Composing Kings in Old and New Rajasthan
This chapter presents Bhat ballads featuring linguistically talented bards who dominate and control their lords and benefactors. Bhat praise of kings and patrons in their practice as well as in their myths and epics is less an acknowledgment of Rajput (former feudal landlords of Rajasthan) or Kshatriya (Warrior) supremacy — be it based on generous patronage, martial sacrifice, or some other virtue — and more a Bhat tactic for establishing their own importance as cunning bards who themselves defend and protect their patron-lords. In shifting the focus from patrons to the insights of the author’s bardic informants and the power of linguistic representation, this chapter hopes to draw more explicit attention to the imaginative dimensions of caste hierarchies and the arbitrariness of social centers and peripheries, It also argues that Bhat poetics parallel many of the insights of contemporary postmodern and poststructuralist theories. This chapter ends by exploring the manner Bhats use stories and puppet dramas placing themselves in close relationship to kings and nobles to help them appropriate the roles and statuses associated with royal bards, which in turn enables them to better exploit the modern tourist industry.
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