This module is part of series of modules on performing genres from Chhattisgarh. They seek to reflect the richness of oral epics and folklore traditions from this region, and the modes in which they are performed and recited. The focus is the documentation of the entire epic or tale known orally to a performing artist, as also the shifting contexts of performing these forms over the past 50 years.
Dasmat Kaina is a Chhattisgarhi tale. The story revolves around the life and character of Dasmat, the youngest of seven daughters of Raja Bhoj (referencing the legendary eleventh century Paramar ruler), referred to as kaina, or ‘dear girl-child’. This term of endearment underscores the special place this young princess has in the folklore of Chhattisgarh, for her indomitable spirit in the face of misfortune and eventual tragic death. In the manner of the Shakespearean play King Lear, Dasmat is spurned by her father for failing to pander to his ego. She is married to a poor Odiya labourer, but turns the fortunes of the family, and that of the entire Odiya community, around with her ingenuity. The Odiya clan makes her their queen, but the story ends in tragedy despite this dramatic reversal of fortune. Dasmat is driven to suicide by the Odiya king’s desire for her, and jumps into fire, along with her husband and eventually the king as well.
This module is based on the recitation of this poignant tale by Rekha Devar. Devars are a nomadic and bardic community, whose livelihoods were supported in the past by local rulers and merchants. The loss of this support has reduced them to states of penury now. Rekha Devar is amongst the few from this community whose musical and performative talents have been recognised and acclaimed. An interview with her presents the efforts through which the repertoire of the Devars has been preserved as well as transformed into a professional performative idiom. The module also locates the tale within the landscape of Chhattisgarh, tracing sites associated with this story and the Odhar (Odiya) community that claims this story as its own.
This content has been created as part of a project commissioned by the Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh, to document the cultural and natural heritage of the state of Chhattisgarh.