Folklore of Raja Salhesh in Bihar

in Module
Published on: 28 September 2018

Sunil Kumar

Sunil Kumar is an independent cultural journalist, art researcher and art film maker based in Ghaziabad. Experiencing himself as a tool of mainstream media, where space for art writing and production of art shows is constantly shrinking, he never gave up his efforts to find options to showcase art and art matters. Having almost 14 years of experience in journalistic background, he is engaged with audio-visual and photo documentation of various tangible and intangible folk-art forms of Bihar, that also includes recording of archival interviews of living legends and oral histories of art traditions. He is recipient of Dinkar Puraskar (Bihar Kala Samman) 2017 for his writings on visual art.

‘Raja Salhesh’ is one of the most popular folklores of Bihar with its representation in different art forms like folk painting, folk theatre or folk songs. The hero of the folklore, Raja Salhesh, is revered by the Dusadh caste as a god with magical powers. The first documentation, which is available in print format, was done by British colonial official and scholar George A. Grierson in 1882. Today, he is remembered as a Dalit who had to endure insults and discrimination on his way to becoming a powerful king. Morals of Salhesh and the honour he earned by winning battles against upper caste kings are a major source of pride for the Dusadh community. But the subject of social pride and visual imagination is adversely impacted by the daily needs of life. Then, transformation begins, in theatre and painting. Today, these practices are on the decline because only few artists are practicing Salhesh theatre and painting and the number is decreasing very fast.