Himalayan Folklore by Tara Dutt Gairola & Ebenezer Sherman Oakley (1865–1935) is a rich collection of Folklore famous in Uttarakhand and western Nepal. The book was first published in 1935 collecting all the secondary works of the time as well as the ethnographical collection by the authors himself.
Folklore of Uttarakhand:
The book is divided into Himalayan Folklore into five categories namely: Legends of Heroes, Wit and Wisdom, Animal Lore, Bird Folklore, and Ghost & Demon Lore. As expected, the highest number of folklore belongs to the category of ‘Legends of Heroes’ while the least number belongs to the category of ‘Bird Folklore’. Animals and Birds plays important role in the life of the Himalayas and this is reflected in the number of folklore related to them popular in the Himalayan region.
Initially, the book was written in pieces and brought together into one. The first person who seriously worked on the folk culture of Uttarakhand was Ganga Dutt Upreti who got multiple books published on the issue during the late 19th and early 20th century. Ganga Dutt Upreti was the senior Assitant Commissioner of Garhwal. His famous book titled “Proverbs & Folklore of Kumaun And Garhwal” still looked as the reference point on this issue. In fact, he gave many of his collections of Himalayan folklore to E. S. Oakley who included those in this book.
E. S. Oakley:
Apart from the collection E. S. Oakley received from Ganga Dutt Upreti, Oakley did an extensive ethnographical collection in the Almora district of Uttarakhand during the 20th Century. The reference point to most of his collection was the traditional storyteller community of the Himalayas, the Hurkiya.
E. S. Oakley was Principal of Ramsay College in Almora and also serving the London Missionary Society since 1906. Apart from this book, he has also written another book titled, “Holy Himalaya: the religion, traditions and scenery of a Himalayan province“, published in 1905.
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Tara Dutt Gairola (1875-1940):
Tara Dutt Gairola was born in Dhal Dung village of Tehri Garhwal and worked as Lawyer in both Srinagar (Garhwal) and Dehradun. His being from Garhwal along with close affinity of Oakley and Ganga Dutt to Kumaon collectively produced the richest book on oral traditions of the entire Uttarakhand. He was also the founding editor of the first Garhwali magazine named Garhwali. Gairola has also written another important book titled “The Psalms of Dadu” in 1929 which was later translated into Dutch by Dr G. H. Mees.
Gairola presented his research and findings before the ‘U.P. Historical Society on the Folklore of Kumaun’ in 1924. Eminent scholars like Rabindra Nath Tagore, Professor Sheshadri and Telang were present at the conference and praised the work of Tara Dutt Gairola. Dr Pitambara Datt Barthwal, the first Hindi D. Litt. in the world also praised his writings. He established a Shanti Ashram, at Kafalsain in Pauri Garhwal and stayed there throughout his life.
Even though the entire collection was collected from the traditional storytelling community of Uttarakhand namely Hurakiya, not a single mention of their names is there in the book. Hurakiya is the scheduled caste untouchable community who were living on begging while singing these folklores. The 1977 edition of the book even classified them as a community of prostitutes who used to dance on these folklores.
Even though the book had all the potential to be projected as the source of oral history, it fails to do so. The book does not present the ethnographical accounts of the processes through which these folklores were collected.