To Eric Miller's homepage

Submitted in December 2000 for the course, History of Folklore Studies, at the University of Pennsylvania.  (This paper is approximately 30 pages.) 

"Tamil Folklore Studies: The Contemporary Scene and its Background"

by Eric Miller

Near the far south end of the Indian sub-continent, in a region considered by many to be one of the richest folklore areas in Tamil Nadu, is St. Xavier’s College (in Palayamkottai, near the city of Tirunelveli).  With five full-time professors, St. Xavier’s College has the largest Folklore Dept. in Tamil Nadu.  Since 1996, this Dept. has been publishing a fine very eclectic journal entitled, South Indian Folklore. For many years, the Dept. was headed by S. Lourdu, who was passionately involved with the question of the nature of Tamil Nadu’s bards (epic-chanters), past and present, and the issue of to what degree they employed and employ the oral-formulaic method of composition, as described by Parry and Lord.  Today, the Dept. is headed by F. Jayapathy, who is surrounded by a lively group doing work on subjects such as the performance of local fishermen’s songs and the semiotic analysis of folktales.

Four hours to the north by bus or train is the central city of Madurai.  Here, Saraswathi Venugopal directs the Folklore Dept. of Madurai Kamaraj University.  Venugopal has specialized in the collecting and analyzing of women’s folksongs, especially lullabies and mourning songs.  She finds much sociological information in these songs, including indications of social change.  The songs refer to all the minutiae of everyday life: the lullabies, addressed to those whose lives have just begun, look forward to the future; while the mourning songs, addressed to those whose lives have recently ended, review the past.

I. Muthiah, another professor at Madurai Kamaraj U., is busy combing through classic ethnographies of Tamil culture written by foreigners.  He attention is particularly on Milton Singer’s work.  Singer used the dialectic, “Great tradition” and “Little traditions.”1   Muthiah feels that these terms could be misleading.2   For one thing, they might place value judgments on the traditions.  For another, if a general type of local tradition is found all over the state (and beyond), it is not “Little,” at least not in the geographical sense.  Muthiah is mulling over what might be a more appropriate dialectic:  he is considering “Sanskritized vs. local,” “Sanskritized vs. Dravidian,” or “institutionalized vs. folk.”  The terms, “local” and “Dravidian” here also have their problems: again, if a general tradition is found throughout a region, it is not just local; and the local may be a mix of Dravidian and other cultures, including the Australoid tribal.  In such a way, Muthiah is proceeding with the very important work of developing terminology that would frame the study of Tamil folk culture.

Two hours further to the north is Thanjavur, home of Tamil University.  Here S. Sakthival, directs the Folklore Dept.  He has done fieldwork with Kota tribal people in the mountains that border the west side of Tamil Nadu.  He also has published numerous articles and books in which he has described the many Western approaches to the study of folklore.3   He points out that since these theories have grown out of the study of non-Indian (not to mention non-Tamil) folklore, one should be especially careful when applying them to the local phenomena.4   He calls for scholars to develop theories based on local folklore. 

Along the eastern coast, at the north end of the state (eight hours north of Thanjavur) is the big city, Chennai, formerly called Madras.  This city functions as a gateway to the far south, and conversely, as the gateway for those going north and out of the country altogether.

The University of Madras (it keeps the old name, for now at least) has no Folklore Dept.  However, folklore is studied in a number of other departments.  V. Arasu, a professor in the Tamil Literature Dept., writes about the singers of Ganapattu, a popular singing style that has brought a measure of fame to the slum areas in north Chennai.  In the Education Dept., Subbalaksmi Subbuarumugam is working on a Ph.D. on the educational uses of Villupattu (she is a daughter of Subbu Arumugam, the state’s premiere modernizer and performer of Villupattu, a genre of epic-chanting/ballad-singing).

M. S. S. Pandian is a Fellow at the Madras Institute of Development Studies.  A scholar in a wide range of social sciences, Pandian has taught at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London and at various universities in the USA.  One of his books, The image trap: M. G. Ramachandran in film and politics,contains a very insightful analysis of how stories from the oral tradition have been transformed for use in commercial cinema.5 

Also in Chennai is the office of India’s National Folklore Support Centre, founded and directed by M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, a recent Ph.D. graduate of the far south’s St. Xavier’s College.  The NFSC is a nation-wide organization, funded by the Ford Foundation (whose head Indian office is in New Delhi).  The title of Muthukumaraswamy’s editorial essay in the first issue of Indian Folklife,the NFSC’s newsletter, is, “Let Us Break the Lines.”6   He would “expand the conventional boundaries of the discipline of folklore to have a bearing, say, upon urban studies, art history, and environmental studies.”7 

This quick survey of folklore studies (by Tamil scholars) in Tamil Nadu is far from complete.  For example, I hear that professors and students at Anamalai University (in the mountains in the northwest of the state) are quite active in folklore studies, but I have no further details at this time.  Sadly, I have yet to visit that site, as I have visited those described above, so I cannot give a personal report.  Nonetheless, this survey begins to give a sense of the range of activity that is occurring.  In the balance of this paper, I will tell more about the work of the contemporary scholars mentioned above, as well as that of contemporary foreign scholars, and I will review the history of Tamil folklore studies.  This history will bring out some of the enduring themes and issues that have developed around the study of folklore in this extremely folklore-rich region of the world.  It is my hope that this review will make more clear what contemporary folklore scholars are doing, where they are coming from and where they are going, and how they are building on or moving in opposition to the various traditions of folklore scholarship. 

Among the issues that will be explored are: 

Who has conducted folklore studies?  What have been the motivations  of these individuals?

What have been the natures of the relations between folklore scholars  and others members of society, including the government? 

Where has the funding come from?  What sort of direction and control  has come with that funding? 

What are folklore scholars’ attitudes towards and involvement in  various types of applied folklore? 

However, before reviewing the history of Tamil folklore studies, I will contextualize the discussion in two ways: 1) I will briefly describe the geography of Tamil Nadu, the races from which Tamils have derived, and basic cultural characteristics; 2) I will discuss Herder’s concept of the personality of nations, and Hallowell’s call for objectivity in scholarship.

1)  Geographical, Racial, and Cultural Basics

Tamil Nadu lies on the east side of the south end of the Indian sub-continent.  Generally-speaking, Tamil Nadu’s three geographic zones, from east to west, are: littoral (seashore), plains (used largely for agriculture), and mountainous forest.

Of India’s approximately one billion people, 60 million are Tamils.  Tamil Nadu is one of the four states of southern India, the other three being Kerala (to the west), Karnataka (to the northwest), and Andhra Pradesh (to the north).  There are 21 major languages in India: those spoken in the four southern states are derived from ancient-Tamil, while the 17 northern languages are derived from Sanskrit.

According to the most commonly held academic construction, four races constitute the bedrock of the people of Tamil Nadu.  The first two to arrive were what used to be called Negroid and Asian-Australoid peoples: they are short in stature and tend to have flat noses and kinky hair.  Such people continue to live in the mountainous areas of western Tamil Nadu and are classified as tribals by the Indian government (although certainly not all tribal peoples in those mountains are of this type).  Archeological evidence suggests that ancestors of these people have lived in the area for 500,000 years.  It is unknown if they came from Africa, the Malaysia- Australia area, or if they are truly indigenous to south India.8 

The second wave were Dravidians.  The Dravidians are a Palaeo-Mediterannean people.9   They may be descendants of the Elamite people mentioned in the bible, and as such may be related to the ancient Sumerians and Mesopotamians, as well as to the peoples and cultures around the eastern Mediterranean such as those of ancient Egypt and Crete.  The Mohenjo-Dharo and Harappa city-states, which flourished until 4,000 years ago in what is now Pakistan, were almost certainly part of the Dravidian civilization that at its height ranged from the Tigris Euphrates Valley all the way to south India.10  This would mean that the Tamils are direct descendants of one of the world’s first civilizations, the one on which Western civilization is based.  According to this construction, Dravidians began to settle in India approximately 6,000 years ago.

Although there are many other theories, this construction posits that it was approximately 4,000 years ago that the Aryan people arrived in India.  They came to be known as Brahmins: they spoke Sanskrit and had holy oral texts called Vedas.  Only Brahmin men were allowed to recite the Vedas and officiate as priests.  The Dravidians in the north of India were overwhelmed militarily, politically, culturally, and linguistically, although they continued to constitute the great majority of the population; in the south, the Dravidians successfully resisted and maintained dominance.

As a result of the mixture of these four distinct races, there is an incredibly wide range of facial types and skin colors among Tamils today.  Especially confusing to foreigners accustomed to thinking in terms of Black and White are the many Tamils who have “European-type” features (thin noses, staright hair, etc.) and extremely dark skin.

From earliest times, the Tamils were famed as seafarers: as a result, today there are large Tamil populations in Singapore and Malaysia.  Also, cities along Tamil Nadu’s east coast were known as international trading sites, attracting the ancient Chinese as well as ancient Greeks and Romans.

Many Indian people will readily state that there are differences between north and south Indian culture, but few can put these differences into words.  George Hart, a USA scholar, offers these introductory thoughts:

The ancient Tamils..believed in the sacramental character of life:  anything associated with the production or ending of life was felt to  contain a potentially dangerous power...  These powers were thought  to be capricious and dangerous: it was thought they needed to be  controlled and bounded.  There were three agents whom this power  especially touched and who were thought to be especially dangerous.   The first was woman: as the source of human fertility, woman was  considered extremely powerful and, under certain conditions, quite  dangerous...  The second was the low-caste person whose daily tasks  brought him into daily contact with death.  Thus the leather worker,  the drummer (who officiated at funeral rites), the barber, the   washerman, the fisherman, and others who were charged with contact  with death, or with dead substances, had to be segregated  from other  people lest they pass on their charge to others who did not possess  their special fitness to receive it.  The final agent of the sacred...was  the king.11

One important characteristic of indigenous south Indian religion is that  it was not concerned with otherworldly places or figures.   Indeed, it  appears to have had virtually no mythology and no coherent notion of  another world.  Rather, everything was oriented around human beings:  the sacred was something experienced by human beings in the course  of their daily life that became present in people or in everyday things (the king, a menstruous woman, a drum, a pariah, etc.).12 

I would add that place is extremely important to Tamil-based religion, whereas, for example, Sanskrit-based religion is more transcendent of place.  In Tamil Nadu, each place has its own divinities, often a goddess.  It is taken for granted that other places will have their own divinities; and moreover, all other divinities can be seen as the children of one’s own goddess.  Such a system is much much tolerant of others’ beliefs than is strict Judeo-Christian-Islam religion, which posits that there is one father god, and that all those who do not worship him are deluded and are destined to go to hell. 

2) Herder’s Celebration of Differences and Hallowell’s Call for Objectivity

Johann Herder (1744-1803) was one of the early developers of the concept of folklore.  Herder’s work is premised on the idea that each people (in his terms, “nation”) has its own unique character.  He proclaimed that the essence of a people could be found most of all in its folklore, especially in the form and content of its verbal arts.  He encouraged each generation to rediscover and reinterpret its folklore.  Most of all, he insisted on the right of each people to determine its own destiny in accord with its own innate potentialities.13 

According to Herder, a primary task of the folklorist is to bring out his/her people’s character, so that the public might become more aware of its character and be better able to celebrate it.  Herder, a German folklorist, stressed the need for purity and isolation: his vision of Germany was that it should be cleansed of all foreign influences.

What then is the character of the Tamil people?  Some preliminary thoughts have been given above.  For one thing, it would seem that to some degree, Tamil culture, having been composed from a number of elements, and having enjoyed the benefits of international trade from ancient times, has incorporated a certain sense of multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism into its identity.  Certainly there are also exclusionist and isolationist tendencies in Tamil culture.  Of course, it is up to Tamil folklorists as to which aspects of the Tamil character they will study and highlight.

Here I would pose a philosophical question:  Is it possible to develop one’s unique personality and at the same time be perfectly objective?

In his 1965 article, “The history of anthropology as an anthropological problem,” Irving Hallowell challenges the social scientists -- and by implication, all people -- of the world to be objective.  He claims that Western anthropologists have achieved this condition:

If we look for the most authoritative answers to anthropological   questions in both societies other than our own and in the earliest  phase of Western culture, we are most likely to find them embedded in a the cognitive orientation of a people, in their culturally constituted worldview, from which they have not been abstracted and articulated.  The persons most concerned with such matters are priests, theologians...or their equivalents.  The kind of knowledge possible in  this type of tradition is limited by its dogmatic character, in the absence of any motivations which encourage independent or objective inquiry.  In Western culture we know that radical changes occurred in the course of a few centuries and that this level of knowledge was transcended: A secular view of the world was based on independent  inquiry arose to challenge the traditionally sanctioned one    transcended.14 

In addition,

In early Western culture, the level of knowledge represented in the traditional Christian worldview is equivalent to folk anthropology.  It was culturally constituted, untested knowledge about man and his world, reinforced by socially sanctioned religious values which gave it the stamp of ultimate truth.  This is the known cultural base line against which shifts from a level of folk anthropology in the direction of more reliable, objective, tested knowledge about man can be documented.  It is in this respect that the culture history of the West provides the record of a unique experience in the history of man’s awareness of himself.15 

Hallowell is perhaps a bit premature in declaring victory over dogma in Western culture.  For example, each piece of USA paper and metal currency still has, “In God We Trust,” printed on it.  In each USA courtroom, these words are displayed on the wall.  It is very rare that a person who has admitted that he/she has not experienced or does not believe in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic god, or in any god at all, can be elected to public office.  Those who are “godless” are considered, by the authoritative voices of the public sphere, to be morally suspect and must remain in the closet in this respect if they wish to advance to high echelons in many fields.

Even in Western academia, the claim to objectivity is not certain.  The class interests of Western academics (most especially, white men) may be served and perpetuated by their practices.  For one thing, the stated goal of knowledge for knowledge’s sake is contestable: this approach may function to discourage scholars from applying the results of their research to the improving of conditions among the populace.  “Pure research” is a privileged upper-class concept.  The idea that one is studying just for the sake of knowledge implies that all is pretty much well in the world, and that there is no sense of urgency to undo injustice or alleviate suffering.

I must acknowledge that a number of students in India have expressed frustration to me that they are forced to prove that which their professors want proven, that is, the conclusions are presented to them before they have had a chance to gather evidence, certainly before they have had a chance to formulate for themselves what questions should be asked.

On the other hand, it may be that were scholars around the world to adopt the selfless, objective approach that Hallowell seems to advocate, this could lead to the acceleration of colonial hegemony.  Objectivity may be useful for the researchers themselves, but history shows us that this is not necessarily the approach of the governments and corporations that may help to pay for the research and benefit from its findings.  This is only to add a caution to Hallowell’s call for full disarmament of all nationalistic and ideological stances of scholars: sometimes it is those stances that help save peoples from domination.

Surely, objectivity--the practice of social science on the basis of curiosity and discovery--is a fine goal.  But learning so that one can help one’s subjects, and so that the knowledge one finds can enrich the entire community--these are also fine goals.  Involved here are questions:   Who and what is scholarship for?  Is it for the curiosity of the individual scholar? For the good of the community?  For the good of the nation?  How can these goods best be achieved?  Folklore scholarship in Tamil Nadu has answered these questions in many ways.  This is all by way of introducing a review of the history of folklore studies in Tamil Nadu, a project that I will now finally begin.

History of Folklore Studies in Tamil Nadu

Jawaharlal Handoo writes that there have been three periods of folklore studies in India: the Missionary-Administrative, the Nationalistic, and the Academic.16   In considering Tamil folklore studies, I would modify this schema in two ways:  First, I would add a prior category: before the discipline of folklore was invented in Europe, Tamil literati collected and even published folklore.  Second, I would substitute the term, Post-Independence, for Academic, for as we shall see, during both the Nationalistic and Post-Independence periods, the promotion of Tamil culture, if not Tamil cultural nationalism, has been a preoccupation of many Tamil folklorists.  To these Tamil cultural nationalists, folklore work has been something more, or other than, an academic activity.

Collection of folklore prior to the academic discipline of folklore

Ten anthologies of poems have survived from Tamil Nadu’s fabled Sangam Age (1,800-2,200 years ago).  These poems give us a great deal of sociological information, including about the court poets and various types of bards.  It seems there was a good deal of interchange between court poets, court bards, and folk bards:

The learned poets drew a great deal of material from the then existing  oral songs of the bards...  Court bards organized themselves into troupes and traveled from place to place and entertained the patrons  and the people wherever they went.  Their themes...drew upon the local history or the popular folklore.17 

Thus, the court poets collected material from the court and folk bards and transformed it into the written medium.  These poet-collectors cannot be said to have been scholars, for their purpose was not to analyze the folklore but rather to appropriate and recycle it. 

Some of the literati were advocates for the folk, not just disinterested collectors: 

The learned poets attached to the courts looked down upon the rural folk.  But there lived freelance poets who had intimate links with the common folk and sympathized with their life.  They interpreted the life of the people to the kings and demanded justice for those who suffered.18 

One example of how the court poets worked with oral folklore is the following:

There is a species of ancient Tamil literature called Arruppattai, or Guide Song, in which a bard who had his rewards from a ruler or patron took sympathy on a group of bards whom he met on his way and guided them to the same ruler or patron to get themselves rid of their poverty.  In the written poems on this theme, the learned poets assumed the panegyric role of these bards, i.e, imagined themselves to be the bards in their poems.19

Not just the court poets, but the king himself made periodic forays into the wilderness: 

A property of the king is an association with the jungle.  It appears that a king had to have some kind of transaction with the wilderness  and the beings that inhabited it to acquire and hold his kingship.  Many transactions can be found: kings conquer the wilderness, appropriate its powers, tend its shrines and symbols.20

This principle is well illustrated in the central epic of the Tamil people, the Epic of the Anklet ( Silappathikaram).  A verse text of this legend has come down to us: it is linguistically determined to have been written between 1,200 and 1,600 years ago.  The text is attributed to Prince Ilango Adigal, a monk who lived in the western Tamil mountains.  (In those days, the far south was comprised of three Tamil kingdoms: the Chola on the east coast, the Pandya in the middle, and the Chera on the west.  The Chera land is the modern-day state of Kerala).  This monk was the brother of the king of the Chera land.  Once when the Chera king was traveling through the mountains, tribal girls told him of a mysterious woman who had recently come among them and who had soon after ascended to heaven.  They said that this woman was missing her left breast, and that she was a goddess of chastity.  The king assigned his brother, the monk, to collect the full story of the mysterious woman and write it as a book.  This the monk did.  It turned out that the woman, Kannagi, and her husband, had been born into a wealthy merchant caste in the great city of Poompuhar, on the east coast.  They had walked to the central town of Madurai.  There the husband had been unjustly killed by the local king: as a result, Kannagi had cursed the city and the god of fire had burned it for her, upon which Kannagi had wandered further west, finally to the mountains.  In the course of telling this story, Prince Ilango Adigal includes the texts of many folksongs sung and danced by folk and tribal peoples who met and helped Kannagi along the way.  The author of this text had done a great deal of careful collecting and carefully translated the songs into the written word.  The resulting book has functioned as one of the central icons that, psychologically-speaking, holds Tamil society together: 

“The poet was aware that there were two types of cultural currents in his days: the classical and the folk.  He set himself to integrate the two in order that he might enrich the cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu.”21  “The poet in his universal sympathy for all classes sets out to blend and unite cultures in different stages of development.”22  Here, for the first time in Tamil culture, the role, or function, of the collector-writer is to show the people their relation to each other.

As history progressed in Tamil Nadu, folksongs would be appropriated by “educated” people (outside of academia) again and again: 

In medieval times, generally scholars had no respect for folksongs, but  the Saiva and Vaisnava saints...resorted to the forms of folksongs and made use of them in their hymns so as to appeal to the common man and speed up their Bhakti movement.23 

In ancient days, the bards used to go to the places of the kings and  patrons early in the morning and awaken them by singing pleasant sings praising their glory and bounteousness...  Later, during the Pallava and Chola periods, this had a spiritual turn and the devotees went to the temples and imagined to awaken the Lord by their devotional hymns...  These songs are still very popular and are recited in temples.  Later...the great national poet of this century, [Subramania] Bharati, has also sung an awakening song, but here the Goddess is Bharata Matha, i.e., Mother India, and the devotees are the people and leaders of the country.  Bharati composed it in the same form and metre.24

But now we are getting ahead of ourselves, for we must consider the Administrative-Missionary before the Nationalist Period.

The Missionary-Administrative Period

In this period, the collectors were almost universally Europeans members of the colonial project.  Although few were in academia, they did have other types of institutional affiliations: they were either British government workers, or missionaries.  One motivation of the folklore collectors among these people was to gather information that would make it easier to understand, rule, and convert the Indians.

During this period, the Germans, in their own country, combined folkloric research with education:

The German folklorist of the eighteenth century became the great  advisor in the art of governing, in correcting and improving the social  “body,” as well as maintaining it in a permanent state of order, health, and productivity.  The education of the populace was to be aided by the presence of the folklorist in the academies and learned societies as  counselors to representatives of power, as well as their participation in the production of textbooks and encyclopedias, which were distributed throughout the German empire in “an effort to fill the mind  of the youth with the correct knowledge of these things...  By the end of the eighteenth century, the procedures of power and administrative discipline had been integrated into a single mechanism:  The practice of folklore--with its methods of surveillance, research, and the gathering of information--became fused with teaching and education.  It was in this context that folklorists were able to transmit  disciplinary norms into every heart of the population.25 

The British in India were never this systematic in collecting, nor were they so preoccupied with using the “antiquities” they collected to educate the Indians.  One of the first publications of Tamil folklore in this period was Gover’s The folk-songs of southern Indiain 1871: this book contained hundreds of songs, edited and translated into English.

Beschi, Rottler, Rhenius, Pope, Winslow, Percival, Burrel were among the foreigners who contributed to the study and codification of the Tamil language in the 19th century: they published dictionaries, grammars, and translations of folk literature.  However, one foreign missionary, a Scotsman, Robert Caldwell (1814-1891), went a good deal further than the others.  It was his publication in 1856 of A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languagesthat triggered the Tamil/Dravidian cultural revival:

Caldwell not only coined then word, Dravidian, to describe the languages and peoples of south India, but also constructed, with the aid of the modern sciences of philology, archeology, and history, a new genealogy for the Dravidian languages, culture and people.  This genealogy was marked by its independence from and opposition to an Aryan/Brahmin language, culture and people.  Caldwell’s work provided a significant  “scientific” bulwark against the extremely one-sided Aryan/Sanskritic  portrayal of India at that time, and most importantly, it provided the rising class of non-Brahmins a significant ideological weapon against the Brahmin socio-cultural and intellectual hegemony in South India.26 

Caldwell stimulated the beginning of the Dravidian movement, which still exists--and dominates Tamil politics--today.  However, his work was not in the realm of folklore, but rather in philology and history.  Caldwell’s work prompted upper-class non-Brahmin scholars to resurrect ancient Tamil literary works, with which they would build a conception of an ancient Tamil classical civilization, the lead city being Poompuhar, birthplace of the aforementioned Kannagi and her husband.  (Poompuhar, legend has it, fell into the sea over 1,000 years ago.)

Scholars following in this tradition have not been interested in the rough, often raunchy and authority-challenging verbal arts of the living Tamil folk (including tribals).  They have wanted to present all things Tamil as being classical and literary.  The conflict in Tamil scholarship between presenting a pristine ideal and a raucous realism has continued to the present day. 

The Nationalistic Period

During the Nationalist Period, the Indian people began collecting their own folklore and using it as a unifying element against the British occupation.  At the same time, some Tamils began to use Tamil folklore as a unifying element against what they perceived as the north Indian occupation: however, the general consensus was that the most pressing matter of the day was to first of all expel the British.

Indian liberation political parties had drama associations.  Members of these drama groups would study folklore forms, and would replace traditional content with anti-British propaganda.  Often they would reenact British brutality in current events.  The troupes would go into the countryside, to perform for people even in the smallest rural villages.  It must be remembered that in the early days of the twentieth century in rural India, there was no radio, cinema, or electricity, and few people were literate (in any language): theater, singing, storytelling, and dancing therefore were the only means of mass communication.  The people who organized these events perhaps in the pure form of the term were not folklore “scholars” in that they did not study folklore for the sake of knowledge alone, but for the sake of persuading the folk.  In this sense, they were similar to the missionaries: it is only that they had a different message.

N.S. Krishnan (1902-1958) gained fame as a cinema comedian-singer.  It was he who first self-consciously used the folk epic-chanting/storytelling form, Villupattu, in a new way: he went about the state performing the story of Gandhi’s salt satyagraha (march) as a Villupattu.

The Post-Independence Period

The Indian government has largely subscribed to the idea of controlling many elements of its people’s cultural lives.  It learned this from the British, and also from the Soviet Union:

Folklore in the Soviet Union proceeds from the problems of social  order, from the understanding of the tremendously effective role of folklore, which in one way or another shapes the consciousness of the people and either contributes to the growth of socialist construction or hinders it.  Therefore, folklore scholarship could no longer be only an observer and recorder of the facts, but had to combine the tasks of scholarly understanding with the urgent tasks of social education.27

“All types of planning, depending on the forces and policies of nationalism, require selection.”28  To a large extent, the Indian government has modeled its folklore planning policy after its language planning policy:  “Although all planning pursues social goals, this is particularly true of cultural planning, a field to which language planning has particularly strong links.  Cultural planning  deals with publications, works of art, scientific and scholarly inquiry, musical productions, theatrical productions” and of course, education.29 

A Tamil nationalist political party, the Dravida Kazagham (DK), was formed in 1944.  An offshoot, the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (DMK), was founded in 1948 by two young playwrights-screenwriters, C. D. Annadurai and M. Karunanidhi.  These men were great orators: they developed a style of rhythmic and passionate speech, full of alliteration, which was based on aspects of both folk orality and classical literature.  The quest for Tamil nationhood was for the most part abandoned in the 1950s, when Tamil Nadu was made a state.  (Up to this time, Tamil Nadu and Andra Pradesh to the north had been one territory, which had incited passion in some Tamils to break away and achieve their own identity.)

Examples of the party propaganda that has surrounded the DMK can be found in a biography of Karunanidhi: 

The Tamils’ ancient tradition, leavened down through the centuries by a constant and lively interchange of ideas and experiences between the myriad races of the ancient world, led to a high degree of material prosperity in the wake of substantial trade with the nations and climaxed in the remarkable outbursts of literary and intellectual activity of the Sangam Age [1,800-2,200 years ago].30

Karunanidhi’s most valuable contribution to Tamil culture has been a  dramatic version of the Epic of the Anklet,which was also made into a film, Poompuhar,in 1961.  When he was undergoing imprisonment in a Trichy jail in 1953 [for leading protests against the imposition of the  north Indian Hindi language in Tamil schools], he had a chance to study  the ancient text.  Karunanidhi has said that “as long as the Epic of the  Ankletremains, the fame of Poompuhar, the greatness of Madurai, the  valor of Vanci, in short, the whole glory of Tamilians, shall ever remain undimmed.”31 

It should be noted that the Epic of the Anklethas long existed in oral folk traditions, parallel to the literary, cinema, TV, and Tamil government and education versions: the story means many different things to many different people. 

Cultural nationalist politicians such as Annadurai and Karunanidhi, although not academics, were members of the literati in the capital city, and as such had a great effect on the social-cultural-political scene.  They helped to set the tone for a combination of scholarship, entertainment, and political leadership that has operated in Tamil Nadu as in no other state in India and as in few other places in the world.  Why did Tamil popular culture develop in this way?  Part of the answer may lie in the fact that Tamil Nadu is at the far south end of the Indian subcontinent: together with Kerala, it is the last refuge of the “untouchables” and the “tribals” who were invaded from the north.  Thus, it is thesubaltern space of India, and in India one of the roles of the subaltern is to negotiate with the spirits of the earth, through song, dance and ritual.  At the same time, it is indeed the home of an ancient literary civilization.

The rise of the DMK after independence coincided with a widespread effort by the Indian government to place electricity in rural areas.  The availability of electricity for the first time enabled the showing of films in these small villages.  As many of the leaders of the DMK had been playwrights and screenwriters, throughout the 40s and 50s they helped to make commercial films with a Tamil-propoganda element.  These films borrowed much from the form and content of the oral tradition.  They were not just escapist: they functioned as propaganda against Brahminism.  The DMK colors, red and black, found their way into many films.  The advent of color made the red very visible.  My point is that when studying folklore, or the uses to which folklore has been put, in Tamil Nadu, we must pay close attention to the cinema, past and present. As mentioned, M. S. S. Pandian has done just that in The image trap: M.G. Ramachandran in film and politics.  Pandian explains in this book how in the movies made by the superstar and politician M. G. Ramachandran, the epic stories were “cleansed”: whereas in oral form the underclass hero would typically die a violent death at the hands of class oppressors and then be worshipped, in MGR’s movies the hero would triumph.32   Pandian adds that the people were hoodwinked by MGR and his backers: although MGR’s image was that of protector of the poor, in reality the poor lost a tremendous amount of ground during his political reign as chief minister (governor).

Karunanidhi--who has also been chief minister a number of times, and is again in that office today--founded a state-wide folk crafts franchise, named Poompuhar, after the ancient classical city.  Also, there is in Tamil Nadu a state folk arts agency by the name, Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Manram. This organization maintains lists of folk performers and helps arrange performances for political, civic, and tourist-related events.  The artists and performances that this organization endorses are only those that support the state and stay within the bounds of approved folk performance:

Although it is often argued that governments neglect oral art, in most cases they do not neglect it as such but rather keep it at a level that they can easily control and manipulate...  A well-nurtured oral art could unleash its potential to inform, educate, criticize, and influence audiences, and thus work against the interests of the ruling classes...  The manipulation of oral art for the benefit of the ruling classes, leads to its domestication and disempowerment.33 
K. Kailasapathy is a very important figure in the history of Tamil folklore, even though he was a literary critic.  Kailasapathy was the first to apply oral-formulaic theory to Tamil bardic poetry (he did not do fieldwork and did not refer to include present-day performers in his work).  Kailasapathy’s work was a major stimulus to N. Vanamamalai (1917-1980), and to the aforementioned D. Lordu, head of the Folklore Dept. at St. Xavier’s College, who did work with the living verbal arts and artists.  Vanamamalai was interested in the sociological meanings of the storylines, not so much the performance aspects of Villupattu.  It was Stuart Blackburn who would utilize all of these approaches in his work on Villupattu.

Vanamamalai was an independent folklorist in the Tirunelveli area.  It is not surprising that Vanamamalai worked outside of academia: it seems his approach and interests might have been too radical to be acceptable to the Indian government.  He founded a research group in 1968, and a journal, Aaraichi,in 1971.  In addition to promoting the use of Tamil language in schools and colleges, he paid special attention to the ballads that were and are performed in the Tirunelveli area.  He believed that “The primary requirement for research in this field is to collect all available manuscripts, and edit them and bring them out in book form,” and he did so with numerous editions.34 

These so-called ballads are in fact usually performed through the folk performance genre, Villupattu (Bow Song).  Villupattu involves a lead performer who alternately speaks, chants, and sings (when singing, he strikes the single string of a large bowed instrument); a secondary speaker at times engages in dialogue with the leader; and an additional four or five musicians (with instruments) repeat lines of chanting, and join in during the singing sections.  Typically, these performances are held in or beside temples which are dedicated to the spirits of these heroes, and the performance event culminates in possession: the spirit of the slain hero enters people present, both costumed dancers and regular audience members.  Thus narration functions as invocation, bringing the spirit of the hero into people present at the performance event.  After dancing, the possessed individuals speak in the voice of the hero, giving prophecies and answering questions.

At least in terms of performance style, Villupattu seems a far cry from what I associate with the singing of ballads in Great Britain or the USA.  It seems that the term, ballad, might have been applied here in order to raise the status of Villupattu, putting it on a similar level with ballads and ballad-singing in Great Britain.

In regard to content, many of the Villupattu stories concern local lower-caste men who broke caste rules (often by marrying an upper-caste woman, or by defending lower-caste women or land from appropriation by upper-caste men), and who were subsequently killed for doing so.  Vanamamalai brought to the analysis of such stories a strong Marxist viewpoint.  Here, the folklorist’s motivation has nothing to do with reconstructing an ideal, pristine Tamil past: in fact, in these stories a number of the local heroes are killed by upper-class (non-Brahmin) Tamils, people of the same dominant class whose members would have dominated in an ancient Tamil kingdom.

One innovation of Vanamamalai is the attention he pays to how folklore can change over time due to social pressures:  Blackburn tells of how Vanamamalai questioned a particular Villupattu artist about why a story had been changed.  The traditional story tells of a Brahmin hero who married two low-caste women and was eventually killed for doing so.  In the modified version, the two sisters were changed to having been originally been born Brahmins, but had been left in the forest as infants and then raised by low-caste people.  Vanamamalai discovered from the performer that his patron had pressured the performer to make this change: Vanamamalai also reports that the people had rejected this change and had demanded the “authentic” version.35 

As Vanamamalai puts it: 

The message of revolt against social barriers obstructing humanism and love strikes fear in the minds of the fanatics who desire to preserve caste structure.  They attempt to change the theme of the ballads by whittling down the spirit of revolt.  Thus they put into currency certain versions of the ballad of Muttuppattan in which the heroines become illegitimate children of a Brahmin woman...   But these fake ballads were rejected by the folks and soon they disappeared from circulation and currency.  The true folk ballads reflecting the values of the folks still continue to be current among them.36

In recognizing the role of the patron in affecting the performance, Vanamamalai took a great step in advancing folklore studies in Tamil Nadu.  Vanamamalai rejected the myth of folklore as “timeless, self-contained village traditions” and instead acknowledged the “cross-cutting cultural flows of the postcolonial present.”37   He faced the question, “How does folklore studies respond to the urbanization, mechanization, and cash economy that are reshaping Indian society?”38  He was joined in this new approach by scholars such as Saraswathi Venugopal, who notes the modern-day changes in mourning songs, including the references to trains and buses.39 

However, Vanamamalai remained a traditional folklorist in a number of ways.  Two traditional ideas about folklore are that it is anonymous and collectively created.40  For the most part, like the traditional folklorists before him, Vanamamalai does not in his published writings give details about his fieldwork methodology: he does not say where he observed and if he recorded performances.  He does not name the performers, nor does generally present the point of view of the performer.  These practices tend to preserve and protect the authority of the scholar: his/her voice is alone heard, and one cannot check the facts.  It is only gradually that Tamil scholars are becoming willing to give up this omniscient tone, which they in part learned from the British.

Stuart Blackburn, followed up on Vanamamalai’s research.  Blackburn is credited with telling the world about the Villupattu tradition.  I would identify Blackburn’s work as one of the true turning points of recent folklore studies in Tamil Nadu.  Blackburn systematically listed and analyzed the differences between the standard epic hero and the local underclass epic hero (as he appears in Villupattu stories).  His article, “The folk hero and class interests in Tamil heroic ballads,” was published in the festschrift for Vanamamalai (and was later reprinted in Asian Folklore Studies). 

Blackburn finds that the local Tamil hero is very different from the aristocratic hero described by Lord Raglan (as well as by Hahn, Rand, de Vries, and Campbell).  Blackburn lists series of distinctions between the two types of heroes (he considers mostly male figures): 
Upper class hero  Local hero
Son of a king.  Low-caste, often untouchable.
Protects the social order. Defies the social order. 
Protects interests of the upper class. Fights for interests of the lower classes.
Spends much time at court and in the battle field. Spends much time in the village, in low-caste quarters.
Depends on magic, supernatural figures, fate, dharmic order. Depends on his own powers, the agency of the individual human will.
Point of view is internal to upper-class life. Point of view is internal to lower-class life.

This distinction between the aristocratic and local lower-class epic hero represents a major Tamil folklore studies contribution to world folklore studies, specifically to the study of epic.  One wonders, does this alternate hero model apply to epic heroes in other cultures?  In other words, can this homegrown Tamil paradigm be applied to folklore in general?

Having been trained in the performance-centered approach to folklore, Blackburn’s work differs from Vanamamalai’s in a number of ways.  Blackburn very carefully and methodically describes and names the various styles of speaking and chanting.  He places the Villupattu performance in the context of the multi-day festival in which it is usually performed.  This attention to the details of performance and of context is perhaps something that an outsider can do more easily than an insider: insiders may take many things for granted, and if writing for a local audience, may take it for granted that his/her audience knows them all also.

Thus, through the work of Stuart Blackburn, the performance-centered approach to folklore has made a big influence in Tamil Nadu.  This was because Blackburn began his fieldwork in the late seventies and interacted extensively not only with Vanamamalai, but also D. Lourdu and the other scholars at nearby St. Xavier’s College.  It is rather ironic that Blackburn brought the performance-centered approach to Tamil Nadu, for although Blackburn applies it, he was also engaged in criticizing what he felt was its overuse.  In the introduction to Singing of birth and death,Blackburn urges folklorists to pay more attention to how narrative texts are used to structure performances.42   In the case of his fieldwork, these narratives were written.

Blackburn’s point in this introduction is not that there have been exchanges between the oral and written traditions, but rather that a written text (traditionally, inscriptions on palm leaves) is read aloud in the course of actual oral performances.  Sometimes a priest reads a line to the lead speaker, who then chants it for the audience.  Sometimes the lead speaker reads it aloud, and his/her accompanists repeat it.  Sometimes the lead and secondary performers are allowed to elaborate and make commentary, in other cases they are not. 

The written material in question was for hundreds of years written on palm leaves and had a ritual power by itself.  Sometimes these palm leaves are owned and kept by the temples, sometimes they are owned by the performers.  In either case, they were handed down from generation to generation.  An interesting question, which Blackburn discusses, is:  What happened to the ritual power and authenticity of these texts as new copies of them have come to be written in paper notebooks, and even printed?

Traditionally, Villupattu is a local and seasonal phenomena: the story of a deified human or god is told at the location where the figure lived and died, and where a temple has been constructed to worship him/her, during an annual festival dedicated to that figure.  Today, some folk artists who have moved to the large cities have adopted a pan-Indian repertoire, telling the stories of Rama, Mahatma Gandhi, and -- sometimes on a commission basis -- of living political, civil, and business leaders.  This brings these performers into the realm of popular culture.  In fact, some Tamil scholars have raised the question of whether such figures are really practicing folklore anymore at all.  But what discipline will claim the study of such processes?  Scholars of performance studies, popular culture studies, cultural studies?  These disciplines barely exist in Indian academia.

The performance-centered approach was being disseminated around the world in the 1970s, just as Tamil folklore began receiving a great deal of international attention.  Thus folklore performance theory and modern Tamil folklore studies are and perhaps always will be intertwined.

The two modern USA redefinitions of folklore have been very influential among Tamil folklore scholars: that it is “artistic communication in small groups”(43), and that folklore develops among “any group of people whatsoever who share one common factor”(44).  Both of these definitions downplay the role of tradition and foreground folklore as an act of communication and relationship that grows, ever new, between living people.  It is taking time for Tamil folklorists to digest and test these ideas: my sense is that they will be responding with unique modifications and additions of their own in this very interesting dialogue. 

Another American, Richard Frasca, has brought a Tamil folk performance form, Terukkuttu (“street theater”), to world attention.  Frasca published The theater of the Mahabharata: Terukkuttu performances in south Indiain 1990, based on his dissertation.  Frasca relates that in Chennai he was told that the Terukkuttu form had all but died out.  Later, Frasca discovered that the tradition was thriving in areas to the south of Chennai.

In sum, there has now been a good deal of interaction in Tamil Nadu between folk artists and the literati (scholars, theater critics, and experimental theater artists -- both Tamil and foreign).  Numerous “educated” people have become involved with folk arts for various reasons, mostly to keep the arts alive and to use them for new purposes.  For example, there is a group of Chennai-based women theater artists who construct performances borrowing from Tamil women’s folk arts: members of this group conduct research and perform in rural and urban areas.  Folk artists know that if they settle in Chennai, this sort of interaction can come with the territory.  The resultant hybrid forms are transformations of the folk traditions: they can be seen as continuations of or departures from those traditions.  I am not aware of folklore scholarship on such processes: there are, however, many newspaper articles on particular folk-theatre-related projects in Chennai’s newspapers and magazines. 

Frasca’s work has been followed by a woman from the Netherlands, Hanne M. de Bruin, who in 1994 completed a dissertation about Terukkuttu, which she and her primary consultant calls, Kattaikkuttu (“jewelry theater”).  de Bruin eventually married this consultant, a lead performer in one of the troupes she was studying, and together with him she has helped to organize an organization of professional Kattaikuttu actors and musicians (Association for the Growth and Development of the Art of Kattaikkuttu in Tamil Nadu).  This association was founded by a group of seventeen performers in Kanchipuram in 1990.  “The association provides young people training in Kattaikuttu, organizes an annual Kattaikkuttu festival, and has produced a number of innovative Kattaikkuttu plays written by Rajakopal in non-traditional themes.”45  De Bruin is the type of folklore studies scholar who is also organizing training of the younger generation, and facilitating the growth of the artform (it seems that she herself does not actually perform).  She stresses the flexibility and changing nature of this folk form, perhaps partly in an attempt to justify her own activism: “The premise underlying the present study is that Kattaikkuttu has been able to survive in and adjust itself to a society in transition because of its in-built flexibility.”46 

Two young USA women who have recently completed excellent dissertations on traditional Tamil performance forms are Sarah Diamond (Karagattam: performance and the politics of desire in Tamil Nadu, India,1999) and Susan Seizer (Dramatic license: negotiating stigma on and off the Tamil popular stage, 1997).  Both of these studies concern popular hybrid forms of street theater that few respectable Tamil scholars would even mention in print.  It is clear that foreigners, especially Americans--with their ideals of democracy, and interests in community (perhaps because of the lack of it in their own native environment), performance theory, and feminist and subaltern points of view -- have the sense of social adventurousness to interact with the lowest of the low, in ways that are much more problematic (and possible career-damaging) to native Tamil scholars.  It also seems that certain Americans have a refreshing interest in discovering and presenting how things really are, as opposed to how they should be, or were.  They are perhaps advantaged over Tamil scholars in that there is no pressure on them to glorify the past, or to promote any Tamil or Indian ideology.

It is a challenge for young Tamil female scholars to go out and do fieldwork.  Saraswathi Venugopal deserves great praise for her courage in doing so even thirty years ago: in this sense she is a great pioneer.  Her assistant at Centafore, Sheila Asirvatham, is another pioneering woman scholar: her dissertation was entitled, A sociological study of Tamil ballads.

One reason for the intensity of the USA intellectual presence in Tamil folklore studies in the last two decades is due to the activities of the Ford Foundation.  In the early nineties, Ford organized video training sessions in Tamil Nadu, lead by Stuart Blackburn and others.  It sponsored work at the St. Xavier’s center for a number of years, and now is funding work at the Madurai Kamaraj U. Folklore Dept.  In fact, Saraswathi Venugopal, head of this Dept. at Madurai Kamaraj U., has been able to create a separate organization, Centafore, with funds from the Ford Foundation.  Centafore has begun two multi-year projects: to collect and analyze women’s material folklore, and to develop “feminist discourse in Folklore studies through the study of women’s oral and performance genres.  The Foundation has expressed its happiness over the female leadership, which is the first of its kind in India among the twelve major projects funded by the Foundation.”47   There are Tamils who resent this influence by an outside element: there is some fear that information sent to the Ford Foundation might somehow be used to manipulate Tamils, perhaps even in political or advertising campaigns.  The fact that the Ford Foundation’s central Indian office is in New Delhi does not improve this situation.  It may also be that some Tamil male academics may resent the recent emphasis on the funding of female study of female folklore.  In any event, the Tamil folklore studies agenda in Tamil Nadu is in part being set by an external element, and this does raise questions.

Another way in which Vanamamalai innovated was in his acknowledgment of tribal people (although he does not quite confront the racial issues of the so-called Australoids and Negroids):

In the early centuries of the Sangam Era, tribal organization was destroyed by a confederation of settled advanced agricultural communities and kingdoms...  The destruction of hunting tribes is a prerequisite for the development of feudalism...  Sangam classics are replete with references to the defeat and destruction of tribes which tried to stand up against the avalanche of the agricultural expansion.  On the ashes of tribal communities, agricultural communities and kingdoms arose.48 

One sub-area of folklore studies in Tamil Nadu concerns the Nilgiri Mountains, which is in the northwest corner of the state.  The British built a hill station in this area: Ooty.  W. H. R. Rivers, David Mandelbaum, and Murray Emaneau did fieldwork with the Kota and Toda tribal people in these mountains.  S. Sakthivel has worked with the Toda.  The Toda are tall and have a Mediterranean look: this has led to theories that they are descendants of Greeks, or are one of the lost tribes of Israel.  It was found that there was a complex inter-tribal socio-cultural ecology in the region, with the different tribes performing various material, ritual, and other cultural roles for each other.  Other tribal people in the Nilgiris include the Badaga and the Irula.  The Kurumba, who have the so-called Negroid or Australoid features, are considered the tribals among tribals, a true jungle tribe.  They are greatly feared as sorcerers, and are often hired as watchmen.  A major field of study concerning tribals is the ways in which their religions, some of which focused on animal sacrifice and nature worship (animism and shamanism) have been affected by modernity: many tribals no longer practice animal sacrifice, for example.  And here too, cinema songs are becoming more and more popular, at the expense of older types of music.

Richard Wolf’s recent dissertation is an ethnography of the Kota music and ritual life (Of God and death: music in ritual and everyday life: a musical ethnography of the Kotas of south India, 1997.)  Wolf is now teaching in the Music Dept. at Harvard.  One set of questions he is interested in is:  What are common to the music and rituals of tribal people throughout south India?  Throughout India?  Throughout Southeast Asia?  An answer he posits is a certain poly-rhythmic sense, and a sense of casual asynchronicity between rhythms and harmonies.49

Wolf’s work even raises the question:  Is there a set of common cultural qualities among the so-called Asian-Australoid people presently living from Madagascar to Oceania?  Tamil and other Indian scholars might tend to avoid and even resent--and the Indian government is not likely to fund the answering of--such questions, for they call into question the loyalty these people might feel for the state of Tamil Nadu and the nation of India. 

David Schulman has written a number of extremely useful and rich books about Tamil mythology.50   It seems, however, that for the most part his work is based on written texts.  Alf Hiltebabil is another foreigner who has done much work with Tamil myth: he does study living performance and ritual, especially the Draupadi cults in the northern part of the state (Draupadi is a heroine in the pan-Indian epic, Mahabharata).51 

A. K. Ramanujan, although born in Karnataka (of a Kannada-speaking father and Tamil-speaking mother) is another important figure in the academic or post-independence period of south Indian folklore studies.  Through his teaching career at the U. of Chicago, he internationalized south Indian studies, applying Freudian, semiotic, and other Western theories to the material.  He published translations of and commentaries on Tamil poems from the Sangam Age.  Ramanujan has shown that the akam (inner, female, domestic, love) and puram (outer, male, public sphere, battle) dialect exists in both folk and classical south Indian literature: he argues that generally in India the folk-classical continuum rests on a substratum of shared culture.52 

Dan Ben-Amos writes that “The formative years of folklore have been devoted to the construction of research tools such as classification systems, indexes, bibliographies, and annotated collections.”53  He says that now is the time for new ideas and approaches to the material.  It must be noted, however, that in Tamil Nadu much of the collecting and classifying work has yet to be done.

Sakthivel states that “the worship of village gods is the most ancient form of Indian religion.”54  The worship of “primitive village goddesses” often involves animal sacrifice, storytelling, singing, dancing, and possession.  This culture is quickly changing: and yet much of it has never been studied ethnographically: “A systematic, scientific and interdisciplinary approach to the study of Tamil folklore remains to be made.”55

Sakthivel also identifies a need for a south Indian motif Index and tale-type compilation:

There has been virtually no research in the area of motifs of south  Indian folk literature; nor are comparative studies available on this  subject.  However, whatever little work has been done on motifs (left  breast possessing destructive powers, for example) do not fit into the  predominantly Indo-European data based international motif indexes.56

Do heroes and heroines in south Indian folklore follow the same structural pattern in terms of their actions and attributes as one  finds in north Indian folklore?  Does south Indian folklore present the  karma doctrines in the same manner as one encounters the in the North...?  And finally, what kinds of changes have occurred to those pan-Indian epic stories and themes which have become popular in such India?  All these questions, and the complexities they involve, cannot be answered at once.  More serious research is needed to draw some  basic conclusions.  South Indian folklore seems untouched as far as these issues are concerned.57 

Indeed, how do south Indian motifs and tales compare with the north Indian?  With other southeast Asian material?  This comparative work is in its early stages.  Sakthivel wrote the above words some years ago: I am at present largely ignorant of folklore scholarship that has been published recently in Tamil langauge.  A weakness of this paper is that it does not properly cover the contributions of Tamil folklore scholars, such as Mullai Muthaiah and K. V. Jagannathan, who have published almost exclusively in Tamil.  I look forward to educating myself in these matters.

One example of innovative media-related contemporary Tamil folklore studies is represented by Paul Greene.  He recently e-published an article entitled, “Professional weeping: music, affect, and hierarchy in a south Indian performance art,” in the e-journal, Ethnomusicology Online.58  The article describes various types of oppari (lament).  There are numerous types of lament, ranging from the wails, screams and moans of close female relatives of the deceased, to the songs they compose before and after the funeral, to people, including men, who are hired to perform at the funeral and in the funeral processions.  Greene reports on a controversy that occurred once when a hired male singer chose to sing a cinema song: some family members considered this disrespectful and self-aggrandising.  The encroachment of cinema music on folk songs is a common subject in Tamil folklore literature in the past twenty or so years.  Greene, Venugopal, and Wolf have all documented that few women under 45 know much of the old songs, or of the general tradition of oppari which makes improvisational (oral-formulaic) composition possible.

Greene has placed numerous women’s oppari sounds on the Ethnomusicology Online website, as part of his article.  This represents the most modern of research and presentational methodologies.  These recordings are now accessible to Tamil scholars around the world.  Although it is rare in Tamil Nadu to have Internet facilities at home, and many do not have convenient access at their university, commercial browsing centers are very common.  At approx. 30 rupees (75 cents) per hour, they are also affordable to many people.

Greene’s dissertation concerned the use of audio cassettes in a Tamil village.  He argues that the playingof these cassettes--which are played at specific times of day, and in relation to seasonal festivals--can be seen as ritual and performance acts.  This raises the question: Can the mediatized and mediated be accepted as folklore?  This is not so much of an issue in the field of anthropology, which is defined as the study of culture systems, but it can be more problematic for those who would maintain the conservative definition of folklore as traditional expressive culture.  As more and more folk performers come to perform for people outside of their immediate folk group, many of these artists are making commercial audio cassettes, performing on radio and TV, and even webcasting.  Tamil folklorists must decide whether these forms of electronic communication are to be included in their field of study.

M. Ponnavaiko, the director of the newly-created Virtual Tamil University (VTU), has told me that he has been instructed by the chief minister to place all of the ancient Tamil classic works of literature on VTU websites (in ancient-Tamil, with modern-literary-Tamil and English translations).  Will also be room for the study of folk culture in the Virtual Tamil University.  Will folk artists be allowed to speak for themselves there?  Or will their voices be transformed for international public display?  Moreover, given such a stage, how would folk performers themselves choose to modify their performances?

Perhaps the most radically post-modern folklorist to be mentioned in this paper is Kiran Narayan.  Narayan is arguably the most prominent Indian folklorist working today.  I include her here although she is not Tamil (her mother is north Indian, and her father is European), and she has not done fieldwork in Tamil Nadu.  The tenuous connection I claim between her and south India is that she cites A. K. Ramanujan as her primary mentor and influence as she was writing Mondays on the dark side of the moon.   Both Ramanujan and Narayan have chosen to base themselves in the USA, both for their graduate study and their teaching careers. 

In Mondays on the dark side of the moon,Narayan not only names the folk performer with whom she works: the book is labeled as a collaboration between the two women.  Narayan places great emphasis on her personal presence in the fieldwork situation: the reader never forgets her relationship with the subjects or her own quest for personal identity.  She is the subject almost as much, in some ways more, than the reciter of tales.  Narayan herself is a site in which identity is being contested.  The entire ethnographic and scholarly project is framed as occurring within her search for an identity, or perhaps, rather, within her negotiation of and creation of various identities.  Tamil scholarship has of yet produced no one even approaching Kiran Narayan’s level of international fame.  For one thing, the audacity of putting oneself in the middle of the ethnographic project is something that few Tamil scholars would consider: perhaps only a half-Indian, half-foreigner could pull such a thing off properly. 

Recapitulating a number of themes that have arisen in the course of this paper, Narayan writes: “Folklore has been reworked from demarcated political platforms in order to disseminate nationalist, Marxist, feminist, and development ideologies.”59  “Although certain genres of folklore are constantly being updated in everyday contexts, they remain ignored in scholarship because of the preexisting paradigm of what constitutes authentic folklore.”60  “Much Indian folklore study continues to hold to a framework emphasizing authenticity in past-oriented, village-based traditions.  The impetus comes both from the quest for identity within India and from trends in foreign scholarship, where until quite recently the documentation of fast-vanishing traditions (‘salvage ethnography’) has eclipsed interests in their transformations.”61  “We need to rethink the heritage of past scholarship in Indian folklore so as to overcome the paradigm of authentic Indian folk traditions as village based, bounded, untainted by outside influence, and unchanging.”62  “Multiplicity, intertextuality, and crossing-over...have always been present within Indian traditions.”63

Narayan calls for the need to “break down the rigid distinction between the observed Other as authentic folk, and the observing Self as objective collector.”64  “Only by breaking down the rigid distinction between ‘us,’ the metropolitan collectors and analysts, and ‘them,’ the folk entangled in traditions, will we be able to genuinely accept that elements from ‘our’ taken-for-granted global realities can exist in ‘their’ localized folklore texts.”65  I believe that not all Tamil folklore scholars would share her enthusiasm for dissolving the distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them.’  Is Narayan being objective when she calls for these reforms, or is she being destructive? 

In fact, Narayan’s method is in direct opposition to that which was explained to me by one Tamil folklore graduate student: he told me he had been taught that the folklorist should never engage in any sort of intellectual or analytic discussion with the subject.  Such an approach functions to maintain the class and educational distinctions between the folklorist and subject.  This is a complicated debate, and there are certainly good arguments to be made on both sides.  It would seem that the USA influence is to encourage intellectual folklorist-subject communication, even if it speeds the breakdown of the cultural isolation of the subject, and so helps to dissolve that which is being studied.  It must be added that the interacting with the foreign, and the incorporating of the foreign into the folk worldview, has always been a role of the folk verbal artist.

The National Folklore Support Centre of India (NFSC) was founded earlier this year.  It is a nationwide organization, with its head office in Chennai.  It is funded by the Ford Foundation.   The mission of the NFSC is to facilitate, promote, and publish folklore scholarship (it hopes to publish at least two books annually).  As mentioned near the beginning of this paper, M. D. Muthukumaraswamy is the founder of the NFSC and editor of its newsletter. 

Muthukumaraswamy is a thoroughly post-modern Tamil folklorist.  He has come of age during the time of Stuart Blackburn’s fieldwork and publications, and has fully experienced the pervasive USA presence on the Tamil folklore studies scene.  Two things in particular signal Muthukumaraswamy’s post-modern approach to folklore:  First, he resists the idea that folklore should be limited to the study of the subaltern: “I plead for equitable cultural space for folklore that need not be justified as voices or voicelessness of the subaltern.”66   Second, he partakes of the identity crisis of the field of folklore itself, which he inverts into a manifesto.  He would not merely defend the existence of folklore studies, but would claim sovereignty for it: 

The renewed emphasis on the empirical and the anthropological in the humanities ... has come to [indicate] that folklore is no longer an intrusion but an order.  Reign, I would say, reflecting over the range of disciplines and varieties of engagements folklore has been able to attract.  Whether it is postcolonial studies or search for alternative health care, whether it is new aesthetics or rampage of globalization, whether it is memory or identity, resources, subjects and theory would be impossible without folklore.67 
If managing change is part of everyday creativity and making of livelihood and history, then folklore is the name for such process.  If  ethical enquiry of change falls within the realm of the artistic, then folklore is primarily an artistic discipline.  Literary theory its resource, sociology its subject, ethnography its method, history and politics its beneficiaries: and so folklore is the new-found leader in the domain of philosophy.   If this is called desacralisation of the rules of a discipline, then let us break  the lines for the sake of understanding specific situations, specific decisions, and specific dilemmas of Indian life.68 

The NFSC publicizes the efforts of such Chennai-based organizations as the Centre for Research Training and Development, which, in the course of its community development and mobilization work, has collaborated with local theater groups (like Koothu-p-paterai) and individuals (like Villupattu-artist Subbu Arumugam) on projects which involve training people in traditional performance forms, often to deliver messages regarding methods of agriculture, health issues, and the like.

Many Tamil folklore scholars, even today, feel their primary mission is to advise the Indian government regarding how to best manage the folklore-producing people, and also how to use folklore-related material for the education of the Indian people in general.  The NFSC certainly communicates with the Tamil and Indian governments, but it is also playing to a much broader audience: the international folklore studies world, including scholars, media, and funding agents. 

Most of all, Muthukumaraswamy is on the lookout for change: “Folklore as discipline is concerned with ethics of highest order, Ethics of Change...   If managing change is part of everyday creativity and making of livelihood and history, then folklore is the name for such process.”69 He sees in the work of many scholars “commentaries on specific societal attitudes towards change.”70    The title and theme of the first issue is “Syncretism,” which Muthukumaraswamy defines as “How traditions, cultures, languages and practices freely mingle and leave traces for contemporary minds to articulate and review their own creative processes.”71 

Might it be?  Do I hear in this impassioned manifesto for the underdog--folklore, and folklore studies--echoes of a discourse that has also been employed to defend and glorify the beleaguered Tamil people?  Common motifs are there: spontaneity; practicality; humanity; the lowly one who is secretly a king; multiple composition; international travel, communication, and trade; and immanence of the divine in everything.  Perhaps Muthukumaraswamy has found what Herder was referring to when he spoke of the ‘personality’ of a people: perhaps to Muthukumaraswamy, the personality of Tamil Nadu is akin to the ‘personality’ of folklore, and folklore studies.


1)  Milton Singer,  When a great tradition modernizes: an anthropological approach to Indian civilization, New York: Praeger, 1972.

2)  He expressed this to me in a conversation, Aug.6, 2000.

3)  S. Sakthivel, Folklore literature in India: A review.  Madurai: Meena Pathippakam, 1976.  Also:  S. Sakthivel, “Folklore study in Tamil Nadu: retrospective and prospective,” in Folklore of India: commonness and comparisons, K. Karunakaran & Jawaharlal Handoo, eds., Coimbatore: Bharathiar U. Press, 1988, pp. 20-53. 

4)  Sakthivel, 1988, p. 30.

5)  M.S.S. Pandian, The image trap: M.G. Ramachandran in film and politics, New Delhi, Newbury Park: Sage, 1992, pp. 69-74.

6)  M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, “Let us break the lines,” in Indian Folklife: a quarterly newsletter from the National Folklore Support Centre, vol. 1, issue 1 (April 2000), p. 3.

7)  E-mail from Muthukumaraswamy to myself, Nov. 19, 2000.

8)  S. Nagaraju, “Prehistory of south India,” in South Indian studies, H.M. Nayak & B.R. Gopal, eds., Mysore: Geetha Book House, 1990, p. 35.

9)  Rao, p. 31.

10)  Luigi Lucas Cavalli-Sforza & Francesco Cavalli-Sforza, The great human diasporas: the history of diversity and evolution, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1995, p. 177.

11)  George L. Hart, translator, Poets of the Tamil anthologies: ancient poems of love and war, Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1979, p. 12.

12)  Hart, p. 13.

13)  William A. Wilson, “Herder, folklore, and romantic nationalism,” Journal of Popular Culture, p. 830.

14)   Irving A. Hallowell, “The history of anthropology as an anthropological problem,” Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 1 (1965), p. 25.

15)  Hallowell, p. 27.

16)  Jawaharlal Handoo, “South Indian folklore studies growth and development,” in Folklore of India: commonness and comparisons, K. Karunakaran & Jawaharlal Handoo, eds., Coimbatore: Bharathiar U. Press. 1988, p. 164.

17)  M. Varadarajan, “The Influence of Folklore on Tamil Literature,” Annals of Oriental Research of the University of Madras, vol. 23 (1970), part 1, p. 1.

18)  N. Vanamamalai, Studies in Tamil folk literature, Madras: New Century Book House, 1969, p. 1.

19)  Varadarajan, p. 1.

20)  Nancy E. Falk, “Wilderness and kingship in ancient South India,” History of Religions 13 (1973), p. 7. 

21)  Vanamamalai, 1969, p.  45.

22)  Vanamamalai, 1969, p. 18.

23)  Vanamamalai, 1969, p.  2.

24)  Varadarajan, p. 9.

25)  Uli Linke, “Folklore, Anthropology, and the Government of Social Life,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 32 (1990), p. 135.

26)  V. Ravindiran, “The unanticipated legacy of Robert Caldwell and the Dravidian movement,” South Indian Studies 1 (Jan. 1996), p. 83.

27)  Felix J. Oinas, “Folklore in the Soviet Union,” Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 12, no. 2/3 (1987), p. 160.

28)  Joshua A. Fishman, “Language modernization and planning in comparison with other types of national modernization and planning,” in Advances in language planning, Joshua A. Fishman, ed., The Hague: Mouton, 1974, p. 30.

29)  Fishman, 33.

30)  S. Swaminathan, Karunanidhi: man of destiny, New Delhi: Affiliated East-West Press, 1974, p. 13. 

31)  Swaminathan, p. 79.

32)  Pandian, p. 71. 

33)  Penina Mlama, “Oral art and contemporary cultural nationalism,” in Power, marginality and African oral literature, Graham Furniss & Liz Gunner, eds., Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press, 1995, p. 25. 

34)  Vanamamalai, 1969, p. 51.

35)  Stuart H. Blackburn, "The folk hero and class interests in Tamil heroic ballads, Asian Folklore Studies 37(1), 1978, p. 140.

36)  N. Vanamamalai, “Tamil folk ballads with social themes,” in South Asian studies, H. M. Nayak & B. R. Gopal, eds., Mysore: Geetha Book House, 1990, p. 983.

37)  Stuart H. Blackburn & A.K. Ramanujan, “Introduction,” in Another harmony: new essays on the folklore of India, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986, p. 29.

38)  Blackburn & Ramanujan, p. 27.

39)  Saraswathi Venugopal, “Folksongs as reflections of social context”, in her Folkloristic Refractions in the Tamil World, Madurai: Tamarai Publishers, 1996, pp. 104-13. 

40)  Dan Ben-Amos, “The idea of folklore,” in Fields of offerings: studies in honor of Raphael Patai, Victor D. Sanua, ed., Cranbury, NJ: Associated U. Press, 1983, p 61.

41)  Blackburn, 1978, p. 142.

42)  Blackburn, 1988, p. xviii.

43)  Dan Ben-Amos, “Toward a definition of folklore in context,” in Toward new perspectives in folklore, Américo Paredes & Richard Bauman, eds, Austin: U. of Texas Press, 1972, p. 13.

44)  Alan Dundes, “Who are the folk?”, in Essays in folkloristics, Alan Dundes, Meerut: Folklore Institute, p. 7.

45)  Hanne M. de Bruin, Kattaikkuttu: the flexibility of a south Indian theater tradition, Egbert Forsten: Groningen, 1999, p. 9.

46)  de Bruin, p. 4. 

47)  Centafore brochure, 2000.

48)  Vanamamalai, 1969, p. 160.

49)  Richard K. Wolf, Of God and death: music in ritual and everyday Life: a musical ethnography of the Kotas of south India, dissertation, U. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign,1997, p. 425.

50)  Especially: David Dean Shulman, Tamil temple myths: sacrifice and divine marriage in the south Indian Saiva tradition, Princeton: Princeton U. Press, 1980. 

51)  Alf Hiltebeitel, The cult of Draupadi, Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1988.

52)  A. K. Ramanujan,  “Who needs folklore?”,  in The collected essays of A.K. Ramanujan.  New Delhi: Oxford U. Press, 1999, p. 535.

53)  Dan Ben-Amos, “A History of Folklore Studies--Why do we need it?”, Journal of the Folklore Institute 10 (1973), p. 115.

54)  Sakthivel, 1976, p. 96.

55)  Sakthivel, 1976, p. 106.

56)  Jawaharlal Handoo, “South Indian Folklore studies growth and development”, in Folklore of India: commonness and comparisons, 1988, p. 172.

57)  S. Sakthivel, 1988, p. 173.

58)  Paul Greene, “Professional weeping: music, affect, and hierarchy in a south Indian performance art,” in Ethnomusicology On-line, Jan. 10, 2000,

59)  Kiran Narayan, “Banana republics and V. I. degrees: rethinking Indian folklore in a postcolonial world”, in Asian Folklore Studies  52, 1993, p. 181.

60)  Narayan, 1993, p. 178.

61)  Narayan, 1993, p. 196.

62)  Narayan, 1993, p. 199.

63)  Narayan, 1993, p. 181.

64)  Narayan, 1993, p. 196.

65)  Narayan, 1993, p. 199.

66)  M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, “Of urban poor and multiple orderings of diversity,” in Indian Folklife: a quarterly newsletter from the National Folklore Support Centre, vol. 1, issue 2 (July 2000), p. 3. 

67)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3. 

68)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3.

69)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3.

70)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3. 

71)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3. 

72)  Muthukumaraswamy, April 2000, p. 3. 


Beck, Brenda E. F.  1982.  The three twins: the telling of a South Indian folk epic.  Bloomington: Indiana U. Press.

Baskaran, Sundararaj Theodore. 1981.  The message bearers: nationalist politics and the entertainment media in south India, 1880-1945.  Madras: Cre-A.

Ben-Amos, Dan.  1972.  “Toward a definition of folklore in context.”  In Toward new perspectives in folklore, Américo Paredes & Richard Bauman, eds, p. 3-15.  Austin: U. of Texas Press.

Ben-Amos, Dan.  1973.  “A history of folklore studies--Why do we need it?”  Journal of the Folklore Institute 10: 113-24.

Ben-Amos, Dan.  1983.  “The idea of folklore.”  In Fields of offerings: studies in honor of Raphael Patai, Victor D. Sanua, ed., 57-64.  Cranbury, NJ: Associated U. Press.

Blackburn, Stuart H.  1978.  "The folk hero and class interests in Tamil heroic ballads."  Asian Folklore Studies 37(1): 131-49.

Blackburn, Stuart H.  1981.  "Oral Performance: Narrative and ritual in a Tamil tradition."  Journal of American Folklore 94 (372): 207-227.

Blackburn, Stuart H.  1985.  "Death and deification: folk cults in Hinduism."  History of Religions 24 (3): 255-274.

Blackburn, Stuart H.  1988.  Singing of birth and death: texts in performance.  Philadelphia: U. of Pennsylvania Press.

Blackburn, Stuart H. & A.K. Ramanujan, eds.  1986.  Another harmony: new essays on the folklore of India.  Berkeley: U. of California Press.

Blackburn, Stuart H., Peter J. Claus, Joyce B. Flueckiger & Susan J. Wadley, eds.  1989.  Oral epics in India.  Berkeley: U. of California Press.

Bruce, Gerald.  1981.  “Discontent and cultural relativism: Herder and Boasian anthropology.”  Annals of Scholarship 2 (1): 1-13.

Caldwell, Robert.  1856.  A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages.  London: Harrison.

Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Lucas & Francesco Cavalli-Sforza.  1995.  The great human diasporas: the history of diversity and evolution.  Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

de Bruin, Hanne M.  1999.  Kattaikkuttu: the flexibility of a south Indian theater tradition.  Egbert Forsten: Groningen.

Diamond, Sarah.  1999.  Karagattam: performance and the politics of desire in Tamil Nadu, India.  Dissertation.  U. of Pennsylvania.

Dundes, Alan.  1978.  “Who are the folk?”  In Essays in folkloristics.  Alan Dundes, pp. 1-21.  Meerut: Folklore Institute. 

Falk, Nancy E.  1973.  “Wilderness and kingship in ancient South India.”  History of Religions 13: 1-15.

Fishman, Joshua A.  1974.  “Language modernization and planning in comparison with other types of national modernization and planning.”  In Advances in language planning, Joshua A. Fishman, ed.  The Hague: Mouton.

Frasca, Richard Armando.  1990.  The theater of the Mahabharata: Terukkuttu performances in South India.  Honolulu : U. of Hawaii Press.

G., Radhika.  2000. “On the path of self-help: Training program in public Health by the Centre for Development, Research, and Training, and Koothu-p-pattarai (theatre group).”  News Today 1/6/2000

Gover, Charles E.  1983 [1871].  The folk-songs of southern India.  Madras: The South India Saiva Siddhanta Works Publishing Society.

Greene, Paul.  1997.  Cassettes in culture: emotion, politics, and performance in Tamil Nadu.  Dissertation.  U. of Pennsylvania.

Greene, Paul.  1999.  “Professional weeping: music, affect, and hierarchy in a South Indian folk performance art.”  Ethnomusicology OnLine 5.

Handoo, Jawaharlal.  1978.  “Current trends in Folkloristics.”  In Current trends in folklore, Jawaharlal Handoo, ed., 104-38.  Mysore: U. of Mysore.

Handoo, Jawaharlal.  1980.  “Towards a theory of national folklore policy: some basic issues.”  Journal of Indian Folkloristics, vol. 3, no. 5/6: 24-35. 

Handoo, Jawaharlal.  1989.  Folklore: an introduction.  Mysore: Central Institute of Indian Languages.

Handoo, Jawaharlal.  1988.  “South Indian folklore studies growth and development.”  In Folklore of India: commonness and comparisons, K. Karunakaran & Jawaharlal Handoo, eds., 159-201.  Coimbatore: Bharathiar U. Press.

Hallowell, Irving A.  1965.  “The history of anthropology as an anthropological problem.”  Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences 1: 24-38.

Hardgrave, Jr., Robert L.  1965.  The Dravidian movement.  Bombay, Popular Prakashan.

Hart, George L., translator.  1979.  Poets of the Tamil anthologies: ancient poems of love and war.  Princeton: Princeton U. Press.

Herder, Johann Gottfried.  1968.  Reflections on the philosophy of the history of mankind.  Chicago: U. of Chicago Press. 

Hiltebeitel, Alf.  1988.  The cult of Draupadi.  Chicago: U. of Chicago Press.

Hiltebeitel, Alf.  1999.  Rethinking India's oral and classical epics: Draupadi among Rajputs, Muslims, and Dalits.  Chicago: U. of Chicago Press.

Hockings, Paul, ed.  1989.  Blue mountains: the ethnography and bio-geography of a south Indian region.  Delhi: Oxford U. Press.

Hockings, Paul, ed.  1997.  Blue mountains revisited: cultural studies on the Nilgiri Hills.  Delhi: Oxford U. Press.

Hutchinson, John.  1994.  “Cultural nationalism and moral regeneration.”  In Nationalism, John Hutchinson & Anthony D. Smith, eds., 122-131.  Oxford: Oxford. U. Press.

Kailasapathy, K.  1968.  Tamil heroic poetry.  Oxford: Clarendon.

Kailasapathy, K.  1968.  “Tamil heroic poetry: a comparative study.”  In On art and literature, K. Kailasapathy, 69-76.  Madras: New Century Book House Private Ltd.

Linke, Uli.  1990.  “Folklore, anthropology, and the government of social life.”  Comparative Studies in Society and History 32: 117-48.

Ludden, David.  1973.  “The songs and revolution of Subramania Bharathi.”   In Imperialism and revolution in South Asia, Kathleen Gough and Hari P. Sharma, eds., 267-290.  New York: Monthly Review Press.

Mlama, Penina.  1995.  “Oral art and contemporary cultural nationalism.”  In Power, marginality and African oral literature, Graham Furniss & Liz Gunner, eds., 23-34.  Cambridge: Cambridge U. Press. 

Muthukumaraswamy, M. D.  2000.  “Let us break the lines.”  In Indian Folklife: a quarterly newsletter from the National Folklore Support Centre, M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, ed., vol. 1, issue 1 (April 2000): 3-4.

Muthukumaraswamy, M. D.  2000.  “Of urban poor and multiple orderings of diversity.”  In Indian Folklife: A quarterly newsletter from the National Folklore Support Centre, M. D. Muthukumaraswamy, ed., vol. 1, issue 2 (July 2000): 3-4.

Nagaraju, S.  1990.  “Prehistory of south India.”  In South Indian studies, H.M. Nayak & B.R. Gopal, eds., pp. 35-52.  Mysore: Geetha Book House.

Narayan, Kiran.  1993.  “Banana republics and V. I. degrees: rethinking Indian folklore in a postcolonial world.”  Asian Folklore Studies  52: 177-204.

Narayan, Kiran & Urmila Devi Sood.  1997.  Mondays on the dark side of the moon: Himalayan foothill folktales.  New York: Oxford U. Press.

Nayak, H.M. & B.R. Gopal, eds.  1990.  South Indian studies.  Mysore: Geetha Book House.

Oinas, Felix J.  1987.  “Folklore in the Soviet Union.”  Journal of Folklore Research, vol. 12, no. 2/3: 157-77.

Pandian, M.S.S.  1992.  The image trap: M.G. Ramachandran in film and politics.  New Delhi, Newbury Park: Sage.

Rao, B. K. Gururaja.  1990.  “Racial background of south Indian history.”  In South Asian studies, H. M. Nayak & B. R. Gopal, eds., pp. 23-34.  Mysore: Geetha Book House.

Ramanujan, A. K.  1999.  “Who needs folklore?”  In The collected essays of A.K. Ramanujan.    pp. 532-52.  New Delhi: Oxford U. Press.

Ravindiran, V.  1996.   “The unanticipated legacy of Robert Caldwell and the Dravidian movement.”  South Indian Studies 1 (Jan. 1996): 83-110.

Rivers, W. H. R.  1906.  The Todas.  London: Macmillan and Co.

Sakthivel, S.  1976.  Folklore literature in India: A review.  Madurai: Meena Pathippakam.

Sakthivel, S.  1988.  “Folklore study in Tamil Nadu: retrospective and prospective.”  In Folklore of India: commonness and comparisons, K. Karunakaran & Jawaharlal Handoo, eds., 20-53.  Coimbatore: Bharathiar U. Press.

Shulman, David Dean.  1980.  Tamil temple myths: sacrifice and divine marriage in the south Indian Saiva tradition.  Princeton: Princeton U. Press.

Seizer, Susan.  1997.  Dramatic license: negotiating stigma on and off the Tamil popular stage.  Dissertation.  U. of Chicago.

Singer, Milton.  1972.  When a great tradition modernizes: an anthropological approach to Indian civilization.  New York: Praeger. 

Smith, Anthony D.  1987.  The ethnic origins of nations.  Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Subramanian, A., ed.  1978.  New dimensions in the study of Tamil culture: 60th birthday felicitation volume of Prof. N. Vanamamalai, M.A., L.T.  Madras: Makkal Pathippakam.

Swaminathan, S.  1974.  Karunanidhi: man of destiny.  New Delhi: Affiliated East-West Press.

Wilson, William A.  1973.  “Herder, folklore, and romantic nationalism.”  Journal of Popular Culture 6: 819-35.

Wolf, Richard K.  1997.  Of God and death: music in ritual and everyday Life: a musical ethnography of the Kotas of south India.  Dissertation.  U. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Vanamamalai, N.  1969.  Studies in Tamil folk literature.  Madras: New Century Book House.

Vanamamalai, N.  1981.  Interpretation of Tamil folk creations.  Trivandrum: Dravidian Linguistics Association. 

Vanamamalai, N.  1990.  “Tamil folk ballads with social themes.”  In South Asian studies, H. M. Nayak & B. R. Gopal, eds., 981-7.  Mysore: Geetha Book House.

Varadarajan, M.  1970.  “The influence of folklore on Tamil literature.”  Annals of Oriental Research of the University of Madras, vol. 23, part 1: 1-17.

Venugopal, Saraswathi.  1996.  “Folksongs as reflection of social context.”  In her Folkloristic Refractions in the Tamil World, 104-113.  Madurai: Tamarai Publishers.

Vidyarthi, L. P.  1978.  “Folklore research in India.”  In Varia folklorica, Alan Dundes, ed., 201-262.  The Hague: Mouton.