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Singing the River in Punjab: Poetry, Performance and Folklore

Kapuria, Radha; Kumar, Naresh

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Naresh Kumar


This paper traces the centrality of rivers in twentieth-century and contemporary popular music and poetry in the regional context of Punjab in the north-west of the subcontinent. In contrast to the riverine imaginations in the songs of eastern or central India, we look at the very different evocations of rivers—both real and conceptual—in the subcontinent’s north-west. Rivers feature centrally in the love legends, devotional and folk poetry, and songs of Punjab, and here we trace a river-based ‘hydropoetics’ in Punjab, querying land-focused perspectives. From the metaphysical and the sacred to the sensual, and from the realms of the quotidian to those of mourning and trauma, we argue that in Punjab, ‘singing the river’ is central to people’s definitions of regional and ontological identity, and to the way they understand their place in the world.


Kapuria, R., & Kumar, N. (2022). Singing the River in Punjab: Poetry, Performance and Folklore. South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, 45(6),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 7, 2022
Online Publication Date Oct 23, 2022
Publication Date 2022
Deposit Date Dec 21, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 21, 2022
Journal South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies
Print ISSN 0085-6401
Electronic ISSN 1479-0270
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 6


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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.<br /> This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

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