Tribute to an honest farmer

Baba Jitto Mela  June 14-16 June

Dr. Banarsi Lal, Dr. Vikas Tandon
J&K is famous for various fairs and festivals as they are the integral part of the people of the state. In J&K also various types of Melas are organised such as Jhiri Mela, Bahu Mela, Hemis Gompa Mela, Dera Baba Baisakhi Mela, Baba Jitto Mela, Sankari Mela, Sudhmahadev Mela etc. which attract thousands of people across the nation. These events add colour and vibrancy to the lives of the people of the state.
Reasi district of J&K is said to be the hub of religious spots. This district is blessed with numerous religious spots and every year thousands of devotees across the nation visit this district. Baba Jitto Mela is an important Mela in Reasi district of J&K and thousands of devotees visit this spot during the Mela. Every year a three days Mela is organized at Aghar Jitto village in Reasi district with great enthusiasm. This year this event will commence from 14th of June at Aghar Jitto village which is about 6 Kms away from world famous Katra town. This ancient religious place is situated in the lap of Trikuta Hills on Katra -Reasi road where thousands of devotees from within and outside the state assemble to pay obeisance to Baba Jitto. This mela is organised to salute the courage of a legendary Dogra hero Baba Jitto Mal.
The Baba Jitto Mela is an important annual congregation of farmers and other pilgrims who assemble at Aghar Jitto village to pay homage to Dogra folk hero Baba Jitto. Baba Jitto was born in Aghar village of Reasi district in J&K which is situated in the lap of the Trikuta Hills, an abode of Vaishno Devi in J&K state. Baba Jitto was a great devotee of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi. He was a farmer who sacrificed his life to get his due share of agricultural crop from landlord Bir Singh who denied him to give the committed share. After that he became famous among the farmers community. This place has its own charm and pilgrims from all over the country are attracted towards this spot. On this spot Baba Jitto statue has been constructed and natural source of water is really the centre of attraction.
Baba Jitto, was originally named as Jit Mal. He was an honest and truthful farmer of village Aghar Jitto. Baba Jitto was a Brahmin and a great devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi. His aunt Jojan was having hostile behaviour towards him and finally he decided to leave the village along with his daughter Bua Kori. He went to his friend, Iso Megh at Kahnachak and there he requested Mehta Bir Singh, a feudal lord of the Ambgrota, to provide a piece of land for farming. Mehta Bir Singh gave Jit Mal a piece of barren and unfertile land after signing an agreement, that he will take one-fourth of the total produce. Jit Mal’s hard work turned the unfertile and barren land into fertile land which finally yielded a bumper crop. When Bir Singh came to know about the excellent crop yield, he arrived at the fields along with his men and instructed them to lift three fourth of the crop yield and leave only a quarter for Jit Mal.
Baba Jitto requested Mehta Bir Singh to follow the terms and conditions of the agreement but Mehta forcibly snatched the major share of the crop. Injustice done by Mehta compelled Jit Mal to stab himself after sitting on the heap of grains which got wet by his blood. Her daughter Bua Kori with help of their pet dog Kalu, found the dead body of her father which was hidden in the Simbal tree trunk by the goons of Mehta. She then lit the pyre and burnt herself with her father. 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 taken those grains later suffered from various diseases, untimely deaths, misfortunes etc. In order to seek pardon from the wrath of the holy great spirit, they not only asked for his forgiveness by worshiping him as a ‘Kuldevta’-family deity, but also making it mandatory for their future generations to venerate Baba Jitto and pay annual homage to him.
There is a spring that flows in front of the shrine. It is believed that water of this spring is holy. It is said that if a childless lady takes bath in the pond she is blessed with a child.
Aghar Jitto mela witnesses great hustle and bustle during three-day festival as pilgrims from diverse communities and hailing from different parts of the country assemble there to pay obeisance at the Baba Jitto temple and seek his blessings and the blessings of his daughter-Bua Kouri. People from every nook and corners have also been visiting this spot throughout the year and enjoy the unique place of spirituality. Especially the members of local and outside communities, who worship Baba Jitto as a Kuldevta (family deity) come here to pay obeisance on occasions of important events in their families like marriage, birth of child, mundan (tonsuring ceremony) or simply to thank or entreat the Baba for his continuing protection and blessings. Apart from large number of kiosks of eatables and merchants displaying their wares for sale, which include popular electronics gadgets, the fair presents hosts of entertainments for every age group of people. During the festival there is regular recitation of folk songs by Yogis and ‘Gardis’ in form of Baba’s devotional ballads at the main shrine. Many entertaining cultural shows are also staged. The Indian style wrestling (dangals) matches in which wrestlers from different parts of the country used to come here which draw a large crowd of sport enthusiasts. On first day of the mela, a yatar is held at birth place of Baba Jitto which is continues for whole night with bhajans of Baba Jitto. On second day Sobha Yatra is taken out from his birth place in which a large number of pilgrims/devotees participate. On the last day wrestling is organised in which locals and wresters from other parts of the country participate.
The Aghar Jitto Mela is a major socio-religious event that brings together many people at Aghar Jitto village near Katra where devotees of Baba Jitto forget their caste, creed and language and share an experience of faith with full devotion. The young generation of today remains glued to mobile phones, laptops, TVs etc. rather being a part of such religious events. We all must be proud of our diverse and rich culture and we must spare our time from our hectic schedule to take part in such fairs and festivals. Parents should encourage their children to attend such events to realize the significance of such events and learn to respect, preserve and transmit our culture.