Open Book Publishers logo Open Access logo
  • button
  • button
  • button
GO TO...
book cover

8. Text, Orality, and Performance in Newar Devotional Music1

Richard Widdess

© Richard Widdess, CC BY

We are accustomed to thinking of texts as existing either in written form, read, silently or aloud, and transmitted by copying and re-copying; or else in memorised form, rendered and in some sense re-created through performance, and transmitted orally.2 In both cases we tend to assume that the meaning of a text resides primarily in the words themselves, and is understood by the reader or listener through the act of reading or listening. But there are traditions of performance in South Asia where these assumptions do not hold: traditions where written documents, oral transmission, and performance co-exist; and traditions where the meaning of the words plays only a small part in the overall meaning of their performance. Both conditions apply in the genre of Newar devotional singing called dapha.

The study of dapha takes us to the Kathmandu Valley, a region that has been in close communication with other parts of the Indian subcontinent for at least two millennia. From the twelfth century until 1768-1769 it was divided into three small kingdoms, centred on the three cities of the Valley, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur. The rulers of these kingdoms called themselves the Mallas, and the inhabitants were principally of the ethnic group now known as the Newars, who speak the Tibeto-Burman language Newari. Following the defeat of the Mallas in 1768-1769 by the king of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah, who set up the capital of his empire in Kathmandu, positions of power have been mainly occupied by members of a different ethnic group, the Parbatiya, who now constitute about half the population of the Valley, and speak the Indo-Aryan language Nepali, the national language of modern Nepal.

A rich tradition of dapha performance is to be found in Bhaktapur, in the eastern part of the Valley.3 Once the most powerful of the Malla kingdoms, Bhaktapur remains a predominantly Newar town. About half its population belong to farmers’ castes, who live in the town and go out to their fields during the day. The farmers (maharjan, jyapu) occupy the middle band of the complex local caste system and they take great pride in preserving many performance traditions of music and dance that date back, they claim, to the time of the Malla kingdoms.4 One of these traditions is dapha, performed by groups of men in temple courtyards or other outdoor locations, when they are not working in the fields: in the early morning or evening, or during the day on festival days. About sixty dapha groups exist, performing with varying degrees of regularity, from once a year to every day.

Figure 8.1 shows a typical dapha group. Its members have assembled in Suryamarhi Square, at the eastern end of the town, to celebrate the Buddhist festival of Panchadan or Five Offerings; they sit on the brick paving of the square, surrounded by standing devotees, while behind them, on a raised platform, five Buddha statues are being installed and worshipped by the crowds (Hindus interpreting them as the five Pandava brothers from the Mahabharata). The photograph shows one half or side of the dapha group, who face the camera; the other half sit facing them, close to the camera but with their backs towards us. The two sides sing alternately, never together. Between the two sides, on the left, are two drummers, playing the barrel drum lalakhin, an indispensable accompanying instrument; some of the singers play cymbals, tah, but these are hard to see in the photograph. Clearly visible, in the centre of the photograph, is the oblong shape of a folding manuscript songbook (dapha saphu); the singers nearer the camera have an identical book (not visible in the photograph). In the open space between the two sides, oil lamps and plates of offerings indicate the ritual context of the performance, while hookahs acknowledge the singers’ need for periodic refreshment. The boy sitting on the lap of one of the singers, clapping his hands in time to the rhythm of the cymbals, reflects the importance of dapha as a means of enculturation into Newar male society.

Fig. 8.1 Dapha group performing in Suryamarhi
Square, Bhaktapur. September 2007. Author’s photograph, CC BY.

Historical Origins

Dapha singers themselves say that dapha singing originated with the higher castes in a palace context, in Malla times, and was taken over by farmers for their own use. There is considerable evidence to support this idea. The manuscript songbooks contain the texts of poems dating back many centuries. Some of these are ascribed to well-known poets of northern India: Jayadeva, Namdev, Vidyapati, Kabir, Surdas, and other familiar names appear (cf. Novetzke and Hawley in this volume), and the most popular of these is Jayadeva, whose Gītagovinda is contained complete in some dapha songbooks. I assume that the works of these poets circulated at the Malla courts, having been brought there by pandits and bhaktas from India: the Gītagovinda certainly did, because manuscripts survive from as early as the fifteenth century. But a much larger proportion of dapha songs are ascribed (in the last verse) to local authors, namely the Malla kings of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The earliest of these poets to appear in Bhaktapur songbooks is the king of Bhaktapur Jagajjyoti Malla (r.1614-1637), who was a prolific and versatile patron and exponent of the arts. The last is Ranjit Malla (r.1722-1769), the last Newar king, who was driven into exile by the conqueror, Prithvi Narayan Shah. Ranjit is the most popular author in the Bhaktapur songbooks, and dozens of songs bear his name, including one that records his melancholy thoughts on leaving Nepal for the last time.

The songs in the dapha songbooks are written in Maithili, Newari, or Sanskrit, with some songs combining vocabulary from more than one language. Similar texts survive in manuscripts of seventeenth-century or later date, preserved in the National Archive, Kathmandu.5 These include anthologies of poetry by Jagajjyoti and other Malla authors, as well as songbooks for general use. Of particular interest is a collection of Jagajjyoti’s poetry entitled Gītapañcāśika, dated 1628, and therefore contemporary with the author.6 It includes three songs that still appear, still ascribed to Jagajjyoti, in Bhaktapur dapha songbooks today. A tenuous textual continuity can thus be demonstrated between the early seventeenth-century palace context and twenty-first-century farmers’ music.

Records of the Malla courts in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries also demonstrate that the theory and aesthetics of music were well known in that milieu. For information about music theory (sangitashastra), Newar scholars looked to Indian sources in Sanskrit (cf. Miner, d’Hubert, and Schofield in this volume). Some of the earliest palmleaf manuscripts of the Nāṭyaśāstra survive in Kathmandu, and later texts such as the Saṅgītaratnākara were also known. But again, imported texts are outnumbered by local productions: Jagajjyoti alone wrote or commissioned at least five treatises on music, and his successors produced more in their turn. These are digests of material from Indian sources, in Sanskrit or occasionally Newari. A related subject of interest was the pictorial imagery of raga, as expressed in poems and paintings (cf. Miner in this volume). Two fine ragamala albums survive that are believed to have been painted for Jagajjyoti himself, on the basis of a treatise he wrote (the Saṅgīta-cintāmaṇi), which itself was based on the eastern Indian treatise Saṅgīta-dāmodara of Shubhankara (sixteenth century).7 Figure 8.2 shows a typical page from one of the ragamalas. It demonstrates the lively way in which familiar images from the Indian ragamala tradition were re-interpreted in a Newar style of painting that shows the influence of Rajput exemplars.8 These various productions demonstrate that the Mallas were familiar with the traditional South Asian theory and aesthetics of raga and tala. In practice, we may assume that they transformed Indian models in music, as they did in painting.

Fig. 8.2 Raga Lalit. Bhaktapur, early seventeenth century.
Photograph by Gert-Matthias Wegner, CC BY.

Another art-form assiduously cultivated at the Malla courts was Newar dance-drama, to which the Malla kings themselves contributed many texts, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. According to a European witness who visited the Bhaktapur court in the eighteenth century, the performance of these dramas contained little dialogue: there were two choruses who “sing the whole”, while the actor “dances constantly”, fitting “the movements of his face, feet and hands to the meaning of the words they are singing”.9 This description reveals that the songs were sung, not by the actors themselves or by other solo singers, but by a group of singers; furthermore, the group was divided into two “choruses”. The parallel with the antiphonal sides of a dapha group is striking. A connection is further strengthened by close similarity between the raga and tala names assigned to songs in dramas of the time and in contemporary dapha; and by the fact that the term nandi-gita, used to denote the opening song in Newar drama, is still used, in some Bhaktapur groups, to denote the opening song of a dapha singing session.10

Evidence that a form of religious group singing akin to dapha was being performed at the Malla courts in the seventeenth century is provided by a painting published by Anne Vergati.11 It shows a ceremony performed in Kathmandu, in the year 1664, by King Pratap Malla at the temple of Taleju, the tutelary goddess of the Malla kings. On the steps of the temple, just below the king and his courtiers, a small vocal group is depicted (see Figure 8.3), comprising eight singers divided into two sides of four each, sitting to either side of a central drummer. The latter is playing what appears to be a lalakhin, and the singers all play cymbals. The court robes, seated posture, and closeness of the singers to the court distinguish them from groups of standing ritual and processional musicians visible lower in the painting, strongly indicating that this is a courtly form of music-making. This may well be the earliest depiction of a dapha group.

Fig. 8.3 Dapha group performing at the Taleju temple, Kathmandu, in 1664. Detail of a painting now in the Collège de France, Paris. Author’s sketch, CC BY.

Texts and Meaning

There is thus good reason to trace the origins of dapha to the Malla courts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whence it was adopted by the farming community in Bhaktapur. The process of adoption would no doubt have been facilitated by the fact that the farmers not only rented and farmed fields owned by the upper castes, but were also employed by the upper castes in a number of capacities, including assistants in temples, cremation specialists, midwives, and messengers, and therefore had direct access to the aristocratic milieu.12 Following the Gorkhali conquest, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries upper castes tended to move away from Bhaktapur to Kathmandu, the centre of political and economic power, and thus withdrew from patronage and performance of the arts in Bhaktapur, leaving the farmers and other lower castes as principal bearers of Newar music and dance traditions. Nevertheless, one dapha group with exclusively upper-caste membership survived until the 1980s: significantly, it was attached to the temple of Taleju, the tutelary goddess of the Malla kings, whose temple is within the palace compound, in Bhaktapur as in Kathmandu. This important group must have served to some extent as a model for other, lower-caste groups.13

In this process of transmission from higher to lower castes, song texts were imperfectly preserved and incompletely understood. This was inevitable given that Maithili and Sanskrit are not generally known among the farmers (Maithili was the court language, because the Mallas were partly descended from Mithila royalty); even the Newari of dapha includes unfamiliar archaisms and formalities. Literacy was until recently relatively low among middle and lower castes, and indeed training in dapha was often the only formal education available. Unlike the kirtankars’ notebooks analysed by Christan Novetzke in his essay in this volume, dapha manuscript songbooks preserve only a very approximate rendering of the original texts, as we can see from a comparison of the incipits of three songs that appear in the Gītapañcāśika manuscript of 1628 with the versions found in present-day songbooks (see Table 8.1). Some of the errors indicate oral transmission (/r/ and /l/ or /ṭ/ and /t/ interchange, for example), while others are evidently writing errors (e.g. confusion of /n/ and /t/, or /y/ and /p/).

Table 8.1: Incipits of three dapha songs
in early and modern manuscripts

Gītapañcāśika MS (dated 1628)

Dapha songbooks

fol. 5:
Bhavabhayabhañjani asura vināśini

Yachen, no. 107, p. 111:
Bhavabhayaṃjani asura vināsinī

fol. 5:
Gharanahi samvara yahiriva

Yachen, no. 101, p. 107:
Ghalanahi saṃvatsa pahilivā

fol. 7:
Kmikiṭa jaga dekhi sakṣa sarūpa

Yachen, no. 114, p. 118:
Kimikta janadeki sa asaluye

Barahi, no. 50, p. 25:
Kimikīna janadeṣi sava akṣarūpe

Tekhadola, no. 80, p. 19:
Kimikita jatadeṣi sava aha salupe

Dattatreya, no. 32, p. 10:
Krimikita janadoṣi sava asa rūpa

Not only the texts, but also their meanings become obscured, or transformed. Figure 8.4 is a dapha song that is very frequently performed in Bhaktapur, Ganamani, in mixed Newari and Sanskrit.14 A tentative translation follows, worked out with considerable difficulty on account of the uncertain state of the text by a Newar historian, Nutandhar Sharma. It is clear that the poem was written by, or at least attributed to, Ranjit Malla, the last king of Bhaktapur. According to dapha singers from whom I learned this song, it is in praise of Ganesha. Sharma’s translation, however, reveals a song in praise of an unnamed goddess; and according to Sharma, this can only be the Tantric goddess Taleju, since she is described as dominating gods and demons, even Shiva himself.

Fig. 8.4 Ganamani. Dattatreya Navadapha songbook, song no. 63 (fol. 20r-20v).
Public Domain.

Rāg Āsāvari || [tāl] Co[kh]

O Mother with big eyes, [you are] the jewel of [the] retinues, esoteric, impossible [and] deep [to understand]. Sages, the gods of [different] directions [and] Śiva do not devote to others [but only to you].

Meditate on [her], repeat [her] name, do penance, keep attention [and] feeling [on her], [offer] wealth [and] sacrifice oblation; [to] the compassionate mother, O Mother. || 1||

[I] bow down [to you,] the pure[,] queen [and] mistress of the lord of the world, with graceful face, O [mother] goddess; Sitting on the head of the evil god[s] [and] all ghosts (bhūta) including Śiva. || 2 ||

[You, decorated with] braided hair, a lion [as a vehicle], snakes, sitting on a bull [and] holding all kinds of arms, O [goddess]. No other place to get salvation for Śrī Ranajita, O [mother, you, who is] pervasive over [all] fourteen [directions]. || 3 ||

For dapha singers, it seems, the first word, Ganamani, is enough to suggest that the song is about Gaṇapati, Ganesha. Consequently the song is often sung at Ganesha temples, and is often the first or second song taught to beginners—in the latter case, the first will be a song to Nrityanatha (Nāsaḥdyaḥ), who for Newars is the patron deity of music and dance. Thus a single word of the text acts as a pointer to its entire meaning and hence to a network of associations and usage. The original meaning of the text seems not to have been transmitted to, or has been forgotten by, the farmer community. Taleju was of central importance to the Malla court (literally, since her temple is in the palace itself), as the ultimate wielder of shakti and hence source of the Mallas’ power; but she is perhaps less significant to the farmer community than the deities who inhabit the residential areas of the town, including Ganesha. The fact that Newari does not distinguish gender morphologically makes it easier to understand the switch from female to male deity.

This example is of course an extreme case, since for most songs the meaning is more explicit in the text. Singers discuss the meaning of particular words and phrases in the breaks between songs,15 and can usually tell the investigator at least the gist of a song, which may be reflected in the time or place of its performance. But another case where little is understood is the Gītagovinda. Singers know that this text includes the divine names of Vishnu, and that it concerns the erotic relationship of Krishna and Radha; this is sufficient for them, and some say it is better not to know the precise meaning in view of its erotic content. When I asked one group why they go to the trouble of singing the entire Gītagovinda, in one all-night performance, when they do not understand the words, they explained that the objective is to sing all night. Therefore they choose to sing the Gītagovinda, because it takes that length of time. Here we see very clearly how the process of performance itself, elaborated and prolonged to the maximum extent, is what is important; the text becomes a means to that end, losing most of its intrinsic meaning in the process.

Performance and Meaning

What then is the meaning of performance, as distinct from the meaning of what is performed? To begin to answer this question we have to recognise that dapha performance has not one but many meanings. It has meanings for the individuals who participate as singers, instrumentalists, or helpers, and for the larger community who do not participate directly. It has meanings at 6.00 am on a cold winter’s morning on the verandah of a small neighbourhood temple, and other meanings on a warm afternoon at the start of the Biskah festival in Tahmarhi Square, the central square of the town.

The performance of dapha can be seen as a form of religious exertion akin to the pilgrimages, rituals, fasts, and festivals that punctuate Newar life with remarkable frequency. Michael Allen observes that various forms of “highly organised human physical activity”, designed to bring the human and the divine into “productive contact”, constitute “the primary mode of worship” in Newar religion.16 Dapha is certainly one of these forms. A dapha singing session is in itself a complex ritual. It begins with three rings on the tah cymbals, followed by a lengthy instrumental invocation (dyahlhaygu). An odd number of songs must be sung, at least three, but usually more; the first will be a short song in praise of Shiva, and the last will be accompanied by arati, in which a multi-branched candelabra will be lit and worshipped, followed by another instrumental invocation and worship of the tah cymbals. Between the first and last songs, others will be sung in praise of various deities, selected partly according to inclination and partly to reflect the season of the year or the day of the week (each day being presided over by a different deity).

Not only the whole singing session, but the performance of each individual song is an elaborate ritual. Each song is preceded by the appropriate raga: an unmetered, wordless melody, sung by one or two individual singers without instrumental accompaniment. The name of the raga is specified in the songbook for each song, as is the musical metre or tala; some songs require two or more different talas. The song itself comprises a variable number of lines or couplets, of which the first is usually repeated as a refrain (dhuva) after each of the others. Each couplet is sung many times, at slow and fast tempi, the two sides of the group alternating according to a standard formula. The lalakhin player, sometimes aided by a player of the natural trumpet pvana, guides the singers by punctuating each stage of the expansion process with cadential formulae, and varying his patterns to initiate and maintain changes of tempo. In each line, increasingly fast tempo, loud volume, and high pitch generate the musically-induced state of heightened emotional involvement that Edward Henry terms “intensity”.17

The ritual complexity of dapha performance is paralleled by the complexity of the social mechanisms required to transmit and maintain it. Each dapha group constitutes a society, or guthi (< Skt goṣṭhī). Guthis for a variety of social, religious, and musical purposes are a pervasive feature of Newar society, “a network undergirding the whole of Newar social and religious life”.18 (Guthi membership may be voluntary or hereditary, and is often based on residence in the neighbourhood and/or membership of a particular caste.19) A dapha guthi appoints officers in rotation to organise its activities, holds regular feasts to consolidate social bonds, and in some cases owns land, the produce of which pays for the repair of instruments and songbooks, and for the feasts. Membership of such a guthi is one way for Newar males to secure a respected position in a caste-based neighbourhood community: as Gellner and Pradhan observe, “participation [in music groups] is equivalent to belonging to the neighbourhood”.20

Participation in a musical guthi requires a process of initiation. Once every ten to twelve years, a dapha guthi will recruit local boys (with the active support of their parents) and teach them, over a period of several months, to sing and play the essential repertoire. In this process the teacher uses the manuscript songbook to ensure faithful transmission of its text, but the boys are not taught to read it,21 and must memorise the songs through imitation and repetition. The process culminates in an all-day puja to the patron deity of music, Nasahdyah (= Nrityanath), at which the new trainees perform in public for the first time, followed by a feast. The following day, there is yet another performance and a picnic feast at the temple of Ganesha called Surya Binayak, on a wooded slope to the south of the town. The trainees are then entitled to participate in the regular singing sessions of the dapha group; although few keep up their participation on a regular basis, some may well return to singing in later life.

Performance of dapha thus has meaning for the neighbourhood community, which invests significant resources of time and money in its periodic renewal. It also has significance for the wider community of the whole town, since major festivals are regularly enhanced by the singing of dapha along with other music genres. Thus several local dapha groups participate in the Panchadan festival, including that seen in Figure 8.1. One of these groups represents the local community of oil-pressers (Manandhar), who are low-caste Buddhists; others represent the Hindu potter caste, also resident in the neighbourhood. Their participation represents the local community at a major civic event that happens in their neighbourhood.

Similarly at the start of the festival of Biskah, the Newar New Year festival dedicated to Bhairav, the dapha group attached to the Bhairav temple in Tahmarhi Square comes out of the temple to sing in the square itself, between the temple and the wooden chariot on which an image of Bhairav will be paraded through the whole town (see Figure 8.5). Surrounded by crowds from all over the town, they sing the song He Śiva Bhairava, the subject of which is immediately apparent from its opening words, and whose last line contains the signature of Ranjit Malla. In Malla times the king himself would have attended this ceremony. Today he is represented by a sword, carried by one of the royal priests who maintain the cult of Taleju in the former royal palace. Here we find a situation akin to that depicted in the 1664 painting discussed earlier, with the chariot of Bhairav taking the place of the Taleju temple, and the priests of Taleju representing the king and his court.

Fig. 8.5 One side of the Bhairav Navadapha group performing on the first day of Biskah, Tahmarhi Square, Bhaktapur. The chariot of Bhairav is visible behind the singers. April 2003. Author’s photograph, CC BY.


The meanings of dapha, therefore, are generated as much by its performance as by its texts, if not more so. In the transition from high-caste palace culture to the middle-caste farmers’ community (jyapu), much of the original meaning of the texts, along with their original form, may have been lost. Now the texts provide clues to meaning: a word, name, or phrase evokes a network of meanings and associations, which may in turn determine when and where the song is sung. What is important, however, is the performance, which has its own meanings and values independently of the text: as religious exertion, as an expression of social identity, and as a component in urban ritual. In consequence, musical elaboration of the song, by both singers and instrumentalists, is paralleled by the elaboration of social processes by which the tradition is maintained and renewed.

Musical elaboration of songs, going far beyond a straightforward rendition of the text, is of course not unique to dapha, but is typical of many traditions in South Asia. Devotional singing in Vrindaban and other parts of Braj indulges, like dapha, in multiple repetitions of lines or parts of lines, with periodically increasing “intensity”. In classical Hindustani khayal, the musical elaboration of raga and tala through solo, virtuoso improvisation, with intensity gradually increasing throughout, occupies far more time than the rendering of the song, whose text is often at least partly obscure to audience and singer alike: a word here or a phrase there may be sufficient to evoke a familiar topos or suggest a mood. The ultimate case, perhaps, is the marai kirtan of West Bengal, where the text of every song is replaced by the ubiquitous mantra Hari bol in performances that are maximally intense from the start.22 Such cases suggest that some South Asian musical forms escape such conventional categories as orality and text, but are better understood as performance: a process in which text may be present, in written and/or oral form, but is subsumed by musical elaboration and the enactment of religious and social meanings.23

1 This article draws on ongoing research and on materials in two other places: in my 2011 article ‘Dāphā: Dancing Gods, Virtual Pilgrimage, and Sacred Singing in the Kathmandu Valley”, Musiké 5.6 (2011), 55-79; and in my book Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City: Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal. SOAS Musicology Series (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2013). Full acknowledgements will be found there; for the present article I am particularly indebted to Shamsher Nhuchen Pradhan for help with ethnographic research in Bhaktapur, and to Nutandhar Sharma for his advice on dapha song texts.

2 The distinction between orality and literacy has often been questioned, for example by Ruth Finnegan, Literacy and Orality: Studies in the Technology of Communication (Oxford: Blackwell, 1989); and that between text and performance has recently been challenged by Karin Barber, The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

3 For a discussion of this genre as it is practised in Kirtipur, at the western end of the Kathmandu Valley, see Ingemar Grandin, Music and Media in Local Life: Music Practice in a Newar Neighbourhood in Nepal (Lingköping: Lingköping University, 1989), pp. 8-10 and 71-85.

4 See David N. Gellner, ‘Introduction’, in Contested Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, ed. by David N. Gellner and Declan Quigley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 10-19; R.I. Levy, Mesocosm: Hinduism and the Organization of a Traditional Newar City in Nepal (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), pp. 625-29.

5 I have consulted microfilm copies kindly provided by the German Nepal Research Project, through the good offices of Nutandhar Sharma.

6 Gītapañcāśika, National Archives of Nepal, MS no. 1-399, dated Śāke 1550/1628 CE. Microfilm no. B288/12. Various languages. (Catalogue of N. Sharma.)

7 See Gert-Matthias Wegner and Richard Widdess, ‘Musical Miniatures from Nepal: Two Newar Ragamalas’, in Nepal: Old Images, New Insights, ed. by P. Pal (Mumbai: Marg Publications, 2004), pp. 81-91. See d’Hubert and Miner for the circulation of this text in northern and eastern India.

8 The half arch in Figure 8.2 is a convention in Newar art signifying “on the threshold”. Here it is used to convey the conventional interpretation of raga Lalit as a lover leaving the house of his mistress at dawn.

9 Cassien in 1740, cited in H. Brinkhaus, The Pradyumna-Prabhāvatī Legend in Nepal (Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1987), p. 115.

10 One performance tradition featuring dance accompanied by dapha-style singing (Kha Pyakhan) is said to have survived in Bhaktapur until about a decade ago. Information from the Khairguli Dapha group, March 2009.

11 Anne Vergati, ‘Gods and Monuments in Late Malla Period Paintings’, in Nepal: Old Images, New Insights (Mumbai: Marg Publications), pp. 92-106.

12 D. Gellner and Rajendra Pradhan, ‘Urban Peasants: The Maharjans (Jyāpu) of Kathmandu and Lalitpur’, in Contested Hierarchies: A Collaborative Ethnography of Caste among the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal, ed. by D. Gellner and D. Quigley (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), pp. 168, 172-73.

13 This information is derived from a survey of dapha groups conducted by Gert-Matthias Wegner in 1984, and is confirmed by present-day singers. Compare the dissemination of court-based oral text genres in Rwanda described by Barber (2008), pp. 58-66.

14 A recording of the song Ganamani, performed by the Dattatreya Navadapha group, can be found on the CD accompanying the book Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City (see fn. 1).

15 Information from Simonne Bailey.

16 Michael Allen, ‘Procession and Pilgrimage in Newar Religion’, in Change and Continuity, ed. by S. Lienhard (Turin: Edizioni dell’Orso, 1996), p. 209.

17 Edward O. Henry, ‘The Rationalization of Intensity in Indian Music’, Ethnomusicology 46.1 (2002), 33-55.

18 Anne Vergati, Gods, Men and Territory: Society and Culture in Kathmandu Valley (New Delhi: Manohar, 1995), p. 124.

19 Further details are given in Widdess (2014). For guthi as a pervasive feature of Newar society, see, for example, G. Toffin, Newar Society: City, Village and Periphery (Kathmandu: Social Science Baha, 2007), and Vergati (1995).

20 Gellner and Pradhan (1995), p. 179.

21 Particularly able boys may be taught to read the songbook at an advanced stage of their training.

22 I am indebted to Jyotsna Latrobe for information about this genre.

23 For a discussion of the meanings of performance in a different genre of Newar music, see Widdess, ‘Musical Structure, Performance and Meaning: The Case of a Stick-Dance from Nepal’, Ethnomusicology Forum 15.2 (2006), 179-213.