India is the land of customs, beliefs, rituals and festivals. We, in our country, have been lucky enough to inherit a rich & diverse culture & great traditions of celebrating a large number of festivals to break the monotony and drudgery of everyday life. Some of these festivals like Lohri, are associated with natural phenomenon such as change of seasons while others such as Rakshabandhan are associated with other aspects such as unconditional love between siblings. In Jammu Division too, Dogras, especially living in the rural belts, never let go any chance of celebrating a traditional festival as they are deeply rooted to their cultural beliefs and traditions bequeathed to them by their forefathers. Almost in every season, there is one or the other important festival and Dogras, most of whom are engaged in farming activities never miss any chance of celebrating each and every festival to add colour and vibrancy to their otherwise hard monotonous life of tilling the fields and doing hard physical work to grow various crops. As Dogras have great respect for their religious beliefs, most of these festivals are celebrated on great auspicious days such as Sankranti (Makar Sankranti), Purnima (Buddha Purnima), Ashtmi (Krishnajanashtami), Chauth (Karvachauth), Tritya (Akshay tritya) etc. Similarly, one of the most important festivals celebrated with great joy & enthusiasm across Duggar tegion on Ashad Sankranti is Tamdey. It is believed that the Sun (Surya) is the Chief of the grahas & it stays in every zodiac sign (Rashis) for a month and in a year it changes 12 zodiac signs, so there are 12 Sankrantis throughout the year where the Sun resides in different zodiac signs and constellations and thus, influences actions and activities on the earth. Every Sankranti is a sacred day for the Dogras and people, especially women, consider it auspicious to observe it as a day of fast and prayer. On this day, there are many changes in the Sun which is considered the source of all the energy for this world. So it is on this day, Ashad Sankranti, that Tamdey is celebrated. The word ‘Tamdey’ is perhaps derived from ‘Dharam Dhiada’ which means ‘religious day’. On this day, worshipping the Sun God is specially considered as beneficial and thought to bring boon to the family.
As this day comes, people including the children take bath in a sacred river or a lake offer water to the Sun God for prosperity and good health of the members of the family. People consider it auspicious to offer red flowers to God,use copper vessels for prayers and donate clothes, grains, fruits and money to the people. Red clothes are usually worn at the time of sun worship & prayer. Brahmins too are invited for food and given dakshina. Besides its religious significance, on this eve, things such as pitchers, hand fans, utensils, fruits, sugar, grains, steel containers for storing flour/rice etc are given especially to married daughters and sisters. In the idyllic days gone by, the local potters in the villages would gift as many earthen pitchers to each household as the number of daughters they had married. These pitchers would then be filled with grains or sugar or locally made jaggery and then gifted to them as they invariably visited their paternal homes on this day. In return, the potter was given grains or money. It used to be an occasion of the daughters to trek miles to meet their parents, siblings & other relations as also the time of festivity for the whole household. As the relations among the people used to be quite informal and strong in those days, even the people used to gift the married daughters of their neighbours something on this festive occasion. While the married daughters were gifted pitchers & other things on this day, the unmarried daughters sow seeds of grains, pulses etc in the ‘Raadas’ in the necks of the broken pitchers, water them every morning for a month after taking a bath, decorate them with locally made biodegradable colours & cook delicious food every Sunday, sing and enjoy amidst fun and frolic, and finally immerse them in the rivers and streams on the eve of the festival of Minjraan on Saavan Sankranti. But it is sad that this important festival once celebrated with great enthusiasm, is losing charm for the young generation. Though this festival is celebrated in urban areas too, the exuberance ,enthusiasm and fervour usually visible in the rural regions is not seen in the towns and the cities . These days, the married daughters are usually gifted other costly things in place of earthen pitchers and the custom of sowing Raades is followed only in some homes in the rural areas.
The fact is that the married daughters and sisters are considered Kuldevis in Dogra culture and so gifted earthen pot, steel utensils, sugar, fruits to get blessings for the well-being of the family.
All this leads to the strenthening of different relations. There are other reasons for celebrating this festival. In the olden days, there were few means of conveyance, communication & connectvity. So there was no news of welfare of various relations. Such festivals used to be celebrated to enable different relatives to meet and share their joys and sorrows. Moreover, it being the time of ripening of mangoes, muskmelons, melons etc, these fruits were also gifted to the married daughters and sisters. In the olden days, Raades were sown to know in advance which crop would yield more output in that particular season. It was also a sign of growth & fertility. The atmosphere on this day would be of joy & exuberance with delicious traditional Dogra cuisine such as Keurs, Khamires, Babroos, Madra, Auria, etc were relished with raw ‘Mango Chutney’ & pickle etc. But, unfortunately ,such festivals having great social significance are losing charm for the young generation. The youth of today remain glued to their laptops, mobile phones, video games etc and have little time to appreciate our culture and celebrate our traditional festivals. It becomes the duty of the parents to expose them to our rich culture and encourage them to take active part in the fairs & traditional festivals and thus, serve to preserve and transmit our rich culture to the posterity.
(The writer is serving as Sr. Lecturer in English, HSS, Thial (Udhampur)