A festival of dances

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O.P Sharma
Lohri is celebrated all over the country but it is most hilarious in Jammu region. On Makar Sakrant day January 13, Lohri marks joy, hope for warmth and steady decline of bitter cold season. People of all classes, creeds and faiths join the celebration with dancing and exchange of sweets particularly cheways and Rewaries.
All over fairs and festival underpin the importance of looking to life with hope and acceptations and also forget the distinction of class, community or colour. We forget for a moment the miseries and malignancy and forge the bond of Unity and Brotherhood for a better and happy life. During the present COVID-19 the life has become stagnant and our festivals though organised even on low key do bring some much needed solace.
Daylong festivities
As the tradition is, the young children start singing Lohri songs much before the actual day; going from house to house collecting money or fire-wood. On this sacred day, firewood is burnt at late evening and folk-songs sung with traditional dance in the bitter cold. Merry making goes till late at night. Some young men plan their celebrations to the day much in advance. They prepare Chajja which is a bamboo frame work decorated with colourful paper designs in shape of Peacock. A great deal of hard work goes into it and designs are metculously made. Coloured papers are cut into flowers of different varieties and pasted on the Chajjas. Some of these are really artistic indeed and are pride possession of each group of young men.
Sometimes delightful slogans like “Jai Jawan Jai Kissan” and “Let peace prevail” in the world are written on this Chajjas. Also the pictures of most popular leaders and few saints or sufis are pasted on the Shajjas. It is desire of every group to outdo the others in decoration and designing of these art-works .
Hilarious Songs, Dance
They also hire drum beaters are even musicians for the festivities. In the past these troops were really in great demand and charged high fee but now our festivals and fairs are getting low public response. A few parties engage pipes and flute players as well. The dance on the Lohri day with Chajjas along with playing of drums and music brands are quite exciting and enjoyable.
On Lohri day a particular dance known as Dandaras is a distinctive feature. A special feature of this dance is that boys hit Bamboo sticks in hand strike them with striking sticks produce along with the beats of drums and existing melodious effect and the boys dance vigorously in delight.
The party of boys with Chajjas and drums visit houses, especially where some happy ocassion like birth of a male child, marriage or some other auspicious happening in the previous year. People wear new colourful dresses and enjoy the festival forgetting their misfortunes and miseries.
Rich Tradition
Evening is a peak time for celebrations. Somewhere groups of young men are singing and dancing and at other places firewood is burnt in almost all the road crossings which is a sight worth it. Every home celebrate it by burning firewood in their compounds with all the family members gathered around the fire. They worship the fire and make offerings.
In some areas of Jammu region, the love-lore of Shashi-Punu are also enacted by young ones in their colourful costume singing lores of these immortal lovers. In the past, sitting on the camel, a couple (one man wearing women clothes and makeup as Shashi and the other as Punu) visit houses singing and enchanting melodies. At some places the deer-dance is also prevalent. In it children wearing masks of deer go about at night visiting houses.
The historical accounts vividly describes the pomp and show with which this festival was celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir. The Dogra rulers took keen interest in these festivities. On this day according to chroniclers, a Royal Darbar was held and excellent performances of folk songs and dances were presented by famous artists and musicians where common masses enjoyed these festivities.
Jammu region is rich in folk songs and fold dances with reflect the proud cultural heritage of the Dogras. The numerous fairs and festivals mirror the inner urges and aspirations of the common man. It is time to preserve and promote our rich cultural heritage.
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