My Childhood Experience of Makar Samkranti (makraini) in Garhwal
Bhishma Kukreti, Mumbai
(Specially written for Uttarakhandi migrants in Mumbai who did not have any Makraini experiences of Garhwal and recollecting moments or reminders to those who had the experiencing of makraini)
The poosh month:
It is said in my motherland Garhwal that a migrant bird Ghughati warbling because she cannot forget her motherland, which is farther north of Garhwal and she sings and sings (ghughti KO ghuran) in the memory of her home land.
In old time, in Garhwal, the bahus ( married women), in case they could not visit their parental home, used to sing khuder geet (songs of pathos rapture to remember the dearest ones ) in the month of poosh. Poosh month is also called maitaru or maitau ku maina or the month of visiting Mayaka in Garhwal . Same way I am feeling to remember the two days of Makar Samkranti or makraini. May be I am feeling as my kakia dadi (grandmother, my father’s aunt) who even at the age of eighty used to sing khuder geet:
Phuli jalo kans bwei, phuli jalo kans, melwadi bansali bwei, phuli gai buransh I
Mauli geni Dali bwei, hairo when dando; man ki did bhuli bwei matu aigeni II
(The month of flowering on Buransh (rhododendron ) has started and the bahus will be visiting their mother’s house but I am unable to make it)
Poosh (December/January) months are memorable for me because there was winter holiday moth from 15th December to 15th January in our junior school Silogi Malla Dhangu, Pauri Garhwal. We children used to go on Goarman (taking domestic animals to grazing land) and we used to have lot of funs in the grazing land. Playing guli danda or playing reetha, gari khelna, chaumpa daud were main sports in the grazing land. Surprisingly, in winter season no body used to playing cards (TAS) in goarmna too. Those gwair (shepherd), who had goats and sheep were always alert from foxes because the goat kids were the dearest prey of foxes. If by chance, we come across to see fox we used to chase the animal far away. This is also the time of ripening of damphoo (raspberry) on the hilly areas above four thousand feet. Usually, Damphoo plants grow on the southern part of hill, among grass and with the pine (kulain) altitude or just below pine altitude. We gwair used to eat lot of fruits of damphoo and collect for our family members too. Now days, damphoo are available with fruit dwellers and malls in Mumbai. In winter the marigold (santraj) also bloom abundantly and we the villagers never took care as we are sensitive in Mumbai about marigold flowers. Marigold, grass and damphoo are complimentary plants. Though, I never experienced but my mother told me that in old days of Garhwal, this was also the time to collect chhyunti (chilgoza) or seeds of pine from its fruit. Above the 2000 feet and below pine tree line you could find Toong and we used to chew toong to if we are there for grazing the caws
Poosh days are also the days of snow fall. Snow fall in our village was rare and I witnessed two snow falls in my own village (Jaspur, Malla Dhangu height below 3000feet). Snow fall days were tedious days for our elders but snow fall was really enjoying event for we children. On these days , bukhana bhunan (roasting of corn, marsu, bhatt etc in the earthen pot) was common in every house. We used to play on the snow by bare feet and used to have lot of fun. What to talk about shoes, many children never had coat or pajamas in those days.
Poosh month starts from 15th of December. This month was also the moth of playing hingoad ( Garhwali version of Hockey) . The bamboo stem is uprooted with root and then is made like hockey stick. The ball was made by ropes. The play rules were same as hockey but there was no rule for numbers of players.
Hingoad is played in Garhwal in Gangasalan (Malla Dhangu, Talla Dhangu, Bicchala Dhangu, Dabralsiyun, Langur, Talla Udaypur, Malla Udaypur Bicchala Udaypur Ajmer, and Sheela Patti).
In the above patties, gindi ko myala or festival of ball is famous. Though, now these days, cricket has replaced gindi.
Poosh ko Shekh: (last day of poosh month)
On the last day of Poosh (shekh) the local fellows play hingoad in the baron fields till the noon and after the after noon, villagers used to play hath gindi (like rugby) on the wheat or oat fields . In our village Jaspur (Malla Dhangu), the plays used to happened in Saur village where the people of near by four five villages ( Gweel, Bareth, Chhatinda and Baryon) used to come around ten A.M. The competing parties used to be married (baik) males and unmarried males (nat).
In the competing place, there used to real mela or carnival. The das used to play dhol and damau and the music used to like music of war or enthusiasm only. The badi-badan dance was part and partial of the gindi festival of shekh or samkrant. We children come to know much about the rapture of love (shringar ras) from the love song sung by badis and badan on this occasion.
The competition of hathgindi used to be up to 8 PM between married and unmarried males. Yes! There was no place for females to participate physically in the competition. Females used to enjoy the song, dance and quick-drama (swang) created by badi-badan. The females of das family also used to come to sing there but they could not compete the singing of badan in any angle. There used to be chalta firta bazaar where many things used to be sold and purchased.
In the evening, the females of each house used to cook puri, swal,bharayan swal, pakwada or bhura to celebrate next day sangrand (first day of a month). The pulses as sunt, ragdwans were common for masyatoo (paste or dough of boiled pulses) of bharain swala and urad used to be common component of bhura or pakwada. Many old females used to make swala of marsu too. It requires much hard work and care in preparing swala of marsu because the dough of marsu happens to be brittle.
Makraini, khichidya sangrand or ginderi sangrand:
Makar samkranti has many names in Garhwali. Makraini is derived from makar (means the sun comes near to maker rashi from karka rash). Sangrand is called for the first day of a month. This is the first day of magh month. Till last year Makraini, makar Sankranti, Uttarayani in Gujrat or Pongal for Tamilians was celebrated on 14th Of January but I heard that from this year, Makraini will be celebrated on 15th January
On the first day of every month the das will come to play the drum in each village and it is called naubat bajan. The das comes to play naubat early morning on makraini too. This is also a day of cooking khichadi. That is why it is also called khichadya sangrand.
On this day, the religious villagers from our area used to go to Dev Prayag ( Bhagirathi meets to Alaknanda river), Byas ghat (Nayar meets to Gnaga ), Mahadev Chatti ( junction of Ganga and Chnadrabhaga rivelet), Foolchatti (meeting place of Ganga and Henwal rivers) and many people used to go Rishikesh or Haridwar for taking the dip into the Gnaga. Hathgindi in Katghar, Devikhet, kandi- Kasyali and Dadamandi:
The hathgindi or a Garhwali version of rugby sport was very famous in the above sited area of Gangasalan.
The ball is made by leather with two hooks and a religious method used to apply in making the ball.
On makar smakrant the hathgindi was played in Katghar, Kasyali (Udaypur Patti), Devikhet (Dabralsyun) and Dadmandi (Sheela Patti). The gindimela was always vigorous in those places. It is said that seven deaths in Kasyali, three in Dadamandi and one each death in Devikhet and Katghar were pardoned in the British era. The competing parties used to be people of two patties as Dhangu and Udaypur in Katghar, Sheela and Ajmer in Dadamandi . After the start of game each patty would want to take the big ball to gadhna of their side. The goal post used to the gadhana of two patties.I have seen hundred of people joining and sliding or playimg or trying for snatching the ball to take the ball in their gadhana in the gindi myala of Katghar and fifty around people playing gindi in Devikhet. I have seen tens of people being hurt or suffocated in Katghar. There was no rule for this rugby.
The winners ( of a patti) who take the ball used to get Bheli and monitory reward. Stronger males used to play the game, while weaker males, children and females either used to see the game from far and used to enjoy the music of tens of dhols and damau (the das of each village used to come there), badi badan dance and song, chalta firta bazaar, and meeting the relatives. Jalebi used to be the favorite in the sweet. Grams, laich Dana were common things for buying. Chudi, chunti, small mirror, artificial jewelry etc were the attracting things for village females in those days around 1964. I never saw bal mithai being sold in our festive places like Mahdev chatti, Byasghat, Foolchatti or Devikhet. Yes! Alu-ka-gutka and paratha as in Vyasi (Rishikesh Badrinath Road) was also available besides urad-ki –dal and bhat
It was real enjoyment to be in the Kauthig of Gindi in Katghar or Devikhet. Hundreds of people in colourful dresses at a time performing different activities was a blissful shock for us who used to live in the village populating from fifty to three hundred human beings. The crowd was a bigger surprise, enjoyment, bliss, and wonders for us the children. The place used to be noisy by the sound of musical instrument s (like dhol etc); flutes, pimpri, algoza purchased by visitors; calling to each others ; calls of twenty-thirty shopkeepers who wanted to finish their stock on that day only. The groups of villages with their das playing dhol and damau coming to kauthig used to provide all the kautheger a delightful, divine, celestial pleasure.
This was the time for women folks to display their jewelries in kauthig because till seventies, there was no threat of scoundrels snatching the jewelries in Garhwal. Now, pick pocketing, theft, snatching jewels and gems is common in rural Garhwal too. You could see a woman putting on all her jewelries murkhal, kandudon kundal/jhumka, hansuli/khagwali, gulband, loung, bulak, chandi ko kaddod, peeda, paijabi, bichuwa at the time of festival or kauthig. Kauthig was also an opportunity for men to shave after many months. For richer children, new dress was an opportunity.
The baki or puchner used to busy in their bak or puchhan job. There used to be many group dances of pando naach concerted by das of each area separately. The dancers and the audience often used to reward the das. The badan-badi and das were clever enough and they used to show their art before the persons who used to be from des ( working in plains) because they (naukari karan wal) would offer more rewards (inam-kitab) to badi- badan and das than the persons being in pahar.
The kauthig of gindimyala in all places was also the places of relatives meeting each others. The memorable scene would be a daughters meeting her mothers and both were weeping. The weeping scene was also common among sisters meeting sisters. (we children used to call’ chhi bai kilai roona chhan si kajyani). I came to know from my village fellows that ‘weeping scene’ is no more in any Kauthig’.
Many marriages were also decided in Kauthig.
I have seen Ghadela performance too in Kathghar.
The game used to end after midnight and by that time we children and females used to come back either to nearest village (relative’s village) or to our own village.
I visited katghar only once and funniest part of visiting kauthig of gindimyala at Katghar was that I went to Katghar without the permission of my mother and tauji and without a single penny in my pocket and my fellow visitors lends me a rupee or two. My mother still regrets that I would have taken her permission that I would take money to spend.
I heard that now, in all places, the game of gindi is no more common or if it is there, it is just for a formality only. Cricket has replaced the gindi game or people are not enthusiastic about the gindi game.
Whenever I hear about Kauthig, I remember Kauthigs of Gindi in Saur (Malla Dhangu) and Katghar; and kauthigs of Bikhot at places like Vyaschatti, Mahadev Chatti