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MythoLogical festival opens doors to the world of myths and folktales

Bibek Debroy, Ganesh Devy and Anand Neelakantan are some of the speakers who will present popular epics and myths in a different light

Bhishma on a bed of arrows during Kurukshtra war in Mahabharata.
Bhishma on a bed of arrows during Kurukshtra war in Mahabharata.

Can myths and folktales guide us in these trying times? How are ancient stories still being preserved? MythoLogical, a two-day virtual festival on myths, legends and folklore, aim to address these questions. The festival, from 12-13 December, has an eclectic mix of speakers who will speakers ranging from academicians to storytellers and even folk performers, showcasing well known myths and lore from India and other parts of the world in a new light. The festival is organized by Mythology Project and Mythopia, both independent platforms focus on study of myth, art and culture.

Take for instance, "Mahabharata – battle song for the righteous or an anti-war poem?", a panel discussion with former IIT Kanpur English and linguistics professor BN Patnaik, former Mumbai University Sanskrit department head Gauri Mahulikar, and Pradip Bhattacharya, who has documented multiple regional versions of Mahabharata. “Mahabharata is an epic story, which we all have grown up with. But it's insight into war is very much relevant in today’s times,” says Arundhuti Dasgupta, co founder of The Mythology Project.

It has also roped in Ganesh Devy, who conducted the People’s Linguistics Survey of India, to talk about "Myth and AI", and Oxford University’s Jenny Lewis to elaborate on her book on Gilgamesh, a hero in Mesopotamian mythology. Bibek Debroy, chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to The Prime Minister, will dive into the contemporary contexts of the Mahabharata. But it’s not just-well known epics and tales, Patrick Graham, screenwriter and director of Netflix shows like Ghoul and Betaal, will present folklore and mythology around demons, jinns and ghouls, while Shilpa Mudbi Kothakota, co founder of Urban Folk Project, will share the traditions, art and music of devadasis and jogathis. Prabha Yadav, a Pandavani-style folk musician, and Akshay Gandhi will enact the storytelling form of Kaavad Katha.

“Through this festival, we want to show that while there are varied myths and stories of love, valor and heroism, there are similarities in them that everyone can identify with. We want to make it easily accessible, and break the barrier between academics, culture and pop culture,” says Dasgupta.

One thing the organizers were cautious of was to select topics of discussion outside the purview of religion. “Most of our speakers are scholars in their fields, who have dedicated years in research. They will provide textual references while talking about these myths, legends and folktales,” says Utkarsh Patel, co-founder of The Mythology Project, who teaches comparative mythology in Mumbai University.

While this festival intends to be an annual event, Dasgupta said that funding was a big concern, especially for small and independent platforms. “It’s been tough to break into corporate funding, especially if there aren’t many popular speakers. However, we are hopeful that things will improve next year."

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