Dr.Banarsi Lal, Dr. Vikas Tandon
Every year three-day historic Aghar Jitto Mela is organized at Aghar Jitto village in the month of June. This mela is organised to salute the courage of a legendary Dogra hero Baba Jitto Mal. This ancient religious place is situated in the lap of Trikuta Hills on Katra -Reasi road where lakhs of devotees from various parts of the country visit to pay their obeisance.
As per the religious rites, the devotees of Baba Jitto perform the rituals on the bank of river Chenab.
Baba Aghar Jitto shrine situated on Katra-Reasi main road at village Aghar Jitto which is around six kms from Katra. Baba Jitto was born in Aghar village of Reasi district situated in the lap of the Trikuta Hills, the abode of Vaishno Devi in J&K State. Baba Jitto was a great devotee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi. He was a farmer who sacrificed his life to get his due share of agricultural crop from landlord Bir Singh who denied him to give the committed share. After that he became famous among the farmer community. This place is source of attraction for the pilgrims from all over the country. On this spot, a statue of Baba Jitto has been constructed. Every year a big fair is organized by the District Administration at this spot and a large number of people participate in this fair and pay respect to Baba Jitto.
Like many other folk heroes who begin their life as ordinary persons but are transformed into someone extraordinary by performing significant life events in their lives. Baba Jitto, originally named as Jit Mal, was an honest and truthful farmer of village Aghar Jitto. Baba Jitto was a Brahmin and a great devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi. His aunt Jojan was towards him and finally he decided to leave the village along with his daughter Bua Kori. He went to his friend, Iso Megh at Kahnachak and there he requested Mehta Bir Singh, a feudal lord of the Ambgrota, to provide a piece of land for farming.
Mehta Bir Singh gave Jit Mal a piece of barren and unfertile land after signing an agreement, that he will take one-fourth of the total produce. Jit Mal’s hard work transformed the unfertile and barren land into fertile land which finally yielded an excellent crop. When Bir Singh came to know about the excellent crop yield, he arrived at the fields along with his men and instructed them to lift three fourth of the crop yield and leave only a quarter for Jit Mal.
Baba Jitto requested Mehta Bir Singh to follow the terms and conditions of the agreement but Mehta forcibly took the major share of the crop. Injustice done by Mehta compelled Jit Mal to stab himself after sitting on the heap of grains which got wet by his blood. Her daughter Bua Kori with the help of their pet dog Kalu, found the dead body of her father which was hidden in the Simbal tree trunk by the goons of Mehta. She then lit the pyre and burnt herself too with her father. After that a fierce rain storm raged the area, the blood stained grains were washed away and all those people, even the birds, who had taken those grains later suffered from various ailments, untimely deaths, misfortunes etc. In order to seek pardon from the wrath of the holy great spirit, they not only asked for his forgiveness by worshiping him as a ‘Kuldevta’-family deity, but also making it mandatory for their future generations to venerate Baba Jitto and pay annual homage to him. There’s also spring water that flows in front of the shrine. It is believed that water of this spring is holy. Samadhi of Baba Jitto was laid at Jhiri where a mela is organised in Oct.-Nov. Local people of the area offer grains to Baba Jitto after harvest. Different events like arti, kirtan, sobha yatra, folk songs, plays, sports etc. are organised during the mela.
It is said that if a childless lady takes bath in the pond she is blessed with a child.
Aghar Jitto mela witnesses great hustle and bustle during three-day festival as pilgrims, families and various groups belonging to diverse communities and hailing from different parts of the country assemble here to pay obeisance at the Baba Jitto temple and seek his blessings and the blessings of his daughter-Bua Kouri. People from every nook and corners have also been visiting this spot throughout the year and enjoy the unique place of spirituality. Especially the members of local and outside communities, who worship Baba Jitto as a Kuldevta (family deity) come here to pay obeisance on occasions of important events in their families like marriage, birth of child, mundan (tonsuring ceremony) or simply to thank or entreat the Baba for his continuing protection and blessings. Baba Jitto Mela, the farmer’s fair like other such congregations is a spectacle to behold. Apart from large number of kiosks of eatables and merchants displaying their wares for sale, which include from trinkets to new popular electronics gadgets, the fair presents hosts of entertainments for every age group of people. During the festival there is regular recitation of folk songs by Yogis and ‘Gardis’ in form of Baba’s devotional ballads at the main shrine. Many entertaining cultural shows are also staged. While ‘dangals’- the Indian style wrestling matches in which wrestlers from far and wide participate draw a large crowd of sport enthusiasts. On first day of the mela, a jatra is held at birth place of Baba Jitto which continues for whole night with bhajans of Baba Jitto. On second day Sobha Yatra is taken out from his birth place in which a large number of pilgrims/devotees participate. On the last day wrestling is organised in which locals and wrestlers from other parts of the country participate.
During the fair, exhibitions and stalls are organized by different Government Departments like Agriculture, Horticulture ,Floriculture, Animal Husbandry, Rural Development etc. to aware the people about various technologies, Government schemes and incentives so that people could avail the benefits. Most of the stalls of eatables especially Jalebi and Pakoras, which is a specialty of the mela, are being run by local people. Other than the shopkeepers, the local transporters like matador and bus owners also earn extra income by bringing large number of pilgrims to the mela site. The Aghar Jitto Mela is one of the most attended fairs in Reasi district.
Dr.Banarsi Lal, Dr. Vikas Tandon