India is famous for various festivals such as Lohri, Deepawali, Rakshabandhan etc which have 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, etc.
The Dogra festivals are innumerable and each of them has social or religious significance of its own.These festivals help the people of various communities to bring together and to celebrate life.These festivals help to strengthen social bonds and forge man’s relationship with nature.One of the Dogra festivals which is celebrated across the Jammu Division is the festival of ‘Raade’which is believed to have been celebrated in Duggar for centuries together.While, it is on the auspicious occasion of Aashad Sankranti that Dogras celebrate’Dhamdey’ and it is customary for them to gift their married daughters vessels and containers such as pitchers/buckets filled with sugar and other sweet things on this day,the month long festival of Raade, which is celebrated with great enthusiasm in the Duggar region, also begins on this auspicious day of the first of Aashard and culminates on First of Saawan in the Vikrami Samvat.The month long period, which commenced this year on June 15,is a time of joy and celebration for the Dogras.
This festival is eagerly awaited and on this auspicious Sankranti,unmarried girls collect and insert necks of broken pitchers in the ground and sow seeds of various kharief crops such as maize, sesame, millet etc. in them.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,they 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 and dried leaves of plants) in different designs in the form of a Rangoli to pray to God to make the lives 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 ocassion, sweet thick cakes known as ‘Rutt’are prepared alongwith othre Dogra delicacies such as Keurs, Babroo, Purhe etc and the girls share these delicacies among themselves.Raades are regarded as symbols of the members of the family and they are taken care of with love and affection.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 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 bridegrooms are also invited to join the celebrations and merry making after finishing paddy plantation in northern India.Delicious food items such as khamires prepared from fermented flour are prepared at home, taken to the banks of rivers,savoured and shared on their banks.
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) 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 symbols of Goddess Luxmi so that the family be 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 in case of other such festivals, this beautiful and colourful festival is also losing its charm for the youth who are almost ignorant about this importsnt festival.The youth of today remain glued to their TVs, LEDs, Mobile phones so much that they have little time and craze for celebration of such festivals.
The organisations and 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 organise seminars and symposia as to how to conserve and preserve our rich culture for the coming generations. Parents, too should motivate their children to celebrate such festivals so that our rich cuture is preserved and transmitted to the posterity.
(The writer is serving as lecturer in English in Govt. Hr. Sec. School Thial, Udhampur)