Category Archives: Folklore

Four Leaf Clover: Good Luck Symbols!!!

Since the dawn of civilisations, man has relied on good luck in good measure. When the things don’t go his way despite all the efforts he takes the refuge in the things and omens which has the powers to turn the tide in his favour. Sometimes these things defy common logic.

Different civilisations have different symbols of good luck. For example, whenever a Hindu household starts a new venture , Lord Ganesh is worshipped. Three legged toads are a symbol of good luck in Chinese civilisation. Similarly in Christianity Four Leaf Clover is one of the good luck symbols.

Clover plant are extensively used for green fodder. There are about three hundred species of the clover. Clover leaf are generally trifoliate. This means the 3 leafs radiate from the single point of the stem.

But sometimes clover has a quater foiled leaf. These Four Leaf Clovers are very rare. It is estimated that there is only one 4 leaf clover against 10000 three leaf clover. This means chances of finding a 4 leaf clover are 1 in 10000. These are held in great esteem and are considered very lucky. They are believed to bring good luck especially if found accidentally.

The Usual 3 Leaf Variety
Four leaf clover

In Christianity, it is believed that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Eden Garden, Eve brought with her Four Leaf Clover. So anyone in possession of the leaf is considered blessed with heaven. It is also believed that anyone in possession of four leaf clover has ability to see fairies as well as evil spirits.

In 2014 Australian daily telegraph reported that a lady named Suzi Mekhitarian has stumbled into a patch of good luck and collected 21!! Four leaf clovers from her front yard which seems to be mind boggling. Some scientists don’t believe it. They say that plants might be genetically modified to produce 4 leaf clovers.

Note: The images used in this post have been taken from the different websites through Google search. These are not being used for any commercial purpose.

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Nightmares !!

A Nightmare is the terrible dream like inability to run from a dangerous situation, losing your or gadgets or a bad time in a person’s life. But it has nothing to do with Mare. Although Sigmund Freud considered as the father of modern psychology described the dreams as the awakening of the subconscious mind and fulfillment of the unfulfilled desires.

Coming to the origin of the word, it consists of two words fused together. Night and Mare. Mare is derived from middle English word  Mare which meant a “female evil spirit thought to lie upon and suffocate sleepers’. This had developed from mære in Old English – so it’s clear concerns about anything that interrupts a good night’s sleep have been around for a long time. In those olden times our understanding of the working of our brain was not good and mythology provided the explanations. Mare has been prefixed to emphasise the sleep time occurence.

Other cultures also have many words with many describing evil spirits, demons or goblin-like creatures which would ride on people’s chests while they slept, bringing on bad dreams.

Narcissus in Us

There is a Narcissus in All of Us: More or Less

Narcissus or Narkissos was a youth of exceptional beauty and due to vanity became exceptionally proud and disdained others. When Goddess Nemesis saw this, she attracted the Narcissus to a pool of clear water. He saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with his own image. He did not left the pool and died.

The word narcissism is derived from him and means excessive self love. There is less or more narcissus in all of us. To a degree it is essential for self keep up. But many of us have it in larger measure and keep admiring their own pictures.

The Fabled Jand (prosopis cineraria) Tree

There are many references to “Jand” tree in Punjabi literature. Foremost it is connected to a place called Danabad the village of Mirza in the legend of “Mirza-Sahiban”. After getting Sahiba from her home on the day of her marriage to someone else, and sneaking on his mare-called Bakki in local language, he decides to take rest under the cool shade of Jand tree. He was overconfident that even after taking rest for the summer noon, he will make it easily to his native place before the end of the day. Rest is well known. He was killed by Sahiban’s brothers who came chasing them.

Then there is a famous Gurudwara called “Jand Sahib” in Bathinda Punjab where Guru Gobind Singh is said to have rested under a Jand tree. And and there is one tree located behind Kiran Cinema in Chandigarh which I saw today. This is said to be very old and indeed it looked like that as only skeleton was there. Many people worship it.I always thought about how this tree must look.

I found a very beautiful video describing the beauty of this tree by Mirza. it is in Punjabi language but brief summary of the meaning is “Mirza describes the cool shade of Jand tree, the branches are touching the ground, you shouldn’t say no to sitting under the shade of it. And why to stress the mare in the hot sun because it is not rainy season. You don’t worry, we will reach Danabad (his native village) before the sunset.

Before Chandigarh came into existence, there were villages here. People lived mostly rural life based on agriculture. They worship female goddesses which is attested by many temples in the area. Like Hindu culture they worshipped trees and idols. The Jand tree is one such tree which was worshipped in the area.

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There are not many trees of this species in this area nowadays. I was curious to know how this tree looked like and other details. I found an article in the English daily “The Tribune” which gives the good information about the tree.

The tree known by scientific name of “prosopis cineraria” is endemic to dry areas and is found mostly in Rajasthan and adjoining areas of Punjab and Haryana. It is known by is known as “Jand” in Hindi and Punjabi, “jandi” in Haryanvi, “khejri” in Rajasthani, and “sami or samri” in Gujarati. The tree plays an important role in ecosystem of arid and semi-arid areas. All the parts of the tree are useful, it is called kalp taru or wish fulfilling tree.

During Vedic times, khejri wood was used to kindle the sacred fire for performing yajana. There are references of it in Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Lord Rama worshipped khejri tree known as Sami  Pooja, which represents the goddess of power, before he led his army to kill Ravana. The worshipping of this tree is referred to as samipuja. Pandavas also worshipped this tree and hid their weapons in it during their agyatavasa.

Khejri tree provides shelter and protection to animals and birds in desert areas. This tree is home to many large birds like kites, hawks and vultures.

Many Rajasthani families use the green and unripe pods (known as sangri) in preparation of curries and pickles. The importance of the medicinal value of samitree has been highlighted in our ancient literature. The bark of the tree provides immediate relief to a person bitten by snake or scorpion. Its leaves and fruits are used in preparing medicines for curing nervous disorders. The medicines prepared from its bark are also used for treating diarrhoea, dysentery, piles, worm infestations and other skin problems. The bark is also used to cure leprosy, bronchitis, asthma, tumour of muscles and to improve concentration. The gum of the tree is nutritive and good in taste and is used by pregnant woman at the time of delivery.

Rudrakash Elaeocarpus blascoi: Last Tear of Siva???

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Panch Mukhi (5 faces)

Rudraksha tree and its seed are held in great esteem for religious purposes. The nuts are very strong and has faces (mukhas) formed by engraved lines from its head to the bottom across the outer surface. Most common nuts have 5 faces and are called “Panchmukhi” meaning with five faces. Most precious is the one with 21 faces and only two go them are said to exist. There price may range anything between 10 to 15 lakhs INR.

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21 Mukhi (21 faces)

The nuts have the potential of medicinal values. Most of the members of the family Elaeocarpaceae have indolizidine alkaloid compounds, which have attracted a great deal of interest on account of their ability to inhibit the enzymatic activity of glucosidases. Hence, there is some potential to explore it further in the treatment of cancer, HIV and blood pressure.

In indian mythology tree are connected with Lord Siva who is said to have shed tears of grief and the tear drops became trees when they fell on the soil. These trees in India are confined mostly to North Eastern and Southern India.

The trees do not proliferate in numbers in wild. This is because of the extreme hard shell of the nut and low permeability to Moisture. This results in poor and erratic germination. Not only that the tree takes more than15 years to start flowering. So many species are in the process of becoming endangered.

One such tree: Elaeocarpus blascoi belongs to family which is confined to only to the Palani Hills in Tamil Nadu, is facing threat of extinction as just one tree of the group survives. It was discovered in Bear Shola of Palni Hills, Tamil Nadu in 1970 and was later found to be extinct during the exploration of the flora of Palni Hills. Fortunately, it was rediscovered in another region of the Kodaikanal forests in 2000 with only one living individual. It is a strict endemic species to Palni Hills of Western Ghats found on the fringes of the moist evergreen forest above 2,150 meters and included under Endangered category (World Conservation Monitoring Centre 1998) and Red list of IUCN. Elaeocarpus blascoi is a canopy tree growing up to 20 meter tall in moist evergreen forests with short new branches.

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Flowers

Various propagation techniques like tissue culture are required to raise saplings keeping in view the extremely poor results of germination from nuts. At present, there are two saplings of the tree with an conservation NGO.

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Sapling

Jayanti Devi Temple

Temple of Jayanti Devi is situated on a hillock at the village Jainti Majri about 8 kilometers from PGI Chandigarh. It is nestled between the Shiwalik hills. As you travel to temple from Chandigarh, the verdant plains change into hills. There are cliffs all around.

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Although the area falls under Punjab but it is more like a village sitting at the lap of hills. The area is lush green with the fields of various crops common to Punjab. Condition of the approach road is not good although a new road has been built but in parts near the village it is not still built.

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I don’t know my exact date of birth as the record keeping in India was very poor at that time. I was born in a village called Mastgarh about 10 kilometers from the temple. When we were very young, our parents decided to shift to Manimajra.

Many a times I wanted to know the exact date of birth. I asked my mother to recall it. She always replies that you were born when the annual fair at Jayanti takes place. I also remembered vaguely my father mentioning about going to attend that fair when we lived at Mastgarh. So I wanted to visit the temple. One day, I along with my wife and son started in the car and reached the temple. After Chandigarh one enters the villages with green fields and many ponds of wate

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The way to the temple is through the village. Street is narrow.  Car was parked in the front of the temple gate. There are about 350 steps of stairs you have to climb to reach the temple. The whole path is covered and there is a stop over in the middle where you can purchase the offerings like flowers, coconut and prasad.

At first the path looked formidable at our age but we made it slowly. There were written on the notice boards that the annual fair is during the beginning of February. So at least I could know the month of my birth. The temple is at the top. There are two watch posts from which you can survey the whole surroundings below. Behind are many cliffs and there are fields right up to the hills. There is a dam on one side which have been built to harvest the water and avoid erosion. During the fair it is visited by lakhs of people. I was thinking how exactly this temple handled the huge crowds.

The entire Shivaliks had in the past many small kingdoms ruled by Rajputs. Like that, this area was also a small kingdom ruled by a Rajput King. One of his brothers was to marry the daughters of Kangra king. The girl was a devotee of Jayanti Devi. She is one of the seven sisters, the seven goddesses of the Kangra valley — Naina Devi, Jwalaji, Chintpurni, Mansa Devi, Brajeshwari, Chamunda Devi and Jayanti Devi

She was at pains to leave behind her Goddess after marriage. She prayed to her. Her prayers were answered and goddess promised to accompany her where ever she would go. She revealed this to her father who made another carriage for the idol and thus she brought it with her to Jayanti majri. Her father in law constructed a small temple to establish the idol here.

Afterwards, a Robinhood like fellow named Garib Das from Manimajra took over this area. He was a great devotee of this goddess and got the present temple constructed.

Songs of Kuldeep Manak: Fragrance of Punjabi Soil

In Punjab and Rajasthan, folk singers belong to mostly Muslim religion. First example is of Mardana the disciple of Guru Nanak who played the Rabab when Guru sang the praises of the God. He along with Bala were constant companions of the Guru and accompanied him on his sojourns far and wide. The tradition continued and many of the famous singers in Punjab claim to be the descendants of Mardana. Also they have become so attached to Sikhism that from their outlook supporting the turban and beard, no one distinguish them from being the Sikhs.

Among these folk singers was Kuldeep Manak who hailed from Jalal village in the Bathinda district. He was born in 1951 and died in 2011. His father and forefathers were singers who sang in the Gurudwaras. His original name was Latif Mohammad which he later changed to Kuldeep Singh Manak. He supported the turban. For about 30 years from the age of 17, he was undoubtedly the king of folk in Punjab. Like when Sun shines, the stars fade away, other singers did not stand anywhere near in comparison except Surinder Shinda.

His voice was like the jangling of silver coins-pure and rustic. Bathinda borders Rajasthan and is a very dry and dusty place. There are frequent sand storms in the evening after the intense heat in the day time. The wind howls in the alleys and sand covers many things. One of the lyricists described his voice like the wind blowing during the storm-raw and hitting straight your heart. Since he sang the subjects related to folk stories and religion, he was immensely popular in the countryside. People were crazy about his songs. He sang a genre of folk music called Kalian and was called the Badshah of Kalian.

His songs cover so many popular and even unheard of Quissas-the stories of valor and love-which include Heer Ranjha, Laila Majnu, Mirza Sahiban, Kima Malki, Sassi Punnu as the love stories, Banda Singh Bahadur, Dulla Bhatti the Muslim Rajput who drove Akbar to such a desperation that he had to shift his base from Agra to Punjab to quell the Dulla, Jaimal Phatta-two Hindu Rajputs who refused to give their daughter to Akbar in marriage just like the parents of Jodha Bai did, Jagga Daku the Robinhood of Punjab and the death of Kehar Singh by his mother in law and brother in laws for the greed of money.

Further, his songs based on the religious stories like Sarwan of Ramayana who carried his blind parents from place to place for pilgrimage and was killed by an arrow from Raja Dashrath the father of Lord Rama, Pooran bhagat who was thrown in a well on the orders of his father King Salwan on the false charges made by King’s young wife Loona, subsequent rescue of Pooran by Guru Gorakhnath and his becoming a saint, then Raja Rasalu who was Pooran’s step brother born to the same Loona with the blessings of Pooran. The songs are replete with such stories.

The credit for his fame also goes to lyricist Dev Threekawala. The duo had a great rapport and churned out all this famous stuff. The winning quality of his songs was very simple and rustic language which tugged at the strings of the hearts of the simple village folks.

He was buried after death according to Muslim traditions. There were reports in the media that his wife who belongs to Sikh community tried to excavate his grave and to perform last rites in Hindu tradition but was prevented by the villagers.

The Legend of Mirza Sahiban

Among the doomed love stories of North India is the story of Mirza and Sahiban. You must have heard the other love stories like Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu and Sohni Mahiwal. Most of these love tales have tragic end. But notice one thing: while the names of other love stories begin with the name of girl for example Heer, Sassi and Sohni, the order is reverse in Mirza Sahiban tale. While in other stories, the sacrifice made by female was supreme, in this case Sahiban became double minded and could not forego the love of sibling.
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The story is simple like others. In the village of Danabad lived Wanjhal the tribal head of Kharal Jatts community. Mirza was his son. In the nearby village, Sahiban was born in the home of Mahni Khan, also from Jatt community of Khewa sub clan. Both families were related and Mirza and Sahiban were cousins. As the fate would have it, Mirza lost his mother and was sent to live in the home of Sahiban. As they grew up, the bond of love also grew between them. There are stories of their school days where when teacher asked the class to write the first alphabet, Sahiban wrote Mirza instead and was punished by the Maulvi. These instances are added to reflect the deep bond between them.
After many years, Mirza who was now a handsome man returned to his home. But they the love kindled in their hearts was always there and they were longing for each other.
The parents of Sahiban fixed her marriage with another man. She sent a messenger to inform the news to Mirza on the day of marriage. Marriage of his own sister was to happen on that day itself. It was very difficult situation for him. But he rode on his mare called Bakki in local language and his quiver and bow to bring the Sahiban. With the help of a confidante woman and a rope, Sahiban was transported to his waiting mare and thus the gallant man dashed away to his village with the bride.
He rode very fast and decided to take rest under the shade of a Jand tree. He hanged his arrows and bow on the branch of the tree and placed his head in the lap of his lover. He soon fell asleep. Meanwhile, her brother, Khan Shah Meer and other village people came chasing them as soon as they found out the elopement of Sahiban. She heard the commotion and neighing of horses from afar. She was familiar with the prowess of Mirza and was sure that he would definitely kill her brothers with arrows. She became double minded. On one side was her love for Mirza and on other his sibling. She broke the arrows and then alerted the Mirza about the danger that was coming towards them. But Mirza was aghast to find all the arrows being broken. He was helpless and was killed by Sahiban’s brother.
The ballad is very popular in Punjab on both sides. It has been sung by numerous singers both from West punjab and East Punjab and made into movies.

Raja Asraj

There are stories which are popular in a culture as they appeal the masses. In Punjab, there are so many Quissas, stories told by Bards which have become permanently etched in the psyche.

Take for example the love tales. There are stories of Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punnu, Mirza Sahiban. All have tragic endings, these are stories of sacrifice in the love. The duos could not face the opposition of their families and society and ended their lives.

These ballads are sung in one form or the other. There is another genre in Punjab that extols the acts of bravery or chivalry of the heroes of the Punjab. The style is called “vaar”. It has simple unsophisticated verse tuned to few musical instruments and sung in highly charged pitch so that it could be easily understood by the village folks.  Some examples are Dulla Bhatti and Sikh vaars.

One such is the story of Raja Asraj. Not much is known about where he dwelt in his lifetime. But due to his honesty and pious and kind heart, his story is sung in the form of Vaar and the Dhun (tune) was so much liked by Guru Arjan Dev that he tuned the famous recital called “Asa ki vaar” to be rendered according to Asraje Dhun or tune.

Asraj was the son of King Sarang from his first wife. King fell for another woman and married her. Second wife was very young many years younger than the king. The story is somewhat similar to another story relating to Puran Bhagat which is also very popular. New wife of the king happened to see handsome Asraj and instantly fell in love. But Asraj did not took any interest and  stayed firm in his faith and beliefs. When the queen’s motivations did not succeed she accused the prince of sexual assault to have the revenge. The King did not see the truth and ordered his son to be done to death. He also ordered the executioner to bring back severed limb as a proof.  There might be another reason though. Step mother did not want her step son to become the future king and desired instead one of her own sons to succeed the king in place of Asraj.

King’s advisor was a wise man so he decided to cut off a hand of the prince instead of getting him killed. After his hand was cut off he was left alone in a jungle near a well. Some merchants passed from that place and one of those merchants took Asraj along and sold him to a laundry man in another town of different kingdom.

Asraj started spending his time working in his owner’s home. The king of that province passed away without leaving anyone to succeed him. Since the king did not have any children, it was decided by the advisers that whosoever comes to the door of the province first shall be crowned the next king. As the providence would have it, Asraj happened to the first person and was made the king of that province.

Since he belonged to the royal family, he managed the kingdom affairs very efficiently. Public was very happy. There was a drought in the region and people died of hunger but his populace was unaffected because Asraj has the wisdom to kept a large stock of food grains.  Merchants of other countries started coming to Asraj’s country to buy grain. The advisor of his father who saved Asraj from death also came and Asraj recognized him. Asraj met and served him with great love and friendliness. He also sent a lot of grain to his father without taking any price.

When that adviser reached his country he told the king the story of Asraj becoming the king and motivated him to transfer his kingdom over to Asraj. The king had also realized the reality so he accepted his adviser’s virtuous advice and sent an invitation to his son.

When Asraj’s stepson Sardool Rai found out his father’s plan, he along with his cousin Sultaan Rai took on Asraj. In the ensuing battle Asraj came out victorious. After winning Asraj approached to meet his father and his father transferred his kingdom over to him. Asraj then ruled over both countries.

Bards composed a Vaar in his honour. It is called Tunde Asraje ki Vaar. Tunda in Punjabi means without one hand since one hand of Asraj was chopped by the adviser when his father had ordered him to be killed. Famous Asa ki Vaar which is recited in every Gurudwara in the morning is based on the this raag.

Quissa Puran Bhagat

History of the undivided Punjab and adjoining areas on its western front is replete with stories of valour and love. This area acted like a conduit for those from the west who wanted to enter India. From the times immemorial, streams of people crossed into India in search of its rich resources. Some solely entered through this corridor for the purpose of looting and taking with the exploits back. Others like Aryans and Mughals came here and settled here permanently. Aryans are said to be the cattle raring people who were constantly on the move in search of green pastures for their livestock. First Mughal emperor Babur came this side because he was forced to by his cousins who had fully controlled the Western areas and did not allow Babur to get any hold there. He headed east and as luck would have it, he easily won Afghanistan. As he had heard about Hindustan, he drove down into plains of Punjab and adjoining areas. Even when he established himself in India, he longed to go to his native place as he found the weather here too hot. It was Akbar who however firmly established the Mughal rule in India.
Due to the continuous movement of the people including aggressors and traders, the cultures of many places diffused into culture of this area. Many forms of literature also entered this area. One such was Quissa or the oral story telling. The stories were of the religious type initially but took into their fold the folklore and other social forms. So quissa telling became very popular in the Punjab and many famous quissa are popular and people knew heard them again and again. For example, there were lovers tales like Mirza Sahiban, Sassi Punnu on one hand and religious stories on the other hand.
One such Quissa is named Quissa Puran Bhagat. Story is set in the Sialkot which is now in Pakistan. There a king ruled in older times and his name was Salwaan. He had two wives. First one was Ichhran and younger one was Loona. Loona belonged to Chamba and there was large difference of age between the king and her age. In fact, she was the age of his children. As she was the daughter of a very poor low caste man, there was no question of the poor man resisting the marriage although Loona was not inclined. But those were the olden days. She is said to be very beautiful. King was guest of Chamba Royality and saw her in fair and was mesmerised and wanted to make her the queen.
The king was blessed with a son from first wife. He was christened as Puran. Astrologers advised the king to keep the child away from the palace till he attains the age of twelve. So he was established outside with king providing all the facilities there.
After twelve years, he returned as a very handsome boy. He went to her mothers palace. As they days passed, he went to meet the second wife of the king as was the custom in those days. Upon seeing the handsome boy, Loona was bewitched and fell in love with him. But the boy resisted her advances and told her that she is like her mother being the wife of his father. He left the palace after extricating himself. But Loona was heart broken and out of jealously she planned revenge.
She called for the king and with tears told that Puran had tried to rape her. King without seeing the truth, ordered the limbs of Puran to be amputated and he be thrown into a well. Now here is the folklore part. Puran remained alive in the well for many years reciting the name of Gods. Once a wandering religious man called Guru Gorakhnath, a Jogi in local language happened to pass by the well and heard Puran’s voice from the well. With the help of his disciples he took him out and made him hid disciple and showered many spiritual powers on him. Thus Puran became a Bhagat-a religious person. He established him near the well. People began to flock to him for blessings.
In the meanwhile through these years, Loona did not get any children. She was very unhappy. She and the king decided to seek the blessings of Bhagat. Puran Bhagat blessed her with a son. But as the king and queen did not recognise him, he asked Loona that she might have done some terrible deed in the past due to which she had not got any children. She told the truth before the king and Puran revealed that he was the victim.
King was very repentant and beseeched the Bhagat to come home and take over the reins of Kingdom but he refused and told them that the child to be born shall be the next king.
The well in which he was thrown still exists. People even now come to seek blessings for having sons from all over Pakistan. It is called “Puran de Khuee” meaning the well of Puran.
The story has been told and retold for years. The famous Punjabi poet, Shiv Kumar, rewrote the epic by giving it a different interpretation. He says that what was the fault of Loona in desiring for Puran who was almost only slightly younger than her. Her only fault was to be born into a poor family which could not resist the king’s demands. Her parents thought it to be an honour that they have established relations with the mightiest person. But nobody saw into the heart of young Loona. She hardly knew Puran who as per the social norms of the time considered her his mother. She did not saw it that way. She surrendered to her suppressed feelings. Shiv’s argument is that the women was like slave and had no say in any matter. He attempted to bring the women at par with the men.