REPORTS & ESSAYS


  • Nature-centric Asur traditions and songs

    Suresh Jagannathan

    September 5, 2017

    Asurs are one of the most ancient and smallest tribal communities of Jharkhand. The Chota Nagpur plateau is their home, especially the valleys of Bishunpur and Mahuatand in the Gumla, Lohardaga and Palamu districts of the state.

    Asurs have traditionally been involved in iron smelting and agriculture. Their festivals are mainly related to agriculture, and hence to nature. Sing Bonga is their chief deity. Marang Bonga and other Bongas are also a part of their pantheon. Sohrai, Sarhul, Phagud, Navakhani, Kathdeli and Sarhi Kutasi are their important festivals. Sarhi Kutasi is celebrated to make the iron-smelting industry prosper. They believe in magic and consult Baigas in case they face problems.

     

    Asur women sing while men play the dhol (Left), and the maandar (right) at Jobhipat village, in Bishunpur block, Gumla district, Jarkhand/ Image courtesy: Suresh Jagannathan

    Cut off from “civilization” since time memorial, the Asurs are mostly illiterate and express their sentiments and emotions – whether hope or disappointment, happiness or sadness, profit or loss, birth or death – verbally. Their literature is entirely oral. They have created their literature for their own use. In the Asur oral tradition, songs have a special place. Their songs don’t tell stories; they express emotions. Their songs are an invaluable source of understanding the Asuri dialect, their socio-cultural norms and their past and the present.

    Songs are an inalienable part of the culture of almost all tribal societies but in the case of Asurs, their songs are the essence of their life. Their songs are an expression of their pride in their culture and their society. A study of the songs reveals how they are imbued with lofty morals and ideals. Their cultural traditions, their faith in their gods and goddesses, their glorious history, their festivals and fairs and their celebrations on occasions like births and marriages, the dresses and ornaments of their womenfolk – all find expression in their songs.

    The Asurs have songs for each festival and season. Every song is associated with a particular event and is sung only on that occasion. Given below is a table that shows when their different festivals are celebrated and the association of these festivals with specific songs and dances:

     

    Se. No

    Month Festival Song Dance
    1 Fagun 1. Fagud Parab

     

     

     

     

     

    2. Sarhul Parab

    1. Fagud songs

     

     

     

     

     

    2. Sarhul songs

    1. Fagud dance

     

     

     

     

     

    2. Sarhul dance, Thadia

    2 Chait No festival
    3 Baisakh No festival
    4 Jeth Siyadi Karam/ Budiya Karam Karam songs Karam dance
    5 Assadh Sahiya Guhiya festival Assadhi songs No dance
    6 Savan Kagleta Puja No song No dance
    7 Bhadhon Raej Karam Karam songs Karam dance, Dohadi
    8 Kunwar No festival
    9 Katik Sohrai Sohrai songs Sohrai dance, Jatra
    10 Aghan Khanihari Puja No song No dance
    11 Poos Kharveij/Huddhiro Puja Labour songs No dance
    12 Magh No festival. Only weddings Biha Sirind (for weddings) Many dances

     

    Besides on festivals mentioned in the table, songs are also sung while sowing and harvesting and even while lugging paddy, performing household chores, etc. Asurs also have marriage songs and Purkha songs relating to their history.
     

    A woman and her child on their way to graze their cows is Bishnupur, Jharkhand / image courtesy: Suresh Jagannathan
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    Types of songs: In Asuri language, the word for ‘song’ is “sirind”. Some songs are associated with festivals while others have to do with different types of work. The songs can broadly be classified as Fagud, Sarhul, Karam, Sohrai, Purkha, Panjya, labour, wedding etc. These songs are sung in different ragas. The dance style depends on the raga. The names of the ragas and those of the dance styles are the same.

    Types of dances: In the Asuri language, the word for “dance” is “Anend”. Most of the dances are named after festivals like Phagud, Sarhul, Karam, Sohrai, Jatra, etc. Dances are linked to festivals. The dance styles keep on changing according to the festival and the raga of the songs.

    Dance styles

    Desawali: The girls stand in a row, each placing their left hand on the shoulder of the one next to them. The song is in a question-and-answer format. A group of boys asks the questions and plays the instruments too. The posers are in the form of songs. The girls, with their face raised and leaning forward, look towards the boys and move three steps forwards forward and three step backwards. They swing their hands and pronouncing “ne ऽ ऽ ऽ na”. When they move forward, they bend their knees. While moving backwards, they bend their right knees. While dancing in this fashion, they answer the questions.

    Dohdi: With their palms pressed against each other’s and fingers locked, the dancers move three steps to the left and three steps to the right, their hips swaying, left legs slightly raised. In between, they squat and rise clapping.

    Thadia: Standing in a row, with tightly clasping each other’s hands, the dancers go round and round, jumping and shaking their legs. They also sing. No instruments are used in this dance.

    Jatra: Dancers stand shoulder to shoulder, leaning forward, and their hands and feet swaying slowly, while taking three steps forwards and three backwards. A pause in the song after “ge ऽ ऽ ऽ re” is the cue to begin dancing.

    Jadur: Dances stand shoulder to shoulder. Moving their heads sideways slowly, they move forwards and backwards. When the word “ho” comes in the song, they raise their right feet.

    Lahsav: Dancers stand shoulder to shoulder. In keeping with the beats of the maandar and the rhythm of the song, they move their feet forward and backward, their hips swaying and their hands moving sideways. The movements stop momentarily when the word “ge ऽ ऽ ऽ re” is uttered in the song. As the dance proceeds, the movements get more and more vigorous.

     

     

    Fagud songs

    Song-1

    Buru re ऽ ऽ ऽ hansa je loyo ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Buru re ऽ ऽ ऽ hansa je tiyang o ta  ऽ ऽ ऽ na  //2//

    Oke sabbe ऽ ऽ ऽ aey sandasi ku ऽ ऽ ऽ tasi ऽ ऽ

    Oke sabbe ऽ ऽ ऽ aey ghana ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Pa ऽ ऽ ऽ lake sota ऽ ऽ ऽ va ta ऽ ऽ ऽ na  //2//

    Madang sabbe ऽ ऽ ऽ aey sandasi ku ऽ ऽ ऽ tasi ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Tayom sabbe ऽ ऽ ऽ aye gha ऽ ऽ ऽ na

    Pa ऽ ऽ ऽ lake sota ऽ ऽ ऽ v ta ऽ ऽ ऽ na  //2//

    Occasion: This song is sung during Fagud festival while worshipping Sukra and Sukrein.

    Meaning:

    Wood is burning in the jungle

    Who will hold the tongs and hammer

    Who will hold the mallet

    Who will sharpen the ‘paal’

    Smelting iron and moulding it to form various kinds of implements is the traditional occupation of the Asurs. They believe that a couple – Sukra and Sukrein – of their community discovered iron smelting. The Asurs sing this song while worshipping them. They smelt iron at the place where iron ore is found. They use coal as fuel. They burn wood to make coal. The song says that wood is burning in the jungle. It refers to someone preparing coal. The song asks who will do what in the process of giving the smelted iron the shape of a ‘paal’ (ploughshare). Who will hold the hot iron with tongs and who will hit it with a mallet?

    Song -2

    Jeevidi bhari re  ऽ ऽ ऽ  manewa rais ke shobhav ta ऽ ऽ ऽ dam //2//

    Raez re naav jagav laaam mane ऽ ऽ ऽ va

    Raez ke sohan ta ऽ ऽ ऽ dam

    Occasion: This song is sung during the Fagud festival.

    Meaning:

    A person should make the world beautiful

    He should be famous

    And make the world attractive through dances and songs

    The raga of this song is Fagud. No instruments are used in this song. What the song says is that a person has earned fame in the world by inventing beautiful things and he is using them, enjoying them; but there is nothing more beautiful and sweeter than music. Music has made the world beautiful; it has decorated the world. This song exemplifies the way Tribals see music. For them, nothing is more beautiful than music. In fact, it is an integral part of the life and culture of all tribal communities of the world.

    Sarhul songs

    Song-1

    Buru ऽ ऽ ऽ parbat loऽ ऽ ऽ nena ऽ ऽ ऽ bhala ऽ ऽ kuyee//2//

    Muiऽ ऽ ऽg ke badi daga neऽ ऽ ऽna //2//

    Phapha ऽ ऽ ऽ pai ऽ ऽnagaऽ ऽ ऽ Oऽ ऽ ऽtang seno naऽ ऽ ऽku //2//

    Muig ke badi daga neऽ ऽ ऽna //2//

    Occasion: This song is sung in raga dohdi at the end of the Sarhul festival.

    Meaning:

    The hills and forests are on fire

    Ants have been betrayed

    Insects have all flown away

    Ants have been betrayed

    In this Sarhul song, the singer is lamenting the destruction caused by a fire in a forest. The song is only two lines but the sympathy of the Tribals for the animals and insects it exemplifies is something you need to see to believe. The tune of the song amply expresses the pain of the singer. We often see forests on fire but our concern is only limited to the destruction of the trees and plants. That is because we do not live in forests. We view it from the outside. But the Asurs, who dwell in forests, are very disturbed by the scene and express their pain through their songs. This is the difference between the outsiders and the insiders. Their concern is not limited to the animals and birds that can escape the inferno by running or flying away. They are also worried about the ants and other organisms that can only crawl. They do not see the fire only as an accident but as treachery against the crawling animals.

    Song-2

    Siring, siring te ऽ ऽ ऽ gala teeng baithavanega ऽ ऽ ऽ jeevthing siing tegereऽ ऽ ऽ

    Nayee re ऽ ऽ ऽ jiuting siring tengre ऽ ऽ ऽ//2//

    Mandhad ru ruऽ ऽ ऽ teeh teeng hasu nena jiyu teeng mandad tengre ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Ee ऽ ऽ ऽ re jiyu teenmandad tengre ऽ ऽ ऽ//2//

    Occasion: This song is sung during the Sarhul festival. It is in jatra raga

    Meaning: My throat has turned sore due to singing but my heart cannot break free from the song. My hands hurt from playing the maandar. But my heart cannot break free from the beat of maandar

    In this song, the Asur young boys and girls describe their condition after singing and dancing for the whole night. It also speaks of their love for song and dance. The girl says that despite having sung the whole night, she wants to sing more: “My heart cannot break free from the song but my throat has turned sore”. The boy says that despite playing the maandar the whole night, he wants to continue playing it. His heart cannot break free from the beat of the maandar. He wants to play more but his hands are aching. This song shows the great love Asurs have for songs and dances.

    Assadhi songs

    Song-1

    Tonang raeez re kaarkhana kholvanega tonang gota tonang lachabaryo ta ऽ ऽ ऽ Na re  //2//

    Maamall ke gadi riku ideela chandwa re iyula ऽ ऽ ऽ bure

    Chalaan laku chandawa re chalaan la ऽ ऽ ऽ ku  //2//

    Chandua tara rel reku idila karkhana re galaav la ऽ ऽ ऽ ku

    Occasion: This song is sung in the Sahiya Guhiya festival in the month of Assadh.

    Meaning: A factory has opened in the country of plateaus, the entire plateau has been dug up. Minerals were loaded in vehicles and were dumped in Chaandwa. From Chaandwa, they are loaded in train and taken to the factory for smelting.

    This is an Assadhi song. It is based on the Assadhi raga. Traditional songs are sung in festivals. But in oral traditions, songs keep changing. With time, developments and changes that affect life wriggle into these songs. The lyrics change but the raga remains the same. This song is an example of how changes and the reaction to them find their way into the songs. The song may have a new background but its raga is traditional. The song talks about how outsiders are gobbling up their natural wealth and how it is affecting their lives. The Asurs say that factories have come up in their forests and plateaus. The plateau has been dug up and has almost disappeared. The land is being destroyed. It is losing its fertility. Land, which is the mainstay of their life, is being destroyed. Big companies are digging up their land and taking their mineral wealth in vehicles to Chaandwa at the bottom of the hills. From there it is being taken to far-off factories in trains. Thus the song shows how Tribals’ land, forests and lives are being destroyed.

    Song-2

    Jhimi ऽ ऽ ऽr jheeta ऽ ऽ ऽ dah ho da ऽ ऽ ऽ rah //2//

    Baheen teeng buru ऽ ऽ ऽ re iya ऽ ऽ ऽ ma day  //2//

    Jihimi ऽ ऽ ऽr jheeta ऽ ऽ ऽ dah ho da ऽ ऽ ऽ राः  //2//

    Baheen teeng buru ऽ ऽ ऽ re iya ऽ ऽ ऽ ma day  ////2//

    Chhata ऽ ऽ ऽo kanoaah ऽ ऽ ऽ chukdu ऽ ऽ ऽho kano ऽ ऽ ऽaah  //2//

    Baheen teeng buru ऽ ऽ ऽ re iya ऽ ऽ ऽ ma day  //2//

    Chhata ऽ ऽ ऽo kanoaah ऽ ऽ ऽ chukdu ऽ ऽ ऽho kano ऽ ऽ ऽaah    //2//

    Baheen teeng buru ऽ ऽ ऽ re iya ऽ ऽ ऽ ma day  //2//

    Occasion: This is an Assadhi song. It is sung in the rainy season while transplanting paddy.

    Meaning:

    It is raining tip tap

    My sister is crying in the forest

    She does not have an umbrella, she does not have ghanghu

    My sister is crying in the forest

    Assadhi songs are sung while working in the fields or at home. Singing them collectively while transplanting paddy helps the Asurs forget their fatigue. These songs express their disappointments, their woes. In this song, a brother is expressing his love and concern for his sister. He is saying that it is raining and his sister is in the forest. She neither has an umbrella nor a ‘ghanghu’ (a raincoat of sorts made of leaves of mohlan). She will get wet. She must be crying. Here, the brother is also lamenting his poverty. He is so poor that he cannot arrange even an umbrella or a ‘ghanghu’ for his sister.

    Karma songs

    Song -1

    Ka ऽ ऽ ऽ ram dahu ऽ ऽ ऽ da bheeta ऽ ऽ ऽ re babuchein ऽ ऽ ऽ ga iyan daऽ ऽ ऽya

    Haan re babuchein ऽ ऽ ऽ ga iyan da ऽ ऽ ऽ ya

    Gate do raes ऽ ऽ ऽ ka apa ऽ ऽ ऽ te do maandar ka ऽ ऽ ऽ babu chenga iyan da ऽ ऽ ऽ ya

    Hang re babunchein ऽ ऽ ऽ ga iyan da ऽ ऽ ऽya

    Occasion: This is a Karma Jatra song. It is sung while dancing in the Karam festival.

    Meaning:

    ‘Daali’ of Karam has been erected. Father is playing maandar, mother is dancing, child is crying.

    The elderly and the young girls and boys of the Asur community sing this song while dancing in the aakhra. The song also recreates the ambience of the Karma festival, an important fixture on the calendar for not just Asurs but all Tribal communities of Jharkhand. On this occasion, all the villagers gather at the aakhra where they sing and dance through the night. Asurs celebrate the Karma festival a little differently than the other tribal communities. Their celebrations do not include the erecting the “daali” of Karam. But this song does talk about erecting the daali. It talks about the celebration of the festival by another community in which Asurs are participants. The husband and wife of an Asur family are good singers, maandar players and dancers. If they get a chance to display their talents, how can they let it go? Especially, when they belong to a community that loves singing and dancing. That is why, the song says, the father is a good maandar player, mother is an excellent dancer. Both are dancing in the aakhra and have left their sleeping child at home. When the child wakes up and finds its parents missing, it starts howling.

    Song-2

    Jodi ऽ ऽ ऽ kudiku ऽ ऽ ऽ hijoaaku ho ऽ ऽ ऽ le  //2//

    Daunddeere aakhra ed ऽ ऽ ऽ na  //2//

    Jodi ऽ ऽ ऽ kudiku ऽ ऽ ऽ hijoaaku ho ऽ ऽ ऽ le  //2//

    Theennavakete maandar ru ऽ ऽ ऽ eeng  //2//

    Occasion: This song is sung during the Karma festival.

    Meaning: When the girls come, we will kneel and play the maandar in the aakhra close by. This Karam song is in rag dohdi. Young Asur men and women sing it while dancing in the aakhra. It paints a picture of the Karma celebrations. Everyone participates in the dances on Karma. But in the song, the dance has yet to begin. There is not a single tribal function in which maandar is not played. Tribals celebrate their festivals collectively. Not only all the residents of the village but also those of neighbouring villages are invited to join the celebrations. The lives of Tribals are incomplete without songs and dances.

    SOHRAI SONGS

    Song-1

    Nesrah akalre aita lakan jividoa ऽ ऽ ऽ bu  //2//

    Okey senme banibhuti okey senay reend paincha eita lakan jevedo a ऽ ऽ ऽ bu

    bu ऽ ऽ ऽ re eita lakan jivido aa ऽ ऽ ऽ bu //2//

    Aam senam reend paincha ing seening banibhuti

    Jahav lakan jibidoa ऽ ऽ ऽ bu  //2//

    Occasion: This is a Katik Jatra song in jatra raga. It is sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

    Meaning:

    How will we survive this famine?

    Who will go to labour and who will go to repay loan?

    All aspects of their life can be seen in the Asur oral tradition. Mostly, the songs express their gaiety and cheerfulness because most of the festivals are about happiness and glee. But life is not only about happiness and joy. It also has its share of sadness, pain and anxiety. This song talks about their worries. The wife is telling her husband that the famine is here, fields are lying dry and barren, there is nothing to eat in the house. Now, how will we live? What will we eat? What will we drink? We have to somehow run the house. We have to fill our and our children’s stomachs. But who will go to work? We are already indebted. This song elaborates on the economic condition of the Tribals of Jharkhand. It applies not only to the Asurs but to other Tribals too. It also throws light on how moneylenders and landlords exploit the Tribals. There is famine in the area. People have nothing to eat. They will have to do some work to survive. They will have to migrate to work in tea estates or in brick kilns. But they cannot go as they are indebted to the local moneylender or landlord. They have to work for him to repay the loan. Till they repay the loan, they cannot leave the village. The wife explains the situation, pouring out her anguish in the song.

    Song-2

    Nes rah aa ऽ ऽ ऽ kaal re ऽ ऽ ऽ heerday kayare go ऽ ऽ ऽ la

    Laऽ ऽ ऽ re heerday kanyanre bo ऽ ऽ ऽ la  //2//

    Siliyari sa ऽ ऽ ऽ ga gudleerah ghotoऽ ऽ ऽ heerday kayare gola

    La ऽ ऽ ऽ heerday kayanre bo ऽ ऽ ऽ la  //2//

    la ऽ ऽ ऽ re heerday kayanre bo ऽ ऽ ऽ la  //2//

    Siliyari sa ऽ ऽ ऽ ga gudleerah ghotoऽ ऽ ऽ heerday kayare gola

    la ऽ ऽ ऽ re heerday kayanre go ऽ ऽ ऽ la  //2//

    Occasion: This song is sung during the Katik festival. The raga is jatra. It is sung while dancing.

    Meaning: In this famine, the heart is pulling the body

    Even the saag of siliyari and bhaat (rice) of gundli is not available

    The song depicts the scene of a famine. In the world of Hindi poetry, Baba Nagarjun’s poem Akaal aur uske baad (Famine and after) is well known. But the depiction of famine in the oral tradition of the Asurs is no less poignant. We all know the misery people endure in times of famine. A community that farms and grows food grains never has to face hunger under normal conditions. He eats what he likes. He does not even touch vegetables and food grains of low quality. But during famine, he readily and gratefully accepts whatever he gets. Gudli (rice) and siliyari (vegetable), which is grown in Jharkhand, are considered to be of poor quality. People normally don’t eat them. They are given to the cattle. In the song, the wife is telling her husband that they are not getting food due to famine. The body has turned dry and frail. There is no strength left in the body. It is the heart that is pulling the body. Neither gudli, which can be consumed after turning into a paste, nor siliyari, which can be boiled and eaten, is available. This misery has filled their hearts with despair.

     

     

    Wedding songs

    Wedding songs have the pride of place in the oral tradition of the Asurs. They call such songs “Biha Sirind” in their language. Four kinds of marriages take place among Asurs. 1) Odhah Biha – marriage arranged by the parents. 2) Iditaiyete Biha – this marriage is fixed with the consent of both the parties. But as the parents of the girl are unable to solemnize the marriage in the traditional manner owing to poverty, the boy brings the girl to his home without a formal marriage and they start living together like man and wife. However, they have to get married before the marriage of their children. 3) Sah-palayan (love marriage) – the girl and the boy leave their homes without informing their parents. They are then brought back to their homes, and after paying the stipulated fine, allowed to get married. As for traditional Asur marriages, there are different songs for all the different rituals – right from the engagement to the farewell of the daughter. All these songs are collectively known as Biha Sirind. The different types of Biha Sirinds are given below:

    Song-1: Haas Laa Bera sirind    

    Virod mein virod mein ऽ ऽ ऽ ha ऽ ऽ ऽ sa aam bigar ha ऽ ऽ ऽ sa aitalekan biha huy oko ऽ ऽ ऽ aa

    Aam bigar ha ऽ ऽ ऽ sa talekan biha huyoko ऽ ऽ ऽ aa//2//

    Layengein mein layengein mein bai ऽ ऽ ऽ ga aam bigar ha ऽ ऽ ऽ sa aitalekan bhiha huy oko ऽ ऽ ऽ aa

    Aam bigar ha ऽ ऽ ऽ sa talekan biha huyoko ऽ ऽ ऽ aa//2//

    Occasion: This song is sung while bringing soil for the “kalash” that is installed for the marriage

    Meaning:

    Get up soil, how will marriage be performed without you

    Dig Baiga dig, how will the wedding go ahead without you

    There are a number of wedding-related rituals among Asurs. One of them is the installation of kalash (metal pot) under the mandap. The kalash is kept on a clay base. This base is made only from the soil of a termite anthill. The pahan is responsible for digging up this soil. The pahan first performs a “puja” of the anthill and then digs it up. At the time, women standing by the side sing this song. The songs that are sung while digging up the soil are called Haasla sirind. “Haas” means “soil” and “laa” means “digging”. This ritual connects marriages with nature. The earth absorbs the energy of the sunrays and uses it to sprout the seeds. This is the way the entire creation has come into being. Similarly, the newlyweds will produce their offspring. This ritual invokes the blessing of goddess earth for a joyful life of the newlyweds. The Asurs believe that we are born from the soil, our body is the soil and in the end, we will become one with the soil. Thus soil is the basis of life. That is why the soil is dug up only after the baiga performs a puja and the women sing.

    Song-2: Hundu Halangeme sirind

    Hudu halangeme bhavji ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Siki sarehudu ऽ ऽ ऽ rena hudu  halangeme bhavji ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Hudu halangeme bhavji ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Siki saraye hudu ऽ ऽ ऽ rena hudu halangeme bhavji ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Occasion: It is sung when the kalash is decorated with paddy plants.

    Meaning:

    O’ Bhabhi, select the paddy plants; Bhabhi select the plants of siki sarai (a type of high-quality paddy)

    Bhabhi, prepare the receptacles for storing food grains using leaves of mohlan.

    This song is known as Hundu Halangeme. After the installation of kalash in the mandap, the bride’s sister-in-law (bhabhi) decorates it with paddy plants. The bride’s sister-in-law (bhabhi) does this. Women sing this song while standing under the mandap. They address the sister-in-law. The kalash is symbolic of the receptacle used for storing rice. The kalash is decorated with paddy plants to express the wish that there is no shortage of paddy in the home to which the girl will go after marriage, that there is ample stock of good-quality rice in her marital home.

    Song-3: Oja Deme sirind   

    Sunum oja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Ho bahin taam sunoom aja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay//2//

    Ssang oja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Ho bahin taam sasang oja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Aaptan oja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Ho bahin taam aaptan oja deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Nakeeg deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Ho baheen taam nakig deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Samvair tolo deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Ho bahin taam samvair tolo deme ऽ ऽ ऽ aay //2//

    Occasion: This song is sung while applying oil and turmeric (haldi) during marriage

    Meaning:

    She is allowing you to apply oil

    Your sister is allowing you to apply oil

    She is allowing you to apply haldi

    Your sister is allowing you to apply haldi

    She is allowing you to apply ubtan

    Your sister is allowing you to apply ubtan

    She is dressing up her hair

    Your sister is dressing up her hair

    She is decorating hair with grass

    She is decorating her bun with grass

    Unlike in the mainstream communities, vermillion is not used in Asur marriages. They observe a different set of rituals and that is evident from their wedding songs too. The bride’s sister applies oil and turmeric to the bride. The other women crowd round and sing.

     

    Song-4: Mergheraie sirind

    Otangtaana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Jo jo sekam pheer, pheer otangtana //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Otangtaana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Jo jo sekam pheer, pheer otangtana //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Keendaravtana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Jo jo sekam pheer, pheer otangtana //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Keendaravtana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Jo jo sekam pheer, pheer otangtana //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Keendaravtana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Riyo dande barando keendaravtana  //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Keendaravtana ऽ ऽ ऽ  //2//

    Riyo dande barando keendaravtana  //2//

    Riyo riyo riyo

    Occasion: This song is sung after the wedding procession reaches the bride’s village. But the procession doesn’t head straight to the bride’s place; it makes a detour. It is at that time that songs of this type are sung.

    Meaning:

    It is flying, it is flying, the tamarind leaf is bouncing and flying

    It is turning round and round, the tamarind leaf is bouncing and flying

    It is turning, it is turning as if caught in a vortex, it is turning, it is turning.

    When the procession reaches the bride’s village, the atmosphere turns festive. The girls, full of joy, lead the procession along a longer, serpentine route to the bride’s home and they sing a song that is addressed to the young participants of the wedding procession. “Mergheraie” means to take someone for a ride, literally. “What are you doing here? Why are you going round and round like a tamarind leaf caught in a vortex? We are dancing and you are following us. Will you only keep looking on or will you join us?” The baraatis answer: “You are dancing to welcome us, you are taking us to the mandap, you are dancing so enthusiastically that you look like a tamarind leaf flowing with the wind, you are flying.” Both are comparing each other with the tamarind leaf, which is very light and once caught up in a breeze, travels far.

    Song-5: Domkach sirind

    Okey ala depig diya ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Dip dipi bara tana ok ala depig diya

    Dip dipi bara tana ok ala depig diya ऽ ऽ ऽ ok ala depig diya ऽ ऽ ऽ

    Dip dipi bara tana ok ala depig diya bara tana eem ऽ ऽ ऽ jot

    Okey ala dipig diya bara tana imjot hai re bara tan a im ऽ ऽ ऽ jot

    Okey ala dipig diya dip dipi bara tana okey ala depig diya okey ala depig diya

    Dip dipi bara tana ok ala depig diya bara tan a eem ऽ ऽ ऽ jot

    Okey ala dipig diya bara taana imjot hai re bara tan a im ऽ ऽ ऽ jot

    Koda aalaa dipig diya deep deepi bara tana koda aala depig diya koda aala depig diya

    Dip dipi bara tana kudi ala dipig diya bara tan a im ऽ ऽ ऽ jot

    Kudi aala dipig diya dip dipi bara tana koda aala dipig diya koda aala dipig diya

    Occasion: These types of songs are sung after the bride and the bridegroom are seated under the mandap

    Meaning:

    Whose (earthen) lamp is flickering; whose lamp is throwing bright light

    The boy’s lamp is flickering; the girl’s lamp is throwing bright light

    From about a fortnight before the wedding, after dark, the young boys and girls of the village reach the bride’s home. They divide themselves into two groups and dance while singing Domkach songs in the courtyard of the house. The song is in the form of questions and answers. One group asks questions and the other answers it. The song is longish. They make it even longer by repeating the questions and answers many times. The idea behind this ritual is that after marriage, the bride will leave for some distant place and they may never get the opportunity to dance with her, so they dance with her to their heart’s content. They try to make those fifteen days memorable for her. This dance session, as a rule, begins with the Domkach songs and ends with Angnayee songs. The Domkach songs are not only sung before the wedding but also during the function itself, after the boy and the girl are seated under the mandap. The young boys and girls from the groom’s side form one group and those from the bride’s side another. After the bride and the bridegroom are seated under the mandap, they are asked to light a lamp. Those from the groom’s side praise him while those from the bride’s side praise her. The bridegroom side asks, “Whose lamp is flickering and whose is brightly lit?” Those from the girl’s side respond by saying, “The lamp of the groom is flickering while that of the bride is well-lit.” They are alluding to the faces of the bride and the bridegroom. “Who is looking more attractive? Whose face is lit up?” Thus those from bride’s side say, “The groom’s face is dull like a flickering lamp while that of the bride is shining like a well-lit lamp.”

    Song-6: Vida sirind

    Vida daan vida daan sam ऽ ऽ ऽ dhee sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    Hukka daan sam ऽ ऽ ऽ dhee chilom daan samdhi  sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    Chuna daan samdhi tamakhi daan sam ऽ ऽ ऽ dhee sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    Sengel daan samdhi shukul daan sam ऽ ऽ ऽ dhee sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    sonolageen sonolageen lanka ho ऽ ऽ ऽ ra

    Occasion: This song is sung after the marriage is over and it is time to bid goodbye.

    Meaning:

    Let us go, ‘samdhi’, we have to travel far

    Give us ‘hookah’ and ‘chillum’ we have to travel far

    Give us lime and tobacco, we have to travel far

    Give us fire and smoke, we have to travel far

    Many songs are sung while saying the farewells. In this Asur song, those in the wedding procession are bidding goodbye to the bride’s family. “Let us go Samdhi ji, let us go. It is a long way and we will take a long time to reach our village. Give us hookah so that we can smoke on the way, give us lime and tobacco, give us the fire to light the hookah, give us smoke.” In the olden days, there was no transport. Travel took a long time. Traversing mountains and valleys used to be tiring. The bride’s family packed food for them to eat on the way. They also provided them with hookah and tobacco. Since there was nothing like a matchbox then, fire had to arranged. As the burning fire was carried, smoke arose from it. The mention of the smoke indicates that the song is an old one. If such old songs have survived, the credit must go to the Tribals. The times might have changed but the songs have not.


     

     

     

    First published in Forward Press

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