Context: Discussing the rich tradition of storytelling or Qissagoi in the country, Prime Minister said that India has nurtured the tradition of Hitopadesh and Panchatantra, which impart wisdom through an imaginary world of animals, birds and fairies.
- ‘Villu paat’ in Tamil Nadu and Kerala, which is a confluence of story and music, and also talked about the vibrant tradition of Kathputli.
Qissagoi/ Storytelling, was not a mere means of passing time in the Pre-independence era; rather it was an important source of entertainment.
- Listening to stories narrated by professional raconteurs, known as Qissagohs, was an essential aspect of courts and gatherings.
- The practice of storytelling had such a stronghold in Lucknow that there was no affluent household, which did not have its own appointed Qissagoh.
- Qissa was a short tale, one that could be finished in a day whereas Daastaan was a longer tale, which could go on over a week, month or even a year.
- The word Dastangoi refers to the art of storytelling, in Urdu, performed by either one or two people.
- It is a compound of two Persian words Dastan and goi which means to tell a Dastan.
- Dastans were epics, often oral in nature, which was recited or read aloud, Telling tales of adventure, magic and warfare.
- It originated in pre-Islamic Arabia in the 13thcentury and was extremely popular among the elites and commoners of Delhi and Lucknow.
- Heavily inspired by the verse epic Shahnameh, dastans eventually evolved into an adventure involving djinns, fantastic beasts, demons, parties (fairies), princesses, magicians, evil kings and wizards. Dastans are epic narratives and their performers are Dastangos.
- Hamzah ibn Abd-ul Muttalib( Most popular Dastan).
- It narrates the tales of Amir Hamza, the uncle of Prophet Mohammed, and his childhood friend Amar Ayyar, a trickster
The Dastan in India
- By the sixteenth century, versions of the Hamza story had begun to circulate in India.
- It is thought to have come first to the Deccan region in southwestern India, and with the Mughal emperor Humayun when he returned from Iran.
- Slowly, the Dastangoi began absorbing Indian culture and tradition, and artists began using Urdu in their performances.
- The art form reached its peak in the late 16th and early 17th century under Emperor Akbar, known for his ambitious project of combining Hinduism and Islam into one world religion and for his encouragement of the arts and literature.
- Akbar himself was exceedingly fond of the narrative and used to recite it himself. The emperor also commissioned the first artistic project based on Amir Hamza’s tales of adventure, called the “Hamzanama”[the epic of Hamza].
- In Iran/Persia, these stories were musically rendered. But Indian Dastangoi, on the other hand, “didn’t use any music or props. There was just one seated performer, who sometimes went on for hours, and sometimes for weeks and months.