chapter  14
15 Pages

Lokapañca

Analysing structure, performance and meanings of a temple song in Nepal
WithRichard Widdess

Every evening at about six o’clock, a group of men assemble at the temple of Dattatreya in the town of Bhaktapur, Nepal, to sing sacred songs. They are farmers, who live in the nearby streets of the town and go out to work in their fields by day. The version of a song that is learned by beginners follows the written text with little or no repetition. But in performance by the group it is expanded through multiple repetitions of successive lines and verses, according to a standard pattern involving antiphonal alternation, changes of rhythm, tempo and instrumental accompaniment. Nepal lies between India to the South and Tibet to the North, the latter separated from Nepal by the great Himalaya range of mountains. The song Lokapanca is sung by the group of singers attached to the fifteenth-century temple of Dattatreya, a large, three-storey pagoda-style temple overlooking one of the main squares of the town.