Despite linguistic and ethnic diversity, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan share same culture and historical memory in the shape of local mythology, oral stories, dance, folklore and music. One of the famous myths of Gilgit is the character of Shri Badat – the Cannibal King. This myth is a part and parcel of the collective unconscious and historical memory of Gilgit-Baltistan. John Mock thinks that there “is interesting relations between the legend (of Shri Badat) and remarkably similar folklore in wide circulation throughout the mountain regions of South and Central Asia.” He is of the opinion that in the story of Shri Badat ‘we are not dealing with history, but with folklore.’ Therefore, he seems to be rejecting the historicity of the character of Shri Badat. However, late professor Dr Ahmed Hassan Dani thinks that Shri Badat ruled Gilgit in the 8th century.
In the particular context of Gilgit, every violent event the myth of Shri Badat gets rejuvenated. Since 1988, sectarian violence has consumed hundreds of lives in Gilgit. In sectarian violence people of the same race and language killed their brethrens just because they have different faith. In such a situation people invoked the myth of Shri Badat by saying that people of Gilgit became cannibals by killing each other.
The purpose of myth exceeds its origin. Therefore, it is important to examine mutations in the meaning of a myth with change in time and space. This paper studies twofold issues. First, interface between local and universal in art and social sciences. Second, study of processes whereby myth acquires new meaning in different time and space. I have employed art to understand the meaning of the cannibalism of Shri Badat.
Extrapolation of art to understand social and cultural phenomena proves conducive as it opens new vistas of understanding which remained unexplored because of the orthodoxies within different disciplines of social sciences and humanities. This paper strives to shed light on modern society of Gilgit by employing old myth and interpreting it through the art of a renowned surrealist – Salavador Dali. Therefore, it should be seen as a hermeneutical attempt to understand underlying meaning on the one hand, and epistemological debate on the other.