Baba Aghar Jitto Mela

Dr Mandeep Azad and Dr Manmeet Motan
“While coming from Reasi on way to Vaishno devi a special stall of water melon slices being offered to people to fight the burning heat and  i thought what could be this gathering for then, i came to know this is because of Baba Jitto Mela being organized in Aghar jitto”
Aghar Jitto is named after Baba Jitto the legendary farmer who laid his life to fight oppression by landlords. He was a great devotee of Ma Vaishno and a temple is built here dedicated to him. A three day Aghar Jitto festival is the prime attraction of this place. Baba Agar Jitto was a revolutionary who campaigned against feudal system inside the area. There’s also spring water that flows in front of the shrine It is believed that water of this spring is holy. If a pre-natal woman takes a dip here then no harm can be done to the baby. A path from here goes to Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine cave. Local saying is that baba Jitto travelled a long distance in search of water to carry out puja as there was no water in Aghar jitto. After daily carrying water from such long distance one day goddess offered him a wish and insted of asking for wealth he requested availability of water for his village farmers and seven springs came out from different places and provided water for drinking and fields. Every year after the crop is harvested farmers from this area first offer their crop to baba jitto and then this crop is consumed by their families as food. The renowned hero Baba Jitto’s temple is located at village Aghar Jitto, which is just 5 km from Katra, on the Katra-Reasi Road. Baba Jitto was a peasant by occupation, was a firm follower of the Goddess Vaishno Devi. He is remembered by the peasants for his revolutionary act of encounter with the landlord’s domination and consequently laying down his life for the justice. While the official histories written by the elite historian have remained silent about the exemplary and revolutionary character of the Bawa Jitto; a simple but honest farmer, it was left to the real conscience keepers of the society- the folk poets and bards to raise the unsung but fearless persona of Baba Jitto to the status of folk hero and later on as a folk deity. The generations of Yogis and ‘Gardis’ have been singing Bawa’s Karaks (devotional ballads) to immortalize him and also to inscribe his sacrifice and fight for justice as inseparable part of folk consciousness and character. The folklore thus has kept him alive in Jammu’s culture and collective memories. Every year in month of June three day  mela is celebrated and this year it is celebrated on 12th -14th June.
Like most of the folk heroes who often begin life as a normal person but are transformed into someone extraordinary by significant life events, often in response to social injustice, Baba  Jitto, originally Jit Mal, was an honest and truthful farmer. A Brahmin and devotee of Mata  Vaishno Devi and Raja Mandalik, Jit Mal used to live in Aghar village near Katra, Vaishno Devi.  Unwilling to put up any more with the hostile behaviour of his aunt Jojan, he decided to leave the  village along with his daughter Bua Kori, and go to his friend, Iso Megh at Kahnachak. There he requested Mehta Bir Singh, a feudal lord of the Ambgrota, to provide a piece of land for tilling.
Mehta Bir Singh gave Jit Mal a piece of barren land after signing an agreement, that he would give him the one-fourth of his produce. Jit Mal’s hard work transformed the barren which yielded a luxuriant crop. When Bir Singh got the news about the good yield, he arrived at the fields along with his men and asked them to lift three fourth of the crop and leave only a quarter with Jit Mal. Bawa Jitto pleaded Mehta Bir Singh to follow the terms of the agreement but the goons of Mehta forcibly took the lion share of the crop. Incensed by the injustice, helpless Jitmal, while  uttering last words ‘sukki kanak nain khayaan mehtya, dinna ratt ralayi’ (don’t eat raw wheat, oh  Mehta, let me mix my blood in it’), stabbed himself sitting on the heap of crop, leaving all  grains drenched red with his blood. Bua Kori with help of their pet dog Kalu, located her father’s dead body hidden in the Simbal tree trunk by the goons of Mehta. She then lit the pyre and burnt herself with her father. It is said after that a fierce rain storm raged the area, the blood strained grains were washed away. And all those people, even the birds, who had partaken those grains later suffered from various afflictions, including diseases, untimely deaths, misfortunes and ‘jatars’. To seek pardon from  the wrath of the holy spirit, they not only asked for his forgiveness by worshiping him as a ‘kul  devta’-family deity, but also making it mandatory on their future generations to venerate Bawa  Jitto and pay annual homage at his shrine. The Samadhi of Baba Ji was stationed at Jhiri over 650 years back on the occasion of Kartik Purnima and ever since then another  convention Mela named Jhiri mela is also organized every year and is visited by lots of devotees, perform rituals  Jhiri Mela is feted every year in the months of October- November. With his extreme sacrifice, the Baba Ji has sent the message of fighting the discrimination is the real dharma.
Baba aghar jitto mela is organized every year by district administration in collaboration with local.In this mela Lakhs of people come from different parts irrespective cast, religion and pay their respect to baba jitto. The main attraction of the mela is special threatical performance by local artist depicting the life and sacrifice of baba jitto ji. Devotees wait all year to attend this mela and have become one of the major tourist attraction of the place after mata Vaishno devi shrine and shiv khori mela. District administration has taken special measures in making this Mela a big success. A chain of events like puja arti, bhajan kirtan Shobha Yatra, local folk songs, plays, sports like dangal are organized by local administration to attract tourist. Various food stalls ,water stalls are arranged for tourist. All local departments are asked to make arrangements for their stalls and showcase department achievements and attractions. Various private organization find a place to exhibit their products as it is a big tourist hub and they get a chance to showcase and sell their products. During the fair, exhibitions and stalls are organized by different government departments like agriculture, horticulture and floriculture,  and other departments to educate the people about various government schemes and incentives so that people could avail the benefits. District administration put a great deal of effort in making this mela a big success and for all others mela ‘s to be as a benchmark standard
Every year a three day mela orgainzed by local authorities and  tourist from Punjab Hatyana, Delhi etc come in groups to attend this mela and spend whole three days enjoying bhajan kirtans day and night. On first day shobha Yatra from the native house of Baba Ji is taken and after puja arti bhajan all night it comes to main mandir in Aghar jitto on second day. The puja archana is done all night long in form jagratas. On second special folk drama is done by famous artists of Jammu depicting the saying and sacrifice of Baba ji’s Legends. The mela finishes with Dangal a wrestling match in which local as well wrestlers from all over India come.