The Kesar Saga, or epic, is the longest story in the world, being possibly 10x the length of the Mahābhārata, for instance. The story concerns the adventures of the trickster King Kesar, and the fight of good against evil.
The story is very widespread, being known and told all the way from Manchuria to Mongolia to Tibet to Ladakh. It appears to have arisen in the pre-Buddhist shamanic traditions centered around Tibet, and although facing hard times, still survives in an oral tradition till today, when it is being increasingly recorded, and published in various formats.
What is largely unknown is that the traditions survive in the most westerly enclaves amongst Muslims also, who make up around 50% of the population of Ladakh. This film deals with the bards from the Muslim communities and the stories they tell, and the challenges the tradition is now facing.
As Kesar is a virtual god-like being, who can perform many great wonders, the telling of the stories amongst Muslims is increasingly frowned upon by the orthodox, and may not survive the increasing militancy of the age. But for now there are still some old bards who can tell the stories they learned primarily from their parents or other relatives.
The memories of people recounting these stories which can take upto 200 hours to retell is prodiguous indeed, but they are mainly fairly ordinary folk in many ways, as this film shows. The films recounts some of the stories, mainly told by the bards themselves, and hears of their backgrounds, and how they came to be retelling these stories, and what they think about their place in the oral culture.
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Culture, Folklore, Ladakh, Legends, Storytelling