Pandvani Histories I

in Module
Published on: 17 June 2019

Pandvani is one of the most celebrated forms of folklore from Chhattisgarh. In recent recent years its popularity outside this region owes much to the lauded performer Teejan Bai. Known mostly as a regional/ folk version of the Mahabharata, its terms of relationship with the Sanskrit epic are little known. A series of modules on this genre from Chhatttisgarh excavate this relationship and charter the course of its narratives.

Before it became a professional performative genre, the Pandavani  was oral lore that circulation in this region. Initially there were stories that belonged to the Gond adivasis of this region. They sang of Bheem as a  hero who played the mandar baja and brought rain. There were also stories that linked the Pandavas to this region. These narratives belong to the pre history of the Mahabharata and may well have fed into it.  Later,  episodes from the epic of the Mahabharata travelled to this region and were sung by bardic. 'lower caste'  communities.  The Vasudevas, the Devars and Satnamis, for instance,  regularly narrated episodes from the epic in versions that reflected regional identity.

As with other narrative genres from this region, the Pandavani came to be performed as a professional performative genre in this region. The trajectory of this transformation follows the lead of several remarkable individual performers. While Jhaduram Devangan occupies a iconic status in this region, and is credited with suturing the narrative together, there were other legendary performers of the Pandavani whose roles are slowly fading from public memory. The modules attempt to piece together stories of and in the Pandavani.


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.