Suraj Saraf, Compiled by Aimay Saraf
Raade festival of Dogra land of Jammu is like a rally a red letter day for women as they take to planting seeds with painting the earth around in rainbow colours and community feasts and festivities. It is the conclusion of a month long joyous observances starting with Nirjala Ekadishi when summer is at its scorching high and concluding when the rains had well set in. Raade month marks change-over from sagging sprits due to summer blues to buoy up urges of please sent times as rainy season advances. This interesting change-over is reflected in the songs and ceremonies during the month. Depleting green cover and water crisis have become global problems concerned with very existence of humanity. Raade festival addresses both these crucial concerns emphasizing their deep realization by the common. Festival signifies coaxing and welcoming rain god by the young girls by interesting practices and rituals. Young girls sweep an open space, apply a thick coat of cow-dung overlain with a coat of white wash. Each girl fixes a pitcher neck in the treated ground and sow seeds in it and waters it. Fascinating multihued designs are executed around the pitcher necks with natural and stone tints. These designs represent household objects or items linked with the rainy season. There’re also geometric motifs that reflect tantric influence. These are perhaps learnt by clever girls from the ritual patterns executed by priests during marriage etc. All these designs are deftly done even though the girls never have had any formal art training. Interestingly each pitcher neck is dedicated to some member of the family with the central design termed Dhamma Raada (bigger Raada) dedicated to father or elder brother.
The harmony of colours, music and sumptuous meals impart a new rhythm of hope to the toiling masses to take a leap forward. It imparted young girls training in many aesthetic facts of life, therefore the efforts to revive it response has been encouraging.
On the face of it inclusion of pitcher neck in Raade seems to be merely to mark the boundary or as a decorative motif. But actually in the first place they are parts of pitchers used to carry water so they symbolize the water factor or rain. Girls continue propitiating the rain god during the month long festival. A still more significant fact about the pitcher necks is that pitchers represent holy Puran Ghata worshipped through ages as symbol of fertility and growth. As underscored in the “Indian Art” by Vasudeva S. Agrawala, “ The idea of Puran Ghata or mangala Kalsha had been known since the time of Rig Ved. There is practically no festive occasion in which the Puran Ghata is not installed either as religious symbol or for beautifying ……Puran Ghat or Puran Kumbhh was the symbol of plenty and creativity.” Obviously, therefore Ghat, Ghada or pitcher used as the pitcher neck in Raade is a hoary symbol of creativity of Mother Earth resulting in plenty of crop. “Water in it is overflowing leaves and flowers typify life itself with many blessings and hoys. The human body is Puran Ghat and so is the created cosmos. The Puran Kalsha of Rig Veda is filled with the immortal sap. The Puran Kumbh of Atharva Veda with streams Gharita (Ghee or purifies butter) and Amrita. The home is Mangla Ghat and actually beautified with it. It is common that certain significant ancient practices continue in the countryside in some form or other, without their practitioners knowing their real significance. Use of pitcher necks in Raade is certainly such a tradition. During the month, girls sowing Raade often hold get together, holding feasts and singing songs. However, their main purpose is to see the condition of the seeds sown by them and apply correctives where required. This is perhaps also ancient way of testing seeds and oil for ensuing cropping pattern. Like all folk arts, the training in drawing beautiful Raade patterns and signing particular songs in particular swar is learnt by the young girls over the time by observing their elders doing the same. As pointed out by renowned Indologist Late Stella Kramrisch, “ The art of drawing on the floor is a discipline that carries inventiveness from generation to generation. The geometrical designs lend themselves to being copies or adjusted to different techniques. Various techniques on the other hand, particularly plating and weaving, might have simulated the visual imagination of the designers of the floor tracings. This did not, however deter her hand or even her eye from the steady flow of the even line of her work on the floor. “The tribal arts practices in the homes have contributed two essential components to the sum-total of India art. There are the abstract magical diagrams of the tantric ritual….. and the other tribal pictograms?. But these forms of Indian art are created by non professionals.” At the conclusion of the month long festivals, when girls prayers had been granted by Indra and there are plenty of rains, and seeds have also sprouted well, interestingly final celebrations are gone through. Girls in their colourful attires uproot the Raade plants that had then grown up well, along with pitcher necks placing them in a thali as also lighting earthen lamps (divas), they go to some stream or pond singing in praise of rain god, they release the Raade in the water and return cheerfully. After the partition, Raade had almost been forgotten over the years, due to modern life becoming too hectic to leave time for such leisurely activities, till about twenty years back some cultural activists started the movement to revitalize this moribund festival. Dhian Singh, a well known Dogri poet who led this welcome movement and also penned a research booklist on it, says,” The harmony of colours, music and sumptuous meals impart a new rhythm of hope to the toiling masses to take a leap forward. It imparted young girls training in many aesthetic facts of life, therefore the efforts to revive it response has been encouraging.
(The compilarAmiay Saraf is a freelancer from Jammu. Views are exclusively his own)