Ramkote A repository of Duggar heritage and culture

Dr R K Gupta
Rural people are very strict to their old traditions and rich rituals. In contrast, in the present scientific and industrial age in urban areas, Dogra culture is changing very fast and we need to inculcate it in order to preserve our ethnic identity. This can be done by ‘being’ ‘doing’ and ‘knowing’. Fortunately, some historic villages are still reflecting Duggar lifestyles, customs and traditions. Ramkote is one such village that needs to be developed as Duggar heritage village because of traditional houses, unique festivals and events, dramatic and cultural clubs and Dogra museums which are highlighted in this article.
Cultural Heritage
Haran form is a very popular folk dance of local artists of Ramkote and got famous in the whole Jammu region. As the performance by local artists of this area was adjudged as best in various competitions organized by Culture Academy of Jammu, the dance got telecast in many TV serials and Dogri films like Buatu Theek. This dance is performed whole night on the occasion of Lohri festival wherein number of ‘Swang or Nakal’are presented on various socio -religious contemporary themes. The artists perform a group entry with a human model of Deer beating the drums with shabaha rnashaba, Harna Harnashalid aisutaid aibajalidai -Harnaimaare latte Dhite Choorpazikhatadi (Keep it up deer, Jump up and let the sleeping people wake up if they do not wake up, Kick the cot (charpai) and brake its side so as to wake them up). This folk dance represents the environmental concern of Dogras and stress on wildlife protection. The people go from house to house and get Lohri in the shape of money or eatables. The dance is full of comic actions and dialogues and the comedians are called Paand to entertain people. Here also folk dialogues are exchanged in the shape of ‘swang’or Nakal. The role of women is played by men with complete women costumes and mannerism.
Dogri plays and dramas
The people of Ramkote represent true Dogra culture, customs, traditions, rituals, folklores, dramas and dances. It is one of the important Dogra Heritage Centers promoting and preserving indigenous culture, values, tradition and rituals of Jammu region in their natural habitat, Young generation of Ramkote also has a passion to manifest local life through culture and many events are regularly organized by the local artists at local club or outside. It is one of the important places where Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) organizes Drama festivals and competitions. Many Dogri plays by local artists were acclaimed by the audience and have won prizes for best play, direction, makeup and costumes at State level competitions. Besides, it is a place where many Dogri mushiaras are organized. The notable cultural events that were awarded and acclaimed by the Cultural Academy and other organizations are Haran that was also filmed in Dogri Film Buatu Theek, Dogri drama Kalyug da prmatma, Nami Loh and Chaped etc played and appreciated at Abhinav Theatre Jammu.
Chhajja dance in Lohri
Ramkote is famous for playing Chhajja dance by young rural kids, especially boys in Lohri. When this virasat is losing fast in urban areas, it is still popular in Ramkote where annual Chhajja Competition is practiced every year. Kids prepare Chhajja using bamboo and decorate it with coloured paper. Carrying the Chajja, they perform ‘Chhajja dance’ and move from house to house in the village/town singing and shouting ‘Bhambora bhaibhambora, chhajja mora bhaichha jamora’. The houses they visit usually give them sweets and money.
Ram Leela
In Jammu region, Ram Leela is performed in almost every village and town. But among them the Ram Leela of few places like Ram Leela of Diwan Mandir Jammu; Ram Leela of Basohli Ramkote and Bhaddu are famous for form, style and uniqueness. The tradition of performing the Ram leela at Ramkote began in 1931 when it was started by Raja Raghunath Singh, father of last King Raja Laxman Singh. At that time, there were no other sources of entertainment. Thus, he once decided to organize a translated English drama for which he had invited people from Lahore and Vrindavan to design special curtains for it. Actors were also invited from Jammu. After that, the same curtains were used in 1932 for the performance of Ram Leela. The king of Ramkote also had connections with Chamba district and he might have seen performance of Ram Leela somewhere and got inspired from it. During the eighties the Ram Leela of Ramkote got very famous and attracted people around 50 km radius and even from Jammu and Udhampur who used to hire buses in large numbers to watch the same This age old tradition is being perpetuated by Shri Raghunath Ram Leela Dramatic Club even now when there is a tremendous change in people’s attitude towards modern day entertainment, Nevertheless, the response of the people is not the same as it was in the beginning ofthis tradition. When I was a child, my friends and I used to get there early in the evening only to occupy space.This was because people from farflung areas used to come to watch it in large numbers. But with increasing sources of entertainment and internet enabled entertainment, the response of people to Ram Leelahas got reduced.In the recently held competitions organized by clubs all over Jammu region, Raghunath Dramatic club has emerged winner many times especially for the scenes like Laxman Sarupnakha samwad, Sita syambar, Lakshman Parushram sambad, Sugreev Bali yudh, Angad’s message to Ravana and Sita haran etc
Chinjj (Dangal) and Mela
A Dogri song “Ramkote-e diyachinjja o jaanadowainjanne,tarad-ainniwadathindha o khaanadowainjanne” (Both of us will go to watch wrestling at Ramkote and will eat Discorea tubers)is very popular in Jammu.
Rural wrestling is an important sport in India. Having a history as old as the 5th century BC, it has been explicitly detailed in the Malla Purana. Dogra wrestling is called chhinj which is an amalgam of Malla Yudha and Varjish-e-Pahalwan – a Persian form of wrestling, brought into India by the Muslims. The chhinj of Ramkote is in vogue since 1930 and this famous event is still being carried on by the local Dangal committee at Raja ki Mandi. Since, in olden days, wrestlers, mostly lived a life of austerity, so to sustain their livelihood and encourage them, they were provided an opportunity to show their skill and awarded accordingly during annual wrestling event called chhinj. Mela of Ramkote is also the famous event wherein a large number of people gather, exchange greetings and seek the blessings of Peer Baba at Chowgan. A large market alongwith foodstalls is established and the people perform plays, Bakhs and dances as well. Prior to the actual date of event a massive publicity through drum beating was an important feature of chinjj but with the advent of social media, this practice got abandoned. The money is collected from the public as donation and used for conduct of the event.The event starts with Akharapujan by mixing soil with Mustard Oil, turmeric, ghee and Milk. The wrestlers apply the same soil on their bodies before the fight. The Soil represents Bharat Mata. The invited wrestlers across India are received with respect and registered with the committee. With display of their initial performance, the public opinion is invited for challenges and bouts towards finality.
The wrestlers are also provided food and stay after the culmination of event. Many national level wrestlers have participated in this event like Master chandgi Ram, Asian game champion, Bharat kesri and Arjun/ award winner, Kartarsingh two times Gold medalist, Asian Games, Raj Kuma, Asian Games, Benia, Amin Soni Saroha, Pamma, Guarav Machiwada, Devinder Kohali, Prince Kohali, Kapil Damma, Kamaljeet and Varun Gujar Abdul Gani and Sonu of Kangra, all Hind Kesri, ; Rustam-e Punjab, Gandho Pahalwan, a native of Ramkote, and Pamma, of Dera Baba, Rustam-e Rajasthan, Sukha pehalwan, Rustam-e-Jammu, Omkar Singh and eminent pehalwan of Jammu like Sai Pandee, Raju, Saif Ali, etc
Mankote Style of Painting
The State was known for Pahari Miniature paintings that were hugely popular in the 17th and early 18th centuries in the States at the Himalayan foothills in India. There was a certain influence of Basohli style on Mankote painting because of inter relationship among the Rajas of Mankote, Basohli and Chamba.
The colors used were bright with boldly energetic lines. Receding hairlines and large, wide-open eyes are hallmarks of these paintings .Initially they were focused on Bagvatgita and Puranas but lateron many scenic beauties and Dogra lifestyle were also depicted.
(The author is Professor (Entomology) SKUAST-J)