Dogra Culture: Knowledge & Beliefs

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“Duggar Pradesh”; also famously known as Jammu; is the native land of world’s renowned warriors and artists, named “Dogras”. Jammu is the winter capital of the State (the summer capital being Srinagar, in the Kashmir Valley), and is bounded by the “Pir Panjal” Range of the middle Himalayas in the North, by Punjab in the south, by Ladakh in the East and by Pakistan in the West. Dogras have known to inhabit the adjoining areas of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and North-eastern Pakistan.

One of the proud moments came on 22nd December 2003, when Dogri; mother tongue of Dogras; was included in the 8th schedule of the constitution of India.

Dogra culture is a secular mix of various castes and tribes, which over the period had matured into its present shape. People belonging to various tribes came here and got settled, and established their own power centers in certain areas of this land.  In the beginning they had different life style as well as traditions, but due to certain changes in the society, people came together and rituals and thoughts were exchanged. Today, it is difficult to differentiate which caste/tribe had influenced the life-style of the other. So sociologically, it is the land of nomadic tribes and civilization.

Culture has played a crucial role in human evolution. Today the world is moving towards a single culture, characterized as a single “Global” culture, but the apparent variation among cultures proves that every human society has its own particular culture or socio-cultural system consisted of language, ideas, ,customs ,taboos, codes ,works of art, rituals ,ceremonies, symbols, beliefs etc. and Dogra is also not an exception. It is very interesting to note here that a good number of beliefs, concerning every sphere of life, is available in Dogra folk-lore. These beliefs denote a practical form of knowledge regarding society, interpersonal relationship, parenting, agriculture, business, trade, service, weather, seasons, health, medicine and so on. In the present paper an attempt has been made to discuss the knowledge depicted in folk-beliefs  prevalent in Dogra society. But it seems difficult to give space to  the  all beliefs in this paper , hence  to make the study more focused ,only the beliefs related to agriculture and health have been analyzed here .

The social and cultural life to a great extent depends upon the economic conditions of the people. Economically, this land is a land of agriculturists, soldiers and businessmen. The economy of the region was based mainly on agriculture. Geographical conditions of the region play an important role for agriculture. Dogra region is situated in lower Himalayan ranges and ecologically it is a land of mountains, thick forests, barren lands and rivers, a land of contrasts and combination. So this region has three belts-hilly, plain and rocky land. The people mostly depend on rain and oxen for cultivation. These two factors play an important role in this region. Knowledge and beliefs regarding agriculture, yield, rain and oxen are prevalent among the folk of this region. Because of the uncertainty of the yield of crops, the folk make predictions , on the basis of experience, the prospects of good crop or famine. Their assumption is mainly based on rain, direction of wind etc.

The ancient people do not have any scientific method to know about the weather but they did it by observing natural elements around them such as direction of the wind, colour and thickness of clouds and made guess about the future of crops. Sometimes their guess must had proven true and sometimes might not but the presence of such beliefs in Dogra oral tradition confirms the use of beliefs as source of knowledge and these serve as a ready hand-book of information and knowledge even now in the rural areas. The following sayings and proverbs used by Dogras show their knowledge and beliefs regarding land, wind, rain, crop etc.

For cultivation, land is the base and yield depends on the fertility of land. To start the process of farming, one has to choose fertile land and the question arises how to test it? In the absence of any scientific technique for testing the land for cultivation, folk have evolved their own technique by observing the kind and growth of grass. It is thought that if there is Bermuda grass then it is guessed that crop will be good. If it has Papyrus Sedge then crop will be weak and if land is barren and stony the labour will bear no fruit. This belief has been illustrated in the following saying:-

Jis Paili Khabbal, Utthai Fasal Abbal , Jis Paili Deela,
Utthai Fasal Peela, Jis Paili Rode, Utthai Fasal Chaur

The land where there is Bermuda grass, the crop will surely be excellent there

The land where there is Papyrus Sedge, crop will be pale and weak

If the land is stony, means no yield.

The technology used in agriculture in Duggar Pradesh is not very advanced. Even today the people of villages adhere more to traditional means of knowledge in farming. Since main operations of farming are ploughing, sowing, irrigating, harvesting etc. so lets discuss ploughing first. And for ploughing the first and foremost requirement is Oxen. Even now it is almost impossible for folk to plough without oxen in the hilly region. Every Ox is not good in ploughing. So it is very essential to identify the right one. And sayings provide the knowledge for selection of Ox on the basis of physical characteristics. Regarding the characteristics of a good Ox the following saying provides the folk ready-knowledge like a manual . People say:

Muttha sing te gitlha kyadi ,khucchen uppar chumbh nuhadi
Gora-Maila laina tadi

The Ox having horns as long as fist and neck of hand-span, Tail, touching ankles, white or of earthy colour must be chosen.

More knowledge for testing the ox may be known from the following saying:

Daand  gahiai, ghora  bahiai

Ox must be tested by trying in ploughing and horse by riding.

Being most of the region hilly and stoney, folk depends on rain for irrigation and so the yield of crop. Again people have their own ways to know whether there will be rain or not. They make predictions by observing winds, clouds, interpreting the indications provided by lightening and calculating  nakshatras, date, month etc. People watch the density of clouds, direction of air and give their judgement. In the following saying prediction regarding the weather is very much clear. A man  makes his observation on the basis of the colour of clouds and direction of the air and tells his wife that clouds are of the colour of  Partridge’s wings and eastern wind is blowing so it will surely rain:

Tittar phangi baddali chalai purai di hava
Bhatta akhai sun Bhattani andar manja daah

Clouds like the colour of  Partridge’s wings, eastern wind is blowing

Husband (Bhatta) says to wife (Bhattani) make bed inside

Similarly, in another saying observation is based on lightening :

Dakkhan lagai bijali, chalai purav di hava
Bhatta akhai sun Bhattani andar manja daah

Lightening in the South , eastern wind is blowing

Husband (Bhatta) says to wife (Bhattani) make bed inside

Not only this that people make prediction whether it will rain or not. It is also predicted whether the rain will be good or bad for the crop.

According to some beliefs as depicted in sayings, people can calculate the future of crop according the date, nakshatra, month etc. when it rains. For example ,finding a particular period in particular month or months enables them that there will be good crop through out the year. In this regard people say:

Aunde  singhen sir sijjai janden sijjai pittha
Bhatta akhai Bhattani baaranmaah sabikkha

If it  is rains during period of the last six days of Shravana and first six days of Bhadrapad, It is a kind of assurance of  the prosperity through out the year.

Similarly , if crop is sown in the seventh month of Hindu calendar and it rains in eighth  month of Hindu calendar, it is believed that crop will be good. The following saying illustrates folk’s view:

Barai Magher daanen da dher

It rains in the eighth  month of Hindu calendar, yield will be good.

On the contrary if it rains in the seventh month of Hindu calendar ,that is interpreted as an indication of famine. People’s concern is very much apparent in this saying  :

Kattak barai ik rutti daun janen

It rains in the seventh month of Hindu calendar, yield will be half.

Sowing is one of the most important operations in farming. Some traditional knowledge regarding sowing is also carried to the present age through folk beliefs. The knowledge regarding the space between the rows of specific crop has been stored in the following saying:

Diddha tuaki kaungni, gajjo-gajja kapah
Leph bukkala mariai Makken bicchen ja

In this saying it is suggested that to get good yield pigeon-pea must be sown at the distance of as much as a frog’s one-and half jump, one yard space must be left between the rows of cotton- plants and distance between the rows of maize plants should be at least this much that one could move through with quilt wrapping around.

Prevailing beliefs also suggest that which crop can get good yield in a particular season. For instance, in the following saying it is told that good yield from melons can be achieved if sown in 2nd or 3rd month of Hindu calendar. People say:

Jeth-Haar Kakkari, Akka, Khota ,Bakkari

Melon, Swallow-wort plant ,donkey and goat flourish during the months of Jeth & Ashard

As far thrashing is concerned the following saying possesses the knowledge which is true as it is not easy to thrash moist ears of grains.

Ik Jau sille uppara jotar dhille

On one hand barley-ears are moist and another hassle is that Oxen are lazy and slow.

Every society has beliefs concerning health and medicines and Dogra society is no exception. The people do use traditional knowledge to maintain health and curing techniques. The following saying illustrates awareness among the folk about the importance of health. As in English it is said that ‘health is wealth’ but Dogra folk rates health very high in comparison to wealth as it says that it  is universe.

Jinda ai taan jahan ai

If body is free from ailment only then this universe is of any importance.

Health is the source of all happiness. One may possess much wealth, if his health is not good, he cannot enjoy peace of mind.

Here we will discuss only the folk beliefs concerning health. For testing that one possess healthy body or not, the following saying suggests that if feet are warm, belly is soft, head is cool that means person is healthy and so no need to see the physician.

Pair garam, pet naram, sir thanda
Aavai vaid taan maro danda

The question is what is necessary for good health? The answers will be pure air, clean water, good food, exercise and proper rest. Yes, this is all what the indigenous beliefs teach us. This belief speaks in volumes by telling that one should drink filtered water because impure water causes many diseases. The following saying reveals the technique to purify the water:-

Pani peechai puniai, guru banachai chuniai

Water must be filtered  before drinking, Guru must be selected.

Food is fuel for body. Health condition mainly depends on what one eats and how many times eats. Today scientific research has confirmed that the most of the leading causes of diseases are preventable. Good health can be gained by improving our life style. Many studies have emphasized the importance of breakfast . It boosts our energy. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day .The following saying is based on the wisdom of indigenous folk that we can stay healthy by taking breakfast.

Badale di nahari, na dukh na bamari

A breakfast in the morning keeps the pain and disease away.

Mention of balanced diet in the sayings reflects the knowledge of indigenous people . The following saying reveals that a healthy diet gives our body the right amount of energy, enough raw materials and all that  what we  need to stay healthy. Good nutrition also provides antioxidants that help keep us feeling young, looking great, and perhaps even disease-free.:

Marad te ghora ,khurak thahondi ravai taan kaden buddhe nein honde.

Man and horse never become old if they get healthy diet.

Avoidance of indigestion is essential for good health so folk-beliefs instruct to take rest after meals for good digestion. The insight of the folk shows power of their observation and social concerns. One saying can be illustrated here:-

Khaiai sei jaana, mariai nassi jaana

Sleep after meals, run away after beating

Sleep is also essential for health and well being. Because sleep disorder can have profound effects on the health of the person. So the following saying warns people that if someone does not have sleep till the third quarter of night that means that person is suffering from some ailment, though it may be a sleep disorder. Saying is

Paihale paihar te har koi jaagai, dooai jaagai bhogi
Triye paihar koi rogi jaagai, chauthai taaman jogi

Thus it seems clear that the knowledge of Dogra folk about agriculture and health being combined with  folk-beliefs plays  a great role in their day-to-day life. Even now  life of Dogras  is guided by beliefs  and these beliefs serve as a ready  hand-book of knowledge. Their  beliefs are not merely ideas, the mind possesses; These are the ideas which possess the mind. These beliefs reflect on And are good channels of communicating world-views of Dogra society and culture. This indigenous knowledge can be helpful in many ways for advanced knowledge.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Maaja aayi gaya bade chire da tuppa karda aaj meri mansha puri gayi hai agar tuhade kol dogri bajaartyaa ayen / ya koi katab …

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