Welcome to the Videoconference Agenda webpage of the Saturday 15 October 2011 Chennai-Bloomington videoconference!

This videoconferencewas Session 18-15 in the 2011 annual meeting of the American Folklore Society, and was sponsored by the AFS' Archives and Libraries Section. 

The title of the event is,

"International Videoconference: An Anti-War Sentiment in the Performance of Mahabharata, an Epic about War."


Saturday 15 October

Time: 10:15am (USA Eastern Daylight Time). 
Place: 940 East Seventh Street, Ernie Pyle Hall, Room 203

Time: 7:45pm (India Time).
Place: Indian Institute of Technology - Madras

The Recording of the Videoconference

A recording of the videoconference is here.


A back-up of the recording is on Youtube, here.

The event begins at 20:50 into the recording.

Please send any feedback regarding this recording to info@storytellinginstitute.org .

Videoconference Scheduled-Speakers

At the Chennai, South India site:
1)  M.D. Muthukumaraswamy (India's National Folklore Support Centre), presenting the paper, "Patukalam: Performing the Banality of War and Evil," at http://www.storytellinginstitute.org/44.pdf .
2)  Eric Miller (World Storytelling Institute), chair, and introducing the concept of "Ethnographic Videoconferencing," described at http://www.storytellingandvideoconferencing.com/44.pdf
3)  Udayarani (professional Mahabharata storyteller), discussant.
4)  Jayachandran (community elder), discussant.
At the Bloomington site:
1)  Catherine Kerst (American Folklife Center), chair.
2)  Brenda Beck (University of Toronto), discussant.

Videoconference Agenda

The videoconference would have two Parts:

Part 1:  Concerning the storytelling, and ritual enactment, of an episode of the Mahabharata.

Part 2:  Concerning ethnographic videoconferencing.


Part 1:  Concerning the storytelling, and ritual enactment, of an episode of the Mahabharata.

On the Chennai side of the videoconference,

M. D. Muthukumaraswamy would present his paper, "Patukalam: Performing the Banality of War and Evil."

Udayarani would perform sections of the Mahabharata epic (in Tamil, with English translation).

Jayachandran would speak about the importance of temples, festivals, and traditional ritual performances.

This part of the videoconference would occur in three segments.  Near the beginning of each segment, a brief video recording would be shown.  These recordings can also be seen at

1)  http://tinyurl.com/1-Padukalam-on-Youtube
The sculpture of King Duryodhana is destroyed (3 min, 16 sec).

2)  http://tinyurl.com/2-Gandhari-on-Youtube
The lamenters for the dead King are mocked (2 min, 12 sec).

3)  http://tinyurl.com/3-Tukil-on-Youtube
The unsuccessful attempt to disrobe Draupadi (3 min, 4 sec).


Part 1

Segment 1__Setting the stage.

Segment 2__Advancing the thesis that the Patukalam is an expression of disgust with war.

Segment 3__Causes of war.


Part 1

Segment 1__Setting the stage.

Eric Miller:  Gives an overview of what will be occurring in the videoconference.


MD Muthukumaraswamy:  Addresses the questions:  What is a Patukulam?  (A decisive battle on a field.)  When does it occur?  (In the Mahabharata, it occurs near the end of the story.)  What is the context?  (The final day of the 18-day ritual performance in a village in Kanchipuram district.)  What are some variations in how the Patukulam is performed in different villages in northern Tamil Nadu?

He also introduces his leading analytical points, such as:  In the Mahabharata, King Duryodhana serves as an example of wrong thinking.  The destruction of the earthen sculpture of him represents the villagers' rejection of that wrong thinking (and the war it causes), and clears the way for the possibility of rejuvenation of the world. 

Episode: The devastation of the war, the suffering, on the eve of the Patukulam (the final battle).

Video Recording is played:
The sculpture of King Duryodhana is destroyed,
http://tinyurl.com/1-Padukalam-on-Youtube (3 min, 16 sec).

Brenda Beck:  Places the Patukulam concept in the context of other Tamil epics, and in the context of Tamil culture in general.  Discusses how the Patukalam in the Mahabharata is similar to, and different from, the Patukalams in other Tamil epics.


Segment 2__Advancing the thesis that the Patukalam is an expression of disgust with war.

Video Recording is played:
The lamenters for the dead King are mocked,
http://tinyurl.com/2-Gandhari-on-Youtube (2 min, 12 sec).

MD Muthukumaraswamy:  Explains why he feels that the villagers destroying the earthen statue of the King, and mocking those who are lamenting over the King, are expressing disgust with war.

:  Explains why the performer enacting King Duryodhana's mother is attempting to beat people with a straw tray used for winnowing wheat, and why are people laughing.

Discussion of roles of mockery and laughter in ritual and festival, in general.


Segment 3__Causes of war.

This is a flashback, taking us back to a major cause of the war: the attempted disrobing of Draupadi.

Video Recording is played:
The unsuccessful attempt to disrobe Draupadi,
http://tinyurl.com/3-Tukil-on-Youtube (3 min, 4 sec).

Episode: The attempted disrobing of Draupadi.

MD Muthukumaraswamy:  Explains how King Duryodhana caused a lot of suffering in part because he did not perceive and obey Krishna clearly.  He identifies the attempted disrobing of Draupadi as a primary cause of the war.  He raises the question, "Why didn't Krishna prevent the war?"

In the Mahabharata, the causes of war include: 1) Insults/Injustices to women, especially to Draupadi (people remember, want justice/revenge, go into trance).  2) Sibling rivalry (between brothers).

Discussion of how and why efforts to prevent war fail in the Mahabharata.

In addition to the Patukalam, there are other instances in the Mahabharata of anti-war sentiment.  Why is it good to remember such instances?

The story illustrates some of the emotions that people can feel in everyday life -- including jealousy, greed, and possessiveness towards things that are not ours.  The experience of the story helps us to locate war-like feelings in ourselves, in everybody’s psyches: especially in the form of unchecked desires.

Discussion of how objects (such as sculptures and temples) that exist throughout the year in a village can serve as embodiments of values, stories, and performances of stories.


Part 2

Eric Miller:  Introduces the term, "ethnographic videoconferencing,"
and leads a discussion about it.

Topics to be touched upon would include:
"Ethnographic videoconferencing" is a further evolution of "ethnographic photography," and "ethnographic film and video."
In ethnographic videoconferencing, the people of the culture under study can frame, and speak for, themselves.

Four factors, the presence of which make a videoconference increasingly
ethnographic, are:
A) All of the participants agree that a primary purpose of the event is the presentation of and discussion about aspects of a community’s culture. 
B) The videoconference has at least these two sites: a fieldwork-related site, and a university-related site.  The organizing scholar may be at either site.  People who attend at the university site may include faculty and students of the university, members of the public (including artists and experts) who are interested in the culture under study, and members of the culture’s diaspora community.
C) The videoconference follows an extended period of physically-present ethnographic fieldwork by the organizing scholar (who may be participating in the videoconference from either site).  Videoconferencing should not be seen as a replacement for physically-present fieldwork: previously-conducted physically-present fieldwork contributes to a videoconference being serious, sophisticated, and ethnographic. 
D) The oral language of the community under study is used in at least in parts of the videoconference.  At least one person who speaks the community’s language attends from the university site of the videoconference.

General discussion of ways in which communicating via videoconference with living human beings of a culture might be similar to, and different from, perusing objects (written texts, and various other kinds of relics) from that culture.  In this context, a human being could be called a "living text."