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JHIRI MELA: REMEMBERING FARMER CRUSADER BABA JITTO
11/28/2020 11:49:05 PM

Sunil Vaid

Just as Socrates had to drink the hemlock, Christ to hang on the cross, Joan to burn at the stake, Baba Jitto thrust a dagger in his chest.
Brave Jitto was an honest and god fearing farmer born in a village by the name Ghar in the foothills of Trikuta hills, the abode of Mata Vaishno Devi in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the legend, Jitmal (Baba Jitto) was a devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi and shifted to Shamachak village near Jammu, along with his daughter Bua Kori from Aghar village some 200 years ago. As he was landless, he requested Mehta Bir Singh, a feudal lord to provide a piece of land for tilling. Mehta Bir Singh agreed on a condition that he will take one fourth of produce. Jitmal worked hard day and night and transformed the barren land into lush green fields with a luxuriant yield.
However, the latter Mehta Bir Singh wanted three fourth of the crops which was more than agreed and incensed at the injustice, Baba Jitto stabbed himself sitting on a heap of crop leaving grains drenched with his blood. Later his daughter Bua Kori lit a pyre and burnt herself with his father, thus making him immortal in local folklore. His story exposed the shameless subjugation of the poor by those at the helm.
According to G.K Das, former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, the life of Baba Jitto may be connected with the revolutionary figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther king who attacked men’s violence against men. He calls Baba “a Martyr and a Universal redeemer” as in the fighting voice against feudalism for the cause of good of the people, he gave his life to mobilise the masses to protest against the tyranny then let it ruin their lives. The story symbolises the cause of the marginalised against the elite – the power of literature that serves as a voice of the masses against the appalling condition of rural Indian society from past to present.
At the Jhiri village near Shamachak situated some 22kms from Jammu city on Akhnoor Poonch road, a Jhiri mela is organised which is a fair based on folklore of the Dogra history. Followers from J&K, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, gather to pay tributes to the legendary former Baba Jitmal, popularly known as Baba Jitto at his Samadhi every year to honour and elaborate the memory of Folklore Baba jitto. He laid down his life to defend the values of honesty and justice which is a testimony to the Dogra character of making supreme sacrifices. The generation of yogis have been singing Baba’s Karaks (devoted Ballads) to immortalise him and also to inscribe his sacrifice and fight for justice.
The most important part of the Jhiri Mela is ritual taking of holy dip in Baba Da Talab which is known to have miraculous for curing skin diseases. During the Mela when people from all over India come to pay homage to Baba Jitto at his shrine at village Jhiri wears a festive look.
A huge market comes up at the site of the mela with shops and stalls selling sweets, food items and sorts of wires like pottery, vases, utensils, toys and books on Baba jitto are set up. Merry go round, slides and a number of entertainment stalls, rural sports like Dangal (wrestling) also form an important feature of the fare. Many educational programs and welfare schemes are the highlights of the fare.
Although the J&k administration has decided to not organise the Jhiri mela due to the pandemic this year but we must remember the sacrifice of Baba Jitto on this day which is a moment of transfer, an event where another generation rises to receive and go forward to make possible the glories of culture, tradition and the contribution of the farmers to the society in general.
Just as Socrates had to drink the hemlock, Christ to hang on the cross, Joan to burn at the stake, Baba Jitto thrust a dagger in his chest.
Brave Jitto was an honest and god fearing farmer born in a village by the name Ghar in the foothills of Trikuta hills, the abode of Mata Vaishno Devi in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. As per the legend, Jitmal (Baba Jitto) was a devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi and shifted to Shamachak village near Jammu, along with his daughter Bua Kori from Aghar village some 200 years ago. As he was landless, he requested Mehta Bir Singh, a feudal lord to provide a piece of land for tilling. Mehta Bir Singh agreed on a condition that he will take one fourth of produce. Jitmal worked hard day and night and transformed the barren land into lush green fields with a luxuriant yield.
However, the latter Mehta Bir Singh wanted three fourth of the crops which was more than agreed and incensed at the injustice, Baba Jitto stabbed himself sitting on a heap of crop leaving grains drenched with his blood. Later his daughter Bua Kori lit a pyre and burnt herself with his father, thus making him immortal in local folklore.
His story exposed the shameless subjugation of the poor by those at the helm.
According to G.K Das, former Vice Chancellor, Utkal University, the life of Baba Jitto may be connected with the revolutionary figures like Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther king who attacked men’s violence against men. He calls Baba “a Martyr and a Universal redeemer” as in the fighting voice against feudalism for the cause of good of the people, he gave his life to mobilise the masses to protest against the tyranny then let it ruin their lives.
The story symbolises the cause of the marginalised against the elite – the power of literature that serves as a voice of the masses against the appalling condition of rural Indian society from past to present.
At the Jhiri village near Shamachak situated some 22kms from Jammu city on Akhnoor Poonch road, a Jhiri mela is organised which is a fair based on folklore of the Dogra history. Followers from J&K, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, gather to pay tributes to the legendary former Baba Jitmal, popularly known as Baba Jitto at his Samadhi every year to honour and elaborate the memory of Folklore Baba jitto. He laid down his life to defend the values of honesty and justice which is a testimony to the Dogra character of making supreme sacrifices.
The generation of yogis have been singing Baba’s Karaks (devoted Ballads) to immortalise him and also to inscribe his sacrifice and fight for justice.
The most important part of the Jhiri Mela is ritual taking of holy dip in Baba Da Talab which is known to have miraculous for curing skin diseases.
During the Mela when people from all over India come to pay homage to Baba Jitto at his shrine at village Jhiri wears a festive look. A huge market comes up at the site of the mela with shops and stalls selling sweets, food items and sorts of wires like pottery, vases , utensils, toys and books on Baba jitto are set up. Merry go round, slides and a number of entertainment stalls, rural sports like Dangal (wrestling) also form an important feature of the fare. Many educational programs and welfare schemes are the highlights of the fare.
Although the J&k administration has decided to not organise the Jhiri mela due to the pandemic this year but we must remember the sacrifice of Baba Jitto on this day which is a moment of transfer, an event where another generation rises to receive and go forward to make possible the glories of culture, tradition and the contribution of the farmers to the society in general.
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