Kudd of Sudhmahadeva Keeping a culture alive

Rajinder Chand Anthal
Fairs and festivals are the colourful part of people of Chenani. These are celebrated with great pomp and show from the centuries. All these festivities are closely linked with cultural and religious heritage of this land. Some of these events mark the beginning of a particular season, while others are celebrated to please local deities for prosperity and good yield of crops.
Like the famous Mela of Sudhmahadev, the Kudd of Sudhmahadev is also a four day long major cultural event of the area. In the olden times, the Kings of Chenani used to participate in this Kudd, as Sudhmahadev was the summer camp office of these kings. In this way the popularity of Kudd reached far and wide. Moreover the season is very charming at this time, with large fields of maize and seasonal crops ready to be cut. All these factors contribute towards the celebration of this festival, which depicts deeper aspects of social, culture, aesthetic, and religious life of people of this area. The scenic beauty of Sudhmahadev and glories of Lord Shiva at Sudhmahadev are also the reasons for huge participation of public in this event. This year Kudd will be held on September 10, 2021.
Common saying regarding the celebration of Kudd is that, some evil beings called as Zogans and Dians in local terms do harm to the crops by way of rain, wind, storm, and unfavourable season. The farmers, therefore, collectively celebrate this festival and offer some male sheep or goat etc., to remove the harmful effects of these Zogans etc., for protection of their crops and well-being of the inhabitants.
The cultural events of Kudd are associated with long chain of religious rituals called Jattars, where typical Pooja is held before a local god or deity at night. The Kudd of Sudhmahadev is held after the successful culmination of all the Jattars of the area. It is pertinent to mention here that unlike other Kudds and Jattars of the area, the Kudd of Sudhmahadev is unique in its organizational setup and special rituals with Peer (Nath Yogi) of Sudhmahadev temple given special honours.
Three days before the main Kudd of Sudhmahadev, the first Jattar is held in Ladana area of Sudhmahadev with beating of drums and playing of flutes by Dholi and Bansi experts. In the Jattar of Ladana, the local goddess Karjoont is worshipped in the night and a goat is offered before that deity. The playing of flutes and beating of the drums continues till late night on different tunes of local deities. Some tantriks called Dawala reply to the queries of the villagers on safety and prosperity etc.
In the early morning of next day, a male sheep (RAM) is offered in the main ground of Sudhmahadev called Chogan. Many people from Ladana and Sudhmahadev participate in this ritual along with Dawals, Dholi and Bansi etc. The group of these Dholi and Bansi comes from Rudhar area of Doda District every year as per commitment made by their ancestors centuries ago. From historical evidences, it appears that the Dholi and Bansi experts may be the descendants of last Megh Raja Kunnu Ram of Mantalai, who had handed over the kingdom of Mantalai to Chandel dynasty rulers in the 7th/8th century and went to Rudhar area to worship Lord Shiva for the remaining period of his life.
On the second day, a big Jattar is held in Chorat area of Sudhmahadev at night in the house of a Lohar family. The eldest grown up male member of the family assumes the title of Chela (Dawala) of deity Karjoont and Baba Purdwar. This is very risky Jattar as per local belief as all the local deities are invited by the tantriks in this event. This Jattar continues till late night.
At about 3 o’clock in the dead of night a big procession with hundreds of people starts from the house of Lohar Chela from Chorat area towards Sudhmahadev. The Chela leads the procession by carrying the symbolic Iron made Tesi and Sangals of deities on his shoulders. The public carry burning torch wood bundles Masaira in their hands shouting slogans as: Hos – Dayo – Hos – Dayo etc.
It is said that these slogans of Hos – Dayo – Hos – Dayo are to be continued without break till the procession reaches Sudhmahadev. The scene is worth seeing from a distant place as people move through dense maize fields, plains and hilly slopes of the village in darkness carrying torch wood in their hands looking like line of moving Jugnoos. The Torch wood burning bundles are called Jagara locally.
When the main procession starts from Chorat along with Jagaras, two similar processions start at the same time from Kuna-Laid and Batal area towards Sudhmahadev with Jagaras and slogan shouting Hos – Dayo. In this way three largely attended religious processions march towards Sudhmahadev Chogan. These people reach Sudhmahadev at 4 o’clock in the night with burning Jagaras in their hands. All these Jagaras are thrown in the Chogan of Sudhmahadev at a fixed place. At this moment, the Chela form Chorat becomes the head Dawala of the function and assumes charge of all deities in his body. In the Chogan of Sudhmahadev again a Ram is offered here. The Head Dawala goes to some distant place along with a companion carrying a Roat made of floor and some body parts of the offered animal. The Chela leaves them at a fixed place. The drum beating and playing of flute continues till his return without a break. It is said that even a slight break of music will endanger the life of Chela.
On his return, the Head Chela is received by other Dawalas of the area and all of them start main Jattar of Sudhmahadev using Sangals, Tesi, Trisool, and Kungrals around their neck and reply to the peoples’ queries. It is to be noted that weight of these Kungrals is so heavy that a healthy person cannot carry it easily, but with the divine power of these deities, the Dawals not only put them around their neck but also dance by keeping them high on their hands like toys. This is indeed a miracle of local deities. This continues till morning when the big gathering of thousands of devotees shifts towards Lord Shiva temple Sudhmahadev. Again a big Jattar is held there before the door of the temple and the head Dawala sprinkles holy water on the devotees in order to make them safe from harmful effects of Zogans and Dians etc. This Jattar continues up to 10 am in the morning.
On the day of the Kudd, which is the fourth day after first Jattar of Ladhana, the Peer of Shri Shool Panishwar Shiv Ji Temple Sudhmahadev is well dressed and is carried to a place called Madd near Chorat area, when again a sheep is offered in the afternoon to please the local deity there.
The unique Kudd of Sudhmahadev, therefore starts from Madd situated at a distance of one kilometre from Sudhmahadev towards east. The Peer of Sudhmahadev Temple is seated in a decorated Boungla in traditional dress to lead the procession towards the Chougan of Sudhmahadev.
The escort group of the procession consists of young men sitting on their horses carrying red flags in their hands. The Dholi and Bansi groups continue with drum beating and playing of flutes and Narsinga etc. Some people put on colourful dress in this procession and perform sword dance while moving ahead towards Sudhmahadev. It takes about one hour to reach Chougan of Sudhmahadev where the main Kudd starts in the evening and continues till next morning.
On this occasion, ladies put on colourful dress and male members come with typical Dogra dress, consisting of long Kurta, Pajama, waist coat, and turban etc.
The Kudd dance is performed in a circle on different tunes of Dhol and Bansuri. Both ladies and gents participate in cheerful atmosphere of Kudd, uttering loudly:
Dugay Nallahay-Bol – Jara
The bazzar of Sudhmahadev is decorated on this occasion. Bangle sellers, halwais, and fruit sellers establish their stalls around the Chogan of Sudhmahadev. People in large number from Rudhar area of Doda District reach Sudhmahadev on the night of Kudd in colourful dress. The Gaddis, Gujjars, Sippy, and Kohli residing on hill tops also participate in Kudd festival and make purchase of sweets and other items from the stalls.
The music and Kudd dance is so unique that participants do not feel tired even though they dance for full night. After the successful conduct of this Kudd, people take holy bath in Papnashni Bowli and seek blessings of Lord Shiva in Shri Shool Panishwar Temple and return with sweet memories of this chief Kudd of the area.
(The author is former Zonal Education Officer, Chenani)