Dogra Festival of Minjraan

Ashok Sharma
India is famous for celebrating various festivals such as Lohri, Deepawali, Raksha- bandhan etc which have great religious and social importance. Similarly, Dogras, most of whom are agriculturists, are known for taking their time off from their tough, hard and monotonous life of farming to celebrate various festivals such as Baisakhi, Janamashtami, Nag Panchami, Bash Dua, Drubari etc.Every Dogra festival has some social or religious significance and background of its own.
These festivals help the people of various communities to come together and celebrate life in all its variety, colour and hues.These festivals also help to strengthen social bonds and forge man’s relationship with nature. One of the Dogra festivals which is eagerly awaited and celebrated across the Jammu Division is the festival of ‘Minjraan’ which is believed to have been celebrated in Duggar since times immemorial.
It has its origin in the celebration of another festival called ‘Raade’ which is celebrated on the auspicious occasion of Aashad Sankranti. The festival of Raade coincides with’Tamdey’ on which it is customary for Dogras to gift their married daughters and sisters vessels and containers such as pitchers/buckets filled with sugar, handfans, fruits and other sweet things.The month long festival of Raade culminates on the first of Saawan (Shravan Sankranti) in the Vikrami Samvat with the celebration of Minjraan.
The month long period, which commenced this year on June 15,is a time of month long joy and celebration for the Dogras and will culminate on July 16,2021.On the auspicious occasion of Ashad Sankranti, unmarried girls collect and dig necks of broken pitchers in the ground and sow seeds of various kharief crops such as maize, sesame, millet etc. in them.
These broken necks of pitchers with the sown seeds on them are called Raade in local parlance.There are as many Raades as there are the members in a family and one more Raada is inserted to pray to God to add new members to the family. One of the raadas has a bigger size and it is generally inserted in the centre to give it a prominent look and it is called ‘Dhamma Raada’.This Raada symbolises the head of the family under whose control and patronage the other members of the family live comfortably and peacefully.As the seeds sprout into saplings,the girls water these saplings everyday after taking a bath, take due care of them and protect them from stray animals.The growth of these Raades signifies growth and multiplication of the members of the family.These raades are decorated every sunday in the evening beautifully and artistically with the natural and herbal colours (obtained by crushing bricks, charcoal etc.and from flour and ground rice, turmeric and dried leaves of plants) in different designs in the form of a Rangoli to pray to God to make the life of the members healthy, colourful and comfortable. On this occasion, folksongs and bhajans especially those related to Raades such as ‘Dhamma dhamma Raadia, tugi paani deyi deyi paalya’ (Dhamma Raadia , we brought you up by watering you everyday)are sung by the girls and women of neighbourhood.On this occasion, sweet thick cakes known as ‘Rutt’are also prepared alongwith other Dogra delicacies such as Keurs, Babroos, Purhes etc and the girls share these delicacies among themselves.Therefore, this festival is also known as ‘Rutt Raades’ in some parts of Jammu region.
Raades are regarded as symbols of the members of the family and as such, they are taken care of with love and affection.On Sundays, as girls and women converge and sing songs about Raades, it is an atmosphere of joy and festivity which continues till night and in which dozens of women and girls participate.In the month long period, the plants being regularly watered in the dry weather and properly looked after, show luxurious growth and development. On the Saavan Sankranti,the festival of Minjraan is celebrated.The well grown plants are uprooted alongwith the Raades and taken to the streams or rivers in the form of a procession in an atmosphere of festivity and exuberance where they are immersed with due religious fervour.It is a pleasant sight to see groups of people, mainly women and girls singing and dancing and the boys carrying Raades to be immersed in the water bodies.The boys are also given some money for carrying the Raades to the water bodies. Newly married daughters and their husbands are also invited to join the celebrations and merry making after finishing paddy plantation in northern India.Delicious traditional food items such as khamires prepared from fermented flour are prepared at home, taken to the banks of streams and rivers,savoured and shared on their banks.All along the route traditional folk songs are sung which fill the atmosphere with exuberance.The revellers then return to their homes in exuberant mood to sleep and wake up next day to begin their next day’s routine work.On this day, Minjraans, a type of rings are also given to the unmarried girls by their brothers in laws (Jeejas).These minjaraans are worn on the shirts and in the ears.The newly married brides are also presented gifts in the shape of dresses, jewellery, sweets and ‘bhajji’ in the form of fried fermented cakes (khamires), suchian, sagaraan etc by their in laws.
The tradition behind the celebration of this festival is that the farmers used to sow the seeds of various crops before the onset of monsoon to find out the quality and viability of the seeds and to see the crops of which plant will grow better in the given climatic/ weather conditions and then they would sow the seeds of that crop to reap a rich harvest. Another belief is that these seeds are sown by the unmarried girls who are treated as the incarnation of Goddess Luxmi so that the family be bestowed with the blessings of the Goddess and they may have a bumper crop.Whatever be the reason, this festival has a charm, colourfulness and vibrancy of its own.But as is the case with other such festivals, this beautiful and colourful festival is also losing its charm for the youth who are almost ignorant about this important festival which is associated with our rich culture.The youth of today remain glued to their TVs, LEDs, Mobile phones so much that they have no time and craze for celebration of such festivals.The social and religious organisations as also NGOs working for the preservation and promotion of Dogra culture ought to come forward and take steps to revive such festivals.For this purpose, competitions based on rangoli of raades at village, School, Block and Tehsil level need to be organised.Similarly, the Departments of Education, Jammu & Kashmir Academy of Arts, Culture and Languages, Department of Culture, Information etc and organisations such Dogri Sanstha etc. need to come forward and organise seminars and symposia,Raade decoration competitions etc to conserve and preserve our rich culture for the coming generations.
(The writer is serving as Lecturer in Sr.English in Govt.Hr.Sec.School Thial, Udhampur)