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DSc in History, Leading Researcher at the Center for Asian and Pacifi c Studies, N. N. Miklukho-Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences
The publication was prepared as part of S. I. Ryzhakova’s research pro-gram at the N. N. Miklukho-Maklay Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Russian Academy of Sciences. Field studies were carried out in 2018–2019 within project No. 18–09–00389 of the Russian Foundation for Basic Research “Obsession, service, mummery: About the borders between, and the relationship of, individual trance, religious worship and Indian artistic traditions”
This article analyzes the cultural context and social functions of Bhavāī, the traditional theater of India from the state of Gujarat. Bhavāī is performed by small groups of the Targala caste community, whose social status is characterized by some duality. Although the artists associate their origin with the Brahman Asait Thakar, who lived in the 14th century, wear a sacred cord and follow a number of typical Brahman customs, it is also obvious that they are of very low social origin. Bhavāī theater was one of the most important cultural institutions in the northern regions of Gujarat and in part of the Saurashtra Peninsula. It performed several functions — entertainment, ceremonial, didactic, social integrating — and served as a form of so-cial criticism. Bhavāī still exists today, although its popularity and pervasiveness have narrowed considerably. Th is article discusses the outlook of Bhavāī theater, its socio-cultural profi le, and the position of this tradition in the culture and history of Gujarat; it is based on the author’s fi eld research in Gujarat in 2015, 2016 and 2018
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