This book was first published in early 1996, with subsequent editions in the years 2000 and 2007. The author tracks the journey and transition of various popular folk gods, goddesses, and deities into mainstream culture, rituals, vratas and various religious practices along with their native (or foreign) origin. The content also includes an account of some demi-gods and lesser degree divinities and their exaltation into the main stream of culture and the impact it had on life in different eras.
The book discusses the following topics.
- The ancient nature and tradition of worship of Ganesha.
- The inauspicious deities-Jyeshtha and Jyeshthraja.
- Origin of the incarnation Venkatesha from ‘Muruga’-the Tamil god
- An account of worship of a category of lesser goddesses- Balgraha’.
- Manibhadra and other Yakshas and their worship in the Indian subcontinent.
- Narsimha-the lion - headed Yaksha
- The linkages between Gondhali traditional dance and Bhutmata festivities
- Lord Krishna, Radha and the unified underlying principle
- The origins of Aditya- Ranubai worship
- Places of devotion of folk culture in Maharashtra.
- A detailed treatise on Ganapati atharvasheersha
- An introduction to the script of “Krishnachi AAL” BY Nama Pathak
- An introduction to the god of Dhanagar community-Beerdev
- An introduction to ‘Sree Lakshmi vijay’ by Hari Gopal Deshmukh, Angapurkar.
The preface of the volume primarily states that the less sophisticated strata of urban life is still influenced by the impact of folk culture, and among the elites, this same impact reflects subtly as a crux of many of their sanskaras. This impact is evident in the modern performing arts as well.
The preface also argues that even though folk literature and folk rituals form the primary and prominent sources of studying folk culture, our resourcefulness should also explore the non -literary means for the same. Although foundation of folk literature for this purpose is a strong platform, it is affected from the danger of many of its chips and stones being lost in the passage of time. Many rituals may cease to exist; many of them change their form and style in this same interregnum. The author illustrates his point with Marathi folk literature. Its history does not extend beyond the thirteenth century. So also, history of the Marathi language does not extend beyond fifteen hundred years. But then Marathi society has existed even before these times, and their culture was being expressed through pre-Marathi means of communication. So to study of Maharashtriyan folk culture, one has to look to sources that predate folk literature.
Another important extension of this argument is, Maharashtriyan folk culture is but a regional manifestation of the larger Indian folk culture. So even the origin of cues and hints found in the Marathi folk literature have to be traced back to incidental references in Sanskrit and Prakrit literature. As all the meaningful conventions reflecting in the languages are essentially linked to some facet of folk behavior and culture, any folk literature necessarily reflects the prevalent folk culture in some form or the other. Influence of the Mahabharata, Puranas, Buddhist Jatak kathas, and Jain agamagranthas is noteworthy in this regard, along with many other volumes and scriptures.
The author feels confident that his study will further reveal the evolution and sublimation of many of the folk-based lesser gods, deities and demigods like Yakshas, Nagas, Vrukshas, Bal grahas, kshetrapals and aid further research on these topics.