-ring for sacred purposes.8

In Bombay Presidency, the ‘Kānphati’ are ‘pretenders to magic’, the lowest of mendicant castes,9 and Rose mentions ascriptions of black magic.10

But ‘there are others who do not bear such a reputable character [as the monastic Kānphatas]’. These have ‘a very indifferent reputation’, by impersonating absent relatives, they effect ‘a general plunder of the premises’, ‘pretend to change copper into gold . . . some are professional poisoners; others pretend to deal in millstones and steal cattle’.11

For Rose, “Jogi” also applies to,

that miscellaneous assortment of low-caste faqírs and fortune tellers, both Hindu and Musalmán, who are commonly known as Jogís. Every rascally beggar who pretends to be able to tell fortunes, or to practice astrological and necromantic arts in however small a degree, buys himself a drum and calls himself, and is called by others, a Jogi. These men include all the Musalmáns, and probably a part of the Hindus of the Eastern districts, who style themselves Jogís. They are a thoroughly vagabond set, and wander about the country beating a drum and begging, practising surgery and physic in a small way, writing charms, telling fortunes, and performing exorcism and divination; or, settling in the villages, eke out their earnings for these occupations by the offerings made at the local shrines of the malevolent godlings or of the Sayads and other Musalmán saints; for the Jogi is so impure that he will eat the offerings made at any shrine.

In Karnāl the Jogis by caste are generally Hindus and receive offerings made to the impure gods. They form one of the lowest of all castes and practice witchcraft and divination, being also musicians.12

In short, Dixitji’s reservations, as much ethical as they were musical, sounded very similar to those of the colonial ethnographies. Several questions arise, all germane to both post-colonial studies and the issue of folklore mediation. Do I hear in Dixitji’s voice a direct survival of colonial attitude, enduring subliminally through the education system? Or is his attitude directly or indirectly adopted from the same colonial texts that I have read, and which continue to appear of Indian library shelves, and continue to be cited in scholarly documents (such as my own)? Or do I hear an articulation of the same prejudice that may have informed Sherring’s, Rose’s and Crooke’s collaborators?13The history of the sources of these prejudices is fascinating, but beyond the scope of this note or my research. What is critical here is their persistence.

Self-ethnography and the performer’s wink

But do Jogis talk of this themselves, exemplifying, perhaps, Chatterji’s view that ‘disciplinary representations are internalised by the societies which are the objects of these descriptions’?14 In fact, at risk of seeming to ascribe an unwarranted negativity, I suggest that they may well do so.

There is a curious episode, a seeming interpolation, heard in every version of the Mahadevji ka byāvalā: as Śiva arrives for his wedding feast, he produces two boys Śukra and Śani by slapping or tearing his thighs. The two create mayhem by eating every morsel of food in both palace and city, drinking all the wells dry, and even tearing out all the doors and windows to use as papadums. Eventually Śiva himself must intervene, restoring the kingdom to prosperity.

Towards the end of my last stay, a Jogi whom I had been interviewing and recording for several days suddenly said that the Jogis were special, because they were the only ones who could ‘bear Śiva’s pain’. I asked him what he meant, to which he replied that they had been torn from Śiva’s thighs, like the boys in the story, and as a result of that, they alone could endure the dan or inauspiciousness associated with the byāvalā.15 With the datum that the Jogis had been torn from Śiva’s thighs, many things made sense, not just the amusing but otherwise unnecessary Śukra-Śani story, but something of both the role of Jogis in the prevailing social contract, and even Dixitji’s assessment. During performances of the byāvalā, performers are regularly given gifts, ostensibly to Śiva, but in reality to themselves. In this way, they become the recipients of inauspiciousness, ‘Śiva’s pain’. Furthermore, as a group close to the bottom of the social hierarchy, they cannot on-give: beggars have no opportunity for the subsequent transference of their own and their accumulated inauspiciousness.

But does the performer wink? Is the Śukra-Śani episode a moment of latent subalterneity? For Śiva’s future parents-in-law, the rapacious appetite of the two boys effects a total humiliation. Prior to this, Himachal has attempted Śiva’s humiliation by demanding that he arrive in a barāt of impossible magnificence so to avoid the marriage of his daughter to a Jogi. In addition to arriving with a procession of ghosts who terrorise the town, Śiva reduces Himachal to utter penury. Finally, Himachal threatens suicide, but is persuaded by his daughter to instead ‘put grass in his mouth’, to abase himself before Śiva. It is worth keeping this “wink”, this potential assertion or threat of agency on the part of the Jogi performer in mind when considering the role of mediators in projecting such performances to wider audiences.


When I had first met Dixitji in early 2000, and after explaining to him my interests, he had insisted that he first show me the ‘very best’ that Lacchmangarrh had to offer. The result was awe-inspiring, in that within a few days an utsav, or festival, featuring over one hundred high quality performers and attended by approximately five thousand people was organised. It was costly, immediately subverting my ideals of disinterested research, payment and patronage. And though it showcased many brilliant performances, including doppli rag-tal bandhi, it featured no Jogis. Having said this, I should clearly state that subsequently Dixitji has aided my work invaluably, such that I can say that I doubt that it would have been possible otherwise. Nevertheless, when discussing my work, especially when others are present, and inevitably when talking publicly, he uses the Sanskrit term “Nāth sampradāya”, which of course links my study to the śāstraic traditions of Nāths as a sect, and perhaps even specifically to the monastic, ordered elements within that, rather to the Nāths as a caste, the Jogis. This nomenclature may be evidence of a continued wish to “elevate” the subject matter of my research, both in rhetoric and in practice, and as such may evidence a degree of ambivalence in his role as mediator.

In discussing mediators I draw on ideas developed in Burke’s Popular Culture in Early Medieval Europe.16 Burke, partly playing devil’s advocate, problematises texts as evidence for popular culture, emphasising the distinction between text and performance. He notes the dubious fidelity of texts, projected as authentic by writers who were often learned but ‘pretending’ to vernacularism, or even ignorance, or who may have been antipathetic to the people whose texts were produced. He also notes the danger of texts that were simply collected later, or were distorted in the original account either directly by the presence of collectors, or indirectly by their social or even aesthetic ideologies.

Burke’s ideas have been applied thoroughly, some would argue even ruthlessly to the development of English folksong by David Harker in his Fakesong . Harker has described folk song mediators as operating within and reproducing idealised notions of what “the folk” and “folksongs” were or should be musically and textually. These ultimately serve definitions of both bourgeois and working class culture as distinct entities existing almost in isolation from each other and exhibiting different modes of artistic production.17 Harker critiques mediators as condescending or paternalistic, interventional, and frequently even commercially exploitative. Though mediators were not necessarily intellectually duplicitous and though they did not set out to bequeath a distorted notion of folksong, the idea of “folksong” so produced is precisely that.

Though the perspectives of both Burke and Harker are largely historical, and deal with the mediation of text, this sort of critical concern has rightly permeated and I hope continues to provoke a reasonable degree of self-reflexivity. Still, I wonder how feasible Harker’s work would be if dealing with living mediators: I tread a line between critical concern and my fear that this entire paper is an exercise in critiquing, if not biting, the hand that feeds.

Are there fundamental differences between the mediation of texts and the mediation of performances? The mediation I speak of occurs between rurally based musicians and something “exterior”. This exteriority may be literally geographical, in the organisation of radio broadcasts, and occasionally recordings in a regional centre or larger city. It may be contextual, though the organisation of large scale concerts, of performance venues or of cultural centres. It may be more individually focussed, by bringing musicians into contact with outsiders such as me. In all cases, we might expect that through various processes of selection, projection, and explanation, mediators shape “folk music” according to their own agenda and explanation of what it should do and might be.

The utsav organised in Lacchmangarrh projected music that was vibrant, virtuosic, for the most part couched in short items, often involving little text, much acrobatics and rather obvious mimesis: in short, folk music, lok sangit was projected both to a local audience and as a commodity most readily saleable to audiences outside the immediate district.19 The selection of which music represents “the best of local folk culture” is replicated annually at a district level in the Alwar utsav. Here of course decisions are linked to a broader folk music market and attitude, both within India and even internationally. What is projected is again a brilliant but frequently decontextualised virtuosity, demanding and receiving little explanation: the chakra dance, the ghumar dance, the sapera dance:20 Bourdieau’s pure gaze at the acrobatic, rather than at the aesthetic? The district level festival becomes almost pan-Rajasthani, as performing groups from western Rajasthan appear, to great and justified acclaim. At the same time, on nights before and after, Alwar is treated to performances of North Indian classical music. The continuities and discontinuities thus created may be encapsulated in a geographic metaphor. Whilst folk singers and smaller organisations orient themselves both to the village and along the road to the town, the town orients itself according to cosmopolitanism, towards its own “elite” audience and along the railroad tracks to Jaipur and (to a lesser extent) to Delhi. It does so, it might seem, to the detriment of its own hinterland, but to the benefit of itself as centre. Alwar becomes a drawing point, not for its own region, but for pan-Rajasthani folkism and for pan-North Indian classicism which in the past was a feature of its courtly life.

Where is the Jogi in this? In short, hardly anywhere at all. The extensive, textually dense performances, contextually reliant on the immediacy of interaction with an audience sharing a common language and concerns, musically as straightforward and repetitive as other genres are virtuosic, simply do not “fit”. When Jogi performers do appear, they are restricted to short song items, and most frequently bhajans, which they frequently do not sing with any particular flair. I am not suggesting that such contexts are responsible for the decline of Jogi performance opportunities and repertoires (this would also be beyond the scope of this paper), but to note that such events cannot encapsulate the Jogi into the projection of lok sangit. In this sense, Dixitji’s concerns are thoroughly understandable on aesthetic grounds.

There are however, other important aspects of mediation that do not involve the problems of performance. Indrajit Sharma is a women living in Alwar, where she runs a school for young women, teaching a range of traditional skills. Her overall approach to folk music has been as part of a general empowerment of women through education. The women she trains perform on television and radio, and in festival performances. However, in deference to traditional behaviour, they stop dancing at marriage.21 Here is a strong parallel with the English folk song movement of the early twentieth century. Both organisations are more than folk institutes: both Harischand Dixit and Indrajit Sharma understand perfectly that performative, creative cultural activity is an essential part of general social survival and uplift.

Reassessing mediation

Because performances must be made ‘real time’ and must at least be rehearsed in situ, and because other agendas are operating for both Dixitji and Sharmaji, they become, even under circumstances of mediation, projections both to “self”, in the sense of a local, comprehending audience, and to the “other”. Thus, in spite of what might be thought as a fairly gloomy assessment in the section above, I believe that such performances of Jogi repertoire that do occur enable a more optimistic interpretation of mediation: a chance, perhaps, for the performer to wink. In dealing with mediators myself, I had hoped for a more nuanced account, perhaps more sensitive, than Harker’s. But in the course of this work several deeper problems emerge.

Mediation is seen to have the most severe implications when it is understood to contribute to processes of othering.

The needs and expectations channelling interest towards traditions have from the very beginning, and even in very recent times, almost without exception originated outside the communities maintaining the tradition. . . . The discovery of tradition is usually followed by its transfer to some other use, archives, publication, as an instrument of cultural policy.22

This, the opening quote of Boyes’ The Imagined Village, exposes problems similar to those addressed in Roma Chatterji’s essay in The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology. ” Folk”, following its discovery, is put to uses other than its own, it enters a different discourse, and is defined by its difference from that which shapes and underpins this discourse, ultimately becoming emblematic of that discourse (for example the discourse of nationality), by being other. Chatterji talks of the use of the term folk implying a ‘cognitive relationship . . . a way of establishing a relationship of altereity’.

Culture then becomes both a utopian ideal of a mythic community, located in a timeless past or an unattainable future, as well as a cultural good, connoting values that are desirable for the group seeking to articulate its collective identity.23

When this trajectory of mediation intersects with the survival of administrative prejudice outlined in the first part of this paper, the project of othering and the creation of mythic communities falter a little. The Jogi repertoire does not represent an adequate other, troping as it does disreputability, and at the same time failing to evoke the excitement, the virtuosity, of transcendentalism of other performers. In some ways, mediation as I have described it serves to idealise something that is simultaneously proximate and transcendent, ‘the best that Lacchmangarrh has to offer’ in combination with the best that Rajasthan has to offer. Let me then celebrate Jogi performances as something resistant to the potentially negative implications of mediation. Let me investigate the wink. Otherwise, regardless of Chatterji’s warning that ‘the term folk carries the connotation of primordial essence and is seen as the expression of an unconscious and timeless community life’,24 we have, by concerning ourselves overly with mediators, played their own tune: we ourselves can ‘flatten’ the folk, reducing them to a-historicity, to a text, to a lack of agency, or, to use Fabian’s term, denying their co-evalness.25

I wish to consider a unique performance of the Mahadevji ka byāvalā by Kishori Nāth of Khohra. Here the well known śāstraic
or canonic version of the story, in which Śiva is petitioned by the gods to father a child who may defeat the troublesome Tarakasura, ‘collides’ with the otherwise ubiquitous local version, in which Śiva, portrayed as an almost preposterously gauche and anti-social BholaNāth, very reluctantly agrees to the counsel of Nadiya (Nandi) that he should marry, in order to provide a son who can look after them both in their collective dotage. This performance also uniquely includes the episode of the immolation of Kam Dev. However, to completely recast the story in terms of the śāstraic would court disaster, abandoning many of the appealing episodes that give the performance its local vitality. Kishori Nāth’s melding of the texts is seamless and masterly: the result is doubly empowered by the accessing of both local and Pan-Indian traditions.

Kishori Nāth’s life is rather unusual. Passing sixth standard in 1952, he took a job as a school teacher in Bikaner district, from where he was recalled a year or two later, when his father, a very successful performer, lost his eyesight. The implications for Kishori Nāth’s performances of his literacy in Hindi (almost unique amongst Jogis of his age), his knowledge of textual variants of the story, and his repertoire of didactic ślokas (verses) are substantial. In presenting Kishori Nāth’s work at a recent forum I was mildly criticised for drawing too much on a single, arguably idiosyncratic performer. Such criticism draws attention to a very different type of mediator in deciding whose work is represented and offered as representative, and seems to bespeak a past debate in ethnomusicology between those favouring a model drawn from the social sciences and those favouring the humanities. As an ethno- musicologist I am in pursuit, amongst other things, of ‘how music means’, a pursuit which would seem to call for ethnographic generalities. Nevertheless, as an ethno- musicologist I am also in pursuit of the outstanding work that is still sufficiently representative without being so unusual as to no longer be recognisable. The US ethnomusicologist Matthew Allen recounts having been challenged by a South Indian scholar that he “would never study Beethoven and call it ethnomusicology”.26 I would also not overlook “my” Beethoven in favour of a somehow more representative sample of early nineteenth century composition.

Burke has pointed out that the individual singer and story teller may become a mediator in some sense, embodying the simultaneity of multiple traditions.27 Kishori Nāth is thus a mediator, contemporaneously responding to the proximity and accessibility of the śāstraic by drawing it into the laukika, or folkloristic, but never allowing the potentially subversive quality of the laukika version to quite be overcome.28 If we then consider the Sukra- Sani episode as representing a subaltern intersection between a generally known story and the Jogi’s own ethnography, we have a fine moment of rhetorical and literary resistance. Studies of western popular music have long taken as axiomatic that minority musics imply a sense of identity and self-assertion, a means by which even the most marginalised groups may resist. If, adhering to Appadurai’s view, ‘culture no longer implies consensus,’ and ‘traditions are subject to multiple appropriations and deployments’,29 we should take notice of the performer’s wink: if we deny performers their co-evalness, and deny the ongoing inscription of various ‘histories’ within performances, and attempt to impoverish both by reducing them to inactive and normative texts or a treasure trove of generally held attitudes ripe for plunder by the unscrupulous mediator, Śukra and Śani may return!

Afterword or Prologue: a final mediator.

If colonial ethnography is residual in both the relations between Jogis and other groups and within the texts by which Jogis project their own attitudes to such relations, it is apparent that both this historical ‘hangover’ and those relations of class and locale (urban-rural) that shaped that mixture of ethnographic and folkloristic study from which I draw are equally residual within my own presence in Alwar. As I have repeatedly stressed through this paper, my activity, itself now a small part of the changing engagement of Jogi musicians, stands at an intersection of two histories of inscription; colonial ethnography and European derived bourgeois folkloristics.

At a conference a few years ago in what was then Calcutta, an Australian academic referred at the beginning of his presentation to having completed his ‘ritual of western academic self-flagellation’. I could not gauge his level of irony, but it has become something of a motto, with a level of irony that the reader in turn may not be able to gauge. In the penultimate paragraph of the previous section, I refer to the necessary recognition of my own role as a mediator. Aside from the almost unavoidable condescension of fieldwork, (“I will say something about your music that either you can’t say for yourself, or you are not interested in saying for yourself”), like those critiqued by Harker, I have my own subjective interests in what ‘the folk’ offers. Dixitji touched on several of these in his offerings: the appeal to our ‘rescue fantasy’ of the vanishing art form ofdoppli rag-tal bandhi , the elements of classicism within folk forms, or better still, the practical disintegration of boundaries between folk and classical. All of these appeal, but insufficiently to dissuade me from my own implicit agenda: the rescue fantasy of my own with regards to the Jogi performances, notions of purity in Jogi forms as distinct from the “corrupted classicism” of doppli rag-tal bandhi , and the quasi-democratic hope of balancing the weighty presence of the more famous Langa and Manganiyar groups, who have become something of a synecdoche for Rajasthani folk music, or of the endless procession of ghumar dances and fire-breathing offered by the hotel circuit as the folk culture of Rajasthan. And of course I ultimately will have an eye on a certain market: the “publish and perish” paradigm of modern academia. Nevertheless, I am a secondary mediator: my proximity to the primary mediators impels, I hope, a more nuanced and sensitive account of their work than Harker gives of the English mediators from Percy through to Sharp and Lloyd.

Appendix: the story of the Mahadevji ka byāvalā in a few hundred thousand words less than usual.

Sati, the first wife of the ascetic god, Śiva, goes uninvited to a sacrifice performed by her father, Daksh, and immolates herself in the sacred fire. Some time later, Śiva’s companion, the ox Nadiya (Nandi) encourages him to make a son or a disciple, who will look after them in their dotage. Śiva repeatedly tires to do so, but the ‘son’ turns out to be a girl (Sati), who must be destroyed and eventually reborn as Parvati, the daughter of Raja Himachal.

Himachal sends a Brahmin on an unsuccessful mission to find a son-in-law. On the Brahmin’s return, he is directed by Parvati to engage Śiva as her husband. Śiva repeatedly attempts to avoid this engagement, by either abusing the Brahmin or by entering a drug-induced stupor, but eventually submits.

After inviting 330 000 000 gods to attend his wedding, Śiva arrives at Raja Himachal’s kingdom, disguised as a leper. He, Nadiya and the wedding party, especially two hungry boys created by Śiva, create havoc. But, eventually normalcy returns, and Śiva and Parvati are married. They return to Śiva’s home, where Parvati also adopts an ascetic existence.


John Napier is a Senior Lecturer in Musicology at the University of New South Wales. He completed a doctorate on North Indian classical music in 2001, and has been studying the folk music of Eastern Rajasthan since 2000. He has also published articles on popular music aesthetics, and on music pedagogy. He is an active performer of both European and Indian classical music.


1. Napier, ‘A song they sing themselves, about themselves: Songs of the Nāth Jogis’, in Varsha Joshi and Surjit Singh (eds), Culture, Communities and Change (Rawat Publications, Jaipur, 2002).

2. The most comprehensive document on the Gorakh Nāth Jogis remains that of George Weston Briggs, GorakhNāth and the Kānphata Yogis ( Calcutta : YMCA Publishing House, 1934. Rpt. Delhi, Motilal Banarsidas, 1973).

3. See Ann Grodzins Gold, Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani Pilgrims (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988). Rose writes that ‘ in theory any Hindu can become a Jogi, but in practice only those of the twice-born castes are admitted in the order. In theory caste is abandoned on entering it, and as marriage is, in theory, forbidden, no question as to caste can arise in connection with it. But as marriage is in practice tolerated the original caste is preserved in practice for matrimonial purposes’. ‘After initiation… he may relapse and, breaking his vow of celibacy, become a secular Jogi’. Thus on the surface, becoming a Kānphata would be no more likely for a Jogi than for any other. In Alwar district, most Kānphatas are said to have been drawn from the upper castes, and Jogis themselves suggest that only a few of their own number have become Kānphatas. ‘Though professing Jogis are forbidden to marry, many of them do so, and it is impossible to disentangle the Jogis who abandon celibacy from those who do not profess it at all and form a caste. . . . A Jogi who marries is treated with contempt by his brother Jogis. . . . Grihisti Jogis retain many outward signs of the professing Jogi’. H. A. Rose, (Compiler), A Glossary of the tribes an Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province (Lahore: Civil and Military Gazette Press, 1911), pp.II-400, II-402, II-410.

4. For Gopicand and Bhartrihari, s ee Ann Grodzins Gold, A Carnival of Parting (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992). For Bhartrihari, see also Franklin Edgerton, Vikrama’s Adventures: or the thirty-two tales of the throne. Part 1. Cambridge Oriental Series, Vol 26. (Cambridge (Mass. ): Harvard University Press, 1926). The Mahadevji ka byāvalā is “Puranic”, in the broad sense of the word as denoting performances, as outlined by Matchett. Freda Matchett, ‘The Puranas’, in Gavin Flood (ed. ) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism ( Oxford : Blackwell, 2003), pp.129-132. The most characteristic written versions are given in the S iva and Skanda Puranas. It of course also appears as Kalidasa’s Kumarasambhavam. These works by no means exhaust the total Jogi repertoire.

5. This last story is inevitably performed on Monday nights in Sravan, (July-August) on other nights of that month, on other Monday nights of the year (in fact one performer whom I recorded on several occasions has performed this story every Monday night for the past eight years at a small temple within the old town of Alwar), or in fact at almost any time at which someone cares to patronise a performance of all or part of the work. This last instance may include a patron in the guise of an Australian ethnomusicologist.

6. See Komal Kothari, in Rustom Bharucha, Rajasthan, an oral history ( New Delhi : Penguin, 2003), p.53.

7. Note the conflation of sect, caste and class.

8. M. A. Sherring, Hindu tribes and castes as represented in Banares ( London : n. p. 1872), p.259.

9. M. A. Sherring, Hindu tribes and castes: An account of the Mohomedan tribes of the North-West Frontier and of the aboriginal tribes of the Central Provinces ( London : n. p. 1879), p.191.

10. Op. cit., p.II-389.

11. W. Crooke, The Tribes and Castes of the North Western Province and Oudh (Calcutta: n.p. 1896), p.III-59. This information, the most explicitly ‘criminal’ description of the Jogis, is based on 1867, 68, and 69 reports of the inspector general of Police, North- West provinces. Ibid. p.III-61.

12. Op. cit. p.II-389, II-410.

13. There is some evidence for this. Risley writes that ‘in India , as in mediaeval Europe , the hypocrisy, the immorality and the shameless rapacity of ascetics and religious mendicants move the indignation of the proverbial philosopher’. Later he cites ‘popular proverbs’: ‘when his crop has been burnt the Jat becomes a fakir. . . . . A king, a Jogi, fire, and water are not to be trusted’. Herbert Risley,The People of India (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1915), pp.143, 324-5. The citation of proverbs demonstrates that responsibility for these assessments attitude cannot be laid solely at the feet of the colonial ethnographers and administrators.

14. Roma Chatterji, ‘The Category of Folk’ in Veena Das (ed.) The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology ( New Delhi : Oxford University Press, 2003), p.568.

15. A version of this story is offered by Rose. ‘The Jangam, or Jogi-Jangam as he is sometimes called in contra-distinction to the Jogi proper, originated thus: When Śiva married Parbati no one would accept alms at his hands, so he created a man from his thigh (jang) and, giving him alms, promised him immortality but declared he should live by begging. . . . Another version is that Shiva at his wedding created two recipients of his alms, one, Jangam, from the sweat of his brow, the other, Lingam, from his thigh’. Op. Cit. pp.II-408-409.

16. Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London: Temple Smith, 1978), pp. 65-77)

17. David Harker, Fakesong (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985), pp.165, 167, 168, 189.

18. Harker has not gone unchallenged, empirically and ideologically, and from both Left and Right. See C. J. Bearman, ‘Percy Grainger, the phonograph and the Folk Song Society’, in Music and Letters,Vol. 84, no. 3 (August 2003), pp. 434-55, and Georgina Boyes’ review in Popular Music, Vol. 6, no. 3 (September 1987), pp.346-50.

19. I should note that in other contexts, Dixitji has also proved to be less than comfortable with the bawdy and its wide dissemination. He is not alone in this. Manuel, for example, notes complaints about widespread appropriation and dissemination of women’s songs, with elements of masala and female intra-group sexual discourse. He talks of a masculinization of folk music, not only in the fact that such thoughts are now given a literally male voice, and the texts are distorted to favour male fantasy Peter Manuel, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993), p.175.

20. In the chakra dance, a young woman wears a headdress of 108 oils lamps. In the ghumar dance, a young woman performs various contortions and movements whilst balancing a collection of pots on her head. The sapera dance has become ubiquitous at tourist events since its use in the film Latcho Drom.

21. Sharmaji acts as a mediator in a second sense, one that Burke has problematised: she collects material from a wide range of areas to which she is not ‘native’, and teaches it herself.

22. Lauri Honko, ‘The Kaleval and Myths’ in the Nordic Institute of Folklore Newsletter, Vol. 12, no. 4 (1984-5), pp.2-3. Quoted in Georgina Boyes, The Imagined Village : Culture, ideology and the English Folk Revival (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p.3.

23. Roma Chatterji, op. cit. pp. 567, 569.

24. Ibid. p. 568.

25. Johannus Fabian, Time and the other (New York: Columbia, 1983), p.31.

26. Allen, M.H. ‘Tales Tunes Tell: Deepening the Dialogue between “Classical” and “Non-Classical” in the Music of India ‘, in Yearbook for Traditional Music , Vol. 30 (1998), p. 22.

27. Op cit. p.74.

28. In an as yet unpublished paper, I examine how subaltern and conservative elements are juxtaposed within Kishori Nāth’s performance: I believe this and other juxtapositions enable multiple ways of hearing the performance, which presents in an active heteroglossia.

29. Arjun Appadurai, ‘Public Culture’, in Veena Das (ed.) The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology ( New Delhi : Oxford University Press, 2003), p.659.


Allen, M.H. ‘Tales Tunes Tell: Deepening the Dialogue between “Classical” and “Non-Classical” in the Music of India ‘, in Yearbook for Traditional Music , Vol. 30 (1998), pp. 22-52.

Appadurai, Arjun. ‘Public Culture’, in Veena Das (ed.) The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology ( New Delhi : Oxford University Press, 2003), pp.654-74.

Bearman, C. J. ‘Percy Grainger, the phonograph and the Folk Song Society’, in Music and Letters, Vol. 84, no. 3 (August 2003), pp.434-55.

Bharucha, Rustom. Rajasthan, an oral history: Conversations with Komal Kothari ( New Delhi : Penguin, 2003).

Boyes, Georgina . Review of David Harker, Fakesong: The manufacture of British ‘folksong’ 1700 to the present day (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985). In Popular Music, Vol. 6, no. 3 (September 1987), pp.346-50.

Briggs, George Weston. GorakhNāth and the Kānphata Yogis Religious Life of India Series. ( Calcutta : YMCA Publishing House, 1934. Rpt. Delhi : Motilal Banarsidas, 1973).

Chatterji, Roma, ‘The Category of Folk’ in Veena Das (ed.) The Oxford India Companion to Sociology and Social Anthropology ( New Delhi : Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 567-97.

Crooke, W. The Tribes and Castes of the North Western Province and Oudh (Calcutta: n.p., 1896). Reprinted as The Tribes and Castes of the North Western India (Delhi: Cosmo, 1975). Page numbers are from the reprint edition.

Edgerton, Franklin . Vikrama’s Adventures: or the thirty-two tales of the throne. A collection of stories about King Vikrama, as told by the thirty-two statuettes that supported his throne.Edited in four different rescensions in the Sanskrit original (Vikrama-charita or Sinhasana-Dvatrincaka ) and translated into English with an introduction. Part 1. Cambridge Oriental Series, Vol. 26. (Cambridge [Mass.]: Harvard University Press, 1926).

Fabian , Johannus, Time and the other (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983).

Gold, Ann Grodzins. Fruitful Journeys: The Ways of Rajasthani Pilgrims (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988).

______ A Carnival of Parting (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992).

Harker, David Fakesong: The manufacture of British ‘folksong’ 1700 to the present day (Milton Keynes: Open University Press, 1985).

Honko, Lauri. ‘The Kaleval and Myths’ in the Nordic Institute of Folklore Newsletter, Vol. 12, no. 4 (1984-5). Quoted in Boyes, Georgina . The Imagined Village : Culture, ideology and the English Folk Revival (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1993), p.3.

Manuel, Peter, Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Matchett, Freda. ‘The Puranas’, in Gavin Flood (ed.) The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism ( Oxford : Blackwell, 2003), pp.129-43.

Napier, John. ‘A song they sing themselves, about themselves: Songs of the Nāth Jogis’, in Varsha Joshi and Surjit Singh (eds), Culture, Communities and Change (Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2002).

Risley, Herbert The People of India (2 nd Edition, ed. W. Crooke). (Calcutta: Thacker, Spink and Co., 1915). Page numbers are from the second edition.

Rose, H.A. (Compiler), A Glossary of the tribes an Castes of the Punjab and North-West Frontier Province . Based on the Census Report for the Punjab, 1883, by the late Sir Denzil Ibbetson, K.C.S.I., and the Census Report for the Punjab, 1892, by the Hon. Mr. E.D. MacLagan, C.S.I. (Lahore: Civil and Military Gazette Press, 1911).

Sherring, M.A. Hindu tribes and castes as represented in Banares (London: n. p, 1872). (Reprinted Delhi: Cosmo, 1974). Page numbers are from the reprint edition.

Sherring, M.A. Hindu tribes and castes: An account of the Mohomedan tribes of the North-West Frontier and of the aboriginal tribes of the Central Provinces (London: n. p., 1879) (Reprinted Delhi: Cosmo, 1974). Page numbers are from the reprint edition.

If you would like to contribute to this discussion, please email [email protected]