Home Dehradun Lokesh Ohri ‘VoWs’ readers with ‘Till Kingdom Come”

Lokesh Ohri ‘VoWs’ readers with ‘Till Kingdom Come”

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By Dr Tania Saili Bakshi

Pic Courtesy: Shailendra Kant 

Dehradun, 4 Jun: Running its fifteenth successful edition this month, ‘Authors from the Valley’ put together by Valley of Words, International Literature and Art Festival, at the VoW Café-Library-Studio-Gallery hosted Dr Lokesh Ohri.

The gentleman behind the ‘Been There Doon That’ walk-the-talk series needs no introduction. Born and raised in Dehradun, scholar-author-historian extraordinaire Dr Lokesh Ohri is a man of letters. The author dedicated the session to his book entitled ‘Till Kingdom Come: Medieval Hinduism in the Modern Himalaya,’ published by Permanent Black. The book is the result of six years of dedication, vigorous research and hard-work by Ohri who gently takes his readers to Hanol on a journey through the narrow gorges and deep valleys of the Tons. He took his reader to the temple of Mahasu Devta, a land of magical spells unlike any other temple in the plains.

Taking about his long romance with the Jaunsar region, he recalled, “I got attracted to the Jaunsari culture and the Kingdom of Mahasu because of the theories I had read and my work. Here was a non-human agent, he was a Devta, a Divine King who controlled so many lives across such a large region in the Himalayas and that is what attracted me and probably inspired me to add to human knowledge about agency and how social systems can be organised.”

The book is an ethnography that deals with the Western Himalayan divine King Mahasu, his subjects and their rituals. This is where Devta reigns supreme as his oracles deliver verdicts choosing candidates, temple priests endorse electoral candidates, and it is said that during the British Raj, even officials capitulated to Mahasu’s authority. The author spoke about the uses of Persian terms in oral traditions of the region of Mahasu and elaborated about the richness of oral tradition of Pandavas culture in Jaunsar Bawar including the Garhwal region. Ohri threw light on the Dhaknach performed during Basant Panchami’s Bisu ka Mela with stress on the age-old socio-religious practices of Mahasu Devta.

The hour-long session was moderated by Dr Sargam Mehra, a PhD in Communication Studies with her research focused on Dehradun’s heritage. She is currently teaching at the Doon University and has been working on heritage for the past decade and counting.

Talking about the session, Dr Sanjeev Chopra, Festival Director, said, “Lokesh Ohri’s activism has often overshadowed the range of his academic and scholarly work which is based on empirical observations from the lens of an engaged anthropologist. VoW is honoured to have such an in-depth discussion with him on his work.”

The well-researched book remains a fascinating read, especially for those who want to understand the finer nuances of life lived in the mountains of the Western Himalaya. As advice to fellow researchers, Ohri states, “My advice to researchers is to dig deep, become a part of the culture and write about a culture from the perspective of the people who are actually practicing it rather than the perspective of a social scientist looking at the culture from the outside. The perspective should be of the people who are practicing.”

Attended by a host of young and senior citizens, the informal evening saw exchange of thoughts, questions and point of views in the interactive session which left everyone wanting to know more about a region that is seldom written or spoken about.