No. 10 (2010): Folk legends as Mirrors of Peoples Experiences: The Virgathas of Kumaon and Garhwal - By Mily Roy Anand
The Central Himalayan region popularly known as Uttarakhand, comprising Kumaon and Garhwal, has a rich tradition of people’s history and culture but has not been given adequate attention by historians and scholars. No doubt one is struck by the traits which bear similarity to those found in the plains and other areas, or those that have been borrowed from them or derived from a common origin. A closer look into the history and culture only reveals the distinctiveness of what can be termed as the pahari culture vis-à-vis its caste structure, ecological conditions, religious beliefs and practices, festivals, folk songs and legends. An interesting genre of folk legends of Kumaon and Garhwal is what is popularly known as virgathas , also called pavadas They are the tales of kings and chieftains who once ruled the hills and valleys of Kumaon and Garhwal , and relate mostly to the period when this region was subject to internal feud and strife between petty chieftains. A study of these gathas reveals the perceptions and beliefs of the pahari people at a time when they were subject to much instability due to political conditions. Vigathas therefore constitute an important source of understanding better, the experiences of the people of this region, which has otherwise been largely neglected by academics and scholars.