Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Guru Ravidass Gurpurab at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar – My Musings


Guru Ravidass Gurpurab at Bootan Mandi Jalandhar – My Musings

Bootan Mandi, native place of well to do followers of Guru Ravidass in Jalandhar, has traditionally been the nerve centre of activities pertaining to dalits not only in Punjab but also throughout India and beyond. For the past hundred years or so, as per oral history, Guru Ravidass’s Janam Dihada (Jayanti/Gurpurab) is celebrated with enthusiasm and gaiety here with traditional Jaloos (Shoba Yatra or Nagar Kirtan) starting from Bootan Mandi which terminates back at Bootan Mandi after covering a long route of about 10 km. through the important thoroughfares of the town. The traditional Tamak – Big

Traditional Drum - Tamak

Drum/Nagada leads the Yatra to announce the arrival of the Shoba Yatra which is generally played by men. This year, it was gratifying to note that young ladies were doing the honour, a handsome tribute to the lofty philosophy of the Gurus and our constitution giving equal status to the women folk and rightly so.

Over the years, the Disha and Dasha (shape and scope) of the two day celebrations at Bootan Mandi, have been evolving to meet the fast changing scenario of not only social and economic status of the dalits in the region and beyond but also the emerging political clout which dalits are holding, thanks to the efforts and struggle of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Babu Mangoo Ram Mugowalia and Manyawar Kanshi Ram. In the early years, these celebrations used to be a simple spiritual manifestation of the followers of Guru Ravidass in the region under the influence of Ad-dharm Mandal of Babu Mangoo Ram Mugowalia and Sants like Sarwan Dass of Dera Ballan on the out-skirts of Jalandhar and Hira Dass of  Dera Chak Hakim  near Phagwara among others. Babasaheb Ambedkar appeared on the scene and his visit to Bootan Mandi in October, 1951 and growing economic well being of leather merchants of the area tended to change the direction towards political orientation to the celebrations. Dalit youth of the area started taking interest and provided positive inputs. The celebrations became more educative and an exercise in generating awareness by way of organizing Kavi-Darbars, bringing out of souvenirs, printing and exchanging greeting cards, decorating and decking the entire route of the Jaloos – Shoba Yatra with colouful banners, arches, buntings etc. beginning  the mid 1960s. I may add with a sense of belonging and satisfaction that I as a young student fully associated with these activities and held the position of

Shobha Yatra, 2021

General Secretary of Guru Ravidass Welfare Society of Bootan Mandi for many successive years in the latter half of 1960s and my younger brother Paramjit held the fort for almost 10 years later. The increasing economic and social clout of young and successful businessmen of Bootan Mandi like Sat Paul Mal, Surinder Mahey who also rose to be the Mayor of Jalandhar, Manohar Mahey, Prem Shant, Mool Raj, Avinash Chander who also remained Chief Parliamentary Secretary in successive Akali Governments, inter alia, added to the pomp and show of the celebrations of Gurpurab and other related events. The two Gurudwaras in the Mohalla were given a facelift with added facilities befitting to the sites. The Bootan Mandi two-day annual celebrations were virtually turned into a huge mela on the calendar of events of the city towards the end of the century and first decade of the 21st century. All political leaders of standing felt obliged to come and pay obeisance at Guru Ravidass Dham, join the Shoba Yatra, join the spiritual darbars and register their presence at the much awaited and acclaimed Sangeet Darbar to conclude the ceremonies. The list of singers at the Sangeet Darbar, the climax
Shri Guru Ravidass Dham Bootan Mandi

event, reads like a ‘Who’s Who’ of the cultural and musical fraternity from Narinder Biba to Hans Raj Hans to Master Saleem to Noora Sisters (their gread mother Bibi Nooran belonged to Bootan Mandi) to Ginni Mahi and all other top-notch singers of Punjab, with the catch phrase -  Bootan Mandi Ajao Jene Dekhana Nazara eh ( Come to Bootan Mandi to enjoy). Hans Raj Hans even improvised the famous Punjabi lore, Mahia and said – Do Patar Anaran De; Jis Sanu Milana Hove – Behde Ajae Chamaran De. The importance of Bootan Mandi may be gauged from the fact that icons and  leaders like Ambedkar, Mangoo Ram, Joginder Nath Mandal, Jagjivan Ram, swaran Singh, Nijlangappa, Chand Ram, B.P. Maurya, Kanshi Ram, Mayawati, I.K. Gujral, L.K. Advani, Ram Nath Kovind, Ram Bilas Paswan, almost all CM’s of Punjab among others visited Bootan Mandi at one occasion or the other.

The glory of Guru Ravidass Jayanti kept on increasing with spontaneous participation of lakhs and lakhs of followers of Guru Ravidass and also merry makers to enjoy the Mela and celebrations over the year. But every good thing also has a negative side, it is said. The Mela aspect of the event is gaining strength and currency in tandem with the rising profile of the community in general. But the agenda and purpose of the event got diluted beginning the decade of

Book stall at Gurpurab Mela

2020. Personal rivalry, jealousy, family quarrels, decreasing economic profile of the so called Seths of Bootan Mandi and also rising political profile of Akalis, BJP, AAP to replace the traditional stronghold of Congress and Republican Party/BSP etc. The Gurpurab is celebrated as it used to be but the underlying current indicated that it was losing steam under the self-appointed leadership of spent forces that is ‘Chale Hue Kartoos’ in Punjabi parlance. They are full of ego and don’t want to pass on the baton to the younger generation with sheer vested motives. It is a matter of concern to many like me who have emotional attachment and sense of belonging not only to Bootan Mandi but also to the lofty ideals and philosophy of the great Guru. These are my personal views which I decided to share with my fellow Bootan Mandians and the community at large though with a lot of remorse and pain. I have no intension to criticize or oppose anybody individually or collectively. The sole motivation to write this piece is to raise an early alarm before the situation worsens and the glory of my native place Bootan Mandi which is called the ‘Capital of Dalits’; informally, is damaged. I pray to Guru Ravidass to bless us with soul and mind to understand and arrest the decline in our thinking and approach and enable us to rectify the situation in the larger interests of the area and the community at large. Let us be tolerant. Let us learn from each other. Let us encourage the younger generation to come forward and take over. The sooner the better. With these humble submissions, I conclude with a quote from Allama Iqbal’s nazam:

Hawaida  Aaj Apne Zakhm-e-Pinhan Kar Ke Chorun Ga
Lahoo Ro Ro Ke Mehfil Ko Gulistan Kar Ke Chorun Ga

I will surely exhibit all my hidden wounds today
I will surely change assembly to a garden with blood‐mixed tears

Jalana Hai Mujhe Har Shama-e-Dil Ko Souz-e-Pinhan Se
Teri Tareek Raaton Mein Charaghan Kar Ke Chorun Ga

I have to light every heart’s candle with hidden pathos
I will surely create bright illumination in your darkness

Parona Aik Hi Tasbeeh Mein In Bikhare Danon Ko
Jo Muskhil Hai, To Iss Mushkil Ki Asan Kar Ke Chorun Ga

If stringing these scattered pearls in a single rosary
Is difficult, I will surely make this difficult task easy

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