Diwali Special: Mythology at your fingertips
Imagine Krishna and Kansa battling it out against a 21st century backdrop. Or a little girl shouting words of encouragement to the goddess Durga, asking her to show the demons “who is the boss”. This festive season, apps are bringing alive the vibrant world of myths and legends for children, albeit in a contemporary context.
For instance, an animated video titled the Diwali Festival Story, available on AppyStore—a learning app for children under the age of 8—presents a colourful snapshot of the Ramayan, establishing the epic’s link with the festival of Diwali, and prods children to think about the notions of wit, kindness and courage. Yet another Indian app creator, Bulbul Apps, has designed an entire series around the god Krishna and his heroics. The series helps parents link ancient tales such as Krishna and Kalia with modern-day learning needs.
Then, there’s an assortment of mythological and folk tales, such as the Karadi Tales, available on VOOT—a mobile-first video-on-demand platform, by the digital arm of Viacom18, available on Google Play and the Apple store.
Each series has emerged as a result of collaboration with different content creators, based in different parts of the world. For instance, in the Krishna series by Hyderabad-based Bulbul Apps, the stories are by a Mumbai-based teacher, the illustrations by a Mexican artist, and the background score by a studio in Israel. The content presented by the creators needs to fulfil a couple of parameters—it has to be in sync with the ethos of the app and the narrative has to be suitable for children. “Mythological stories can have violence, patriarchal tones and conflicting messages. The values underlying these tales may not be as clear as those conveyed by moral fables. Hence, we need to be very careful in curating the content,” says Badri Sanjeevi, co-founder and chief executive officer, AppyStore.
Also, care is taken to ensure that each of these apps has a built-in learning and engagement module as well. So, the information template of the Bulbul Apps stories features one big beautiful illustration per page, with just one or two sentences of voice-over, allowing children to absorb the story and repeat it several times. AppyStore also features offline learning aids and worksheets that are mailed (both online and via post) once parents subscribe to the app. “These stories are only vehicles to a larger learning objective such as phonetics and counting. Just to give an example, the Diwali Festival Story will be accompanied by craft activity and a tutorial on how to make an origami lantern or a kolam, which parents can do with the children at home,” says Sanjeevi.