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(Editor, Compiler, Author and Translator Dr. PADMA SUDHI)
Folk-tales have been the most important elements of Indian Folk-literature. They have been collected and studied since the middle of the nineteenth century specially due to the efforts of the British civilians interested in this subject and the Christian missionaries of various nationalities of Europe and America. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Maurice Bloomfield, W.N. Brown, Ruth Norton, M. Emeneau, and others examined and analyzed their themes and also studied the aspect of their diffusion. But it is not long since the interest of Indian scholars was drawn to this most fascinating subject. Although there has been some random collection here and there, it is only recently that a scientific and systematic study has been undertaken by Indian Scholars.
India has established a great traditions as far as folk-tales are concerned. Some Western scholars are of the opinion that the folk-tales of the world have been borrowed from India through different channels, because India has a very ancient record of folk-tales, Notable works like Gunādhya's Brhatkatha, Stories of the birth of Buddha in the Jatāka, Dhammakahā of the jains, somadeva's Kāthasarit-sāgara, Daṇdin's Dasakumara - carita, Viṣṇu Śarman's Panchtantra, and Nārāyana's Hitopadesa have their root in traditional Indian folk-tales. Indian folk-tales have also travelled to such Sourth-East Asian countries as Malaya, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia through Buddhism, were net free from Indian influence so far as folk-tales are concerned. The reason behind this wide distribution of Indian folk-tales is perhaps that unlike any other form of oral literature, these have some universal elements in their motifs and are objective in nature.
The first publication of Indian folk-tales was made by Sir Richard G. Temple in 1866. Rev. So. Hislop, who had worked among the aboriginals of the Central Provinces, collected considerable information relating to the folklore of the tribal people of the area. Sir Richard G. Temple edited and published this material, which contained some folk-tales along with their originals. This was the first attempt at the publications of Indian folk-tales. Unfortunately, the first attempt failed to attract workers into this field because it was marked by technical discussions and deep scholarship to which the Indian reader had not yet become accustomed. Two years later, a fascinating collection of Indian folk-tales was published by Mary frère in her old Deccan days or Hindu Fairy Legends Current in Southern India (London, 1868) which caught the imagination of Indian scholars. It was translated into several Europeans languages whtin a short time. In 1872 the Indian antiquary started publishing a series of fold-tales collected from Bengal by G.H.Damant and it was continued till his death in 1879.18 Since (Page-9) the first appearance of Dam ant's collection, folk-tales drawn from all parts of India were published in the Indian were published The Indian Antiquary for a considerable period. In 1883 Folk-Tales of Bengal was published by Rev. Lal Behari Dey from London. In the following year R.C. Temple published the first of his three volumes of the Legends of the Punjag in Bombay. In 1884 Wide - awake Stories was published jointly by R.C. temple and Flora A. Steel in Bombay in the same year, valuable collection of folk-tales was published in the Indian Antiquary by Natesa Sastri. In 1890 Williams crooke started the publications of his periodical North Indian Notes and Queries in which a number of folk-tales were published from his own and others' collections. In the course of a few years, the Christian missionaries also started the collection and publications of folk-tales from different parts of India. Among those who made outstanding contribution in this field were Rev. A. Campbell and Rev. J. H. Knowles, who worked in the Santhal Parganas (Bihar) and Kashmir respectively. The work was continued during the twentieth century. The first decade of the century was highly productive in this direction and saw the publication's of the following titles: R.S. Mukherjee's Indian folklore (Calcutta, 1904), Mrs. Dracott's Simla Village Tales (London And New York 1912), Sobhana Devi's The Orient Pearls (London 1913), and P.O.Bodding's Santhal Folk-Tales (Oslo, 1929). Verrier Elwin, a missionary and later on Deputy Director of Anthropological Survey of India, Made a great contribution to the study of Indian Folk-tales by his collection and analysis in Folk-tales of Mahakoshal (London 1944).
The Swadeshi movement started in Bengal during the first decade of the present century gave an impetus to the revival of the traditional culture of the country. Due emphasis, therefore was laid on the collection and study of Folk verses. It inspired young scholars in the collection of folk-tales. This, no doubt yielded good results. Since Independence, the study of folk-literature in general, has gathered momentum. Many universities have adopted this subject for special study in post graduate course and almost all the States of India have already published collections of folk-tales in their respective languages. Not being satisfied with mere collection, Indian scholars have devoted themselves to the analysis of the material they have collected so far in the modern Western manner.
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