Sunday, 14 February 2016

MUSLIM BANJARAS

The Muslim Banjaras are a Muslim community found in the states of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh in India. Many members of this community migrated to Pakistan in 1947 and have settled in Karachi and Sindh. They are also known as the Rahmani, especially in Uttar Pradesh, and they use Rahmani as their surname.

The Banjara are a nomadic community. Their name is said to be campound of ban (forest) and jara (burning); the community lived by burning forests. According to another tradition, the name is derived from the Sanskrit word vanijiya or bania - kara, which means merchant. The Muslim Banjara are Muslim converts of the larger Banjara community of India. In Uttar Pradesh, the community consists of twelve gotras, the Banel, Omraha, Tikhand, Charuna, Nauni, Kalishingh, and Kakri being the main ones. While in Madhya Pradesh, they have two sub-divisions, the Landhe and the Hundhe. They are said to have immigrated from Rajasthan about 300 to 350 years, and still speak a dialect of Rajasthani. In Gujarat, the Banjaras call themselves Chhakda and Chhakoda Banjara. The name Chhakda is derived from the word Chhakda Gari, which is the Gujarati term for a Hackney carriage. The community was traditional employed as carriage drivers, as well as keepers of horses. Like the Banjara of North India, the Gujarat Banjaras claim to have originally come from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. They still speak Marwari among themselves and Gujarati with outsiders.


In North India they are mainly cattle traders and breeders. Before the start of the agriculture season, they sell their cattle on credit. They are a landless community, depending on the selling of cattle. They are strictly endogamous, but no longer practice clan exogamy. While in Gujarat, the community is small scale farmers and agricultural labourers. A small number is also involved in the selling of milk. The Banjara Muslims have a caste council (biradari panchayat), which settles criminal offences like adultery and rape. The caste council is headed by a naik, and consists of fifteen members. They also have set up the All India Banjara Muslim Federation, which is an India wide caste association. They belong to the Sunni sect, but like other North Indian Muslim communities, their practices incorporate a number of folk beliefs. They pay homage to the local deity, Gurgaon wali Mata. In Uttar Pradesh they are concentrated in and around the districts of    SharanpurBijnorPilibhitBareillyAligarhMuzaffarnagarEtawahMoradabad,MathuraEtah and Agra districts. A few are also found in the Nainital District of Uttarakhand. In Madhya Pradesh, they are found in the districts of Jabalpur, Chhindwara and Mandla. While in Gujarat, they are found in the districts of Panchmahal,Kheda, Ahmedabad, and Sabarkantha.
BANJARAS IN SIKH RELIGION

MAKKHAN SHAH LUBANA was an Indian merchant who had trade links with far-off countries. He took merchandise from India to sell in far-off countries. Once a ship carrying Makkhan Shah's consignments was struck by a storm. The ship was sinking slowly. Makkhan Shah then prayed silently to Guru Teg Bahadur. What followed then was not less than a miracle. The ship began to emerge as if some strong shoulder supported and sailed her ashore. In his prayer, Makkhan Shah had promised to present five hundred gold coins in his service. When his ship was saved and reached home safely, Makkhan Shah went straight away to Bakale to see Guru Tegh Bahadur.


He had taken five hundred gold coins with him to present it to the Guru. There, he saw 22 imposters in the guise of the Guru. Sequentially, he put five coins before each of them. He was sure that the real Guru would unfailingly remind him of his promise to pay five hundred coins. When none of the 22 Gurus reminded him of his promise, Makkhan Shah understood that they were all imposters. Ultimately, he reached Bhora where Guru Teg Bahadur was performing penance. The Guru's both shoulders were bleeding profusely. Makkhan Shah put five coins before him too, but the Guru reminded him of five hundred coins. Hearing these words, Makkhan Shah was overjoyed that he had found his Guru. At once, he climbed over a roof and called out loudly: “have found the true Guru”.



LAKHI SHAH BANJARA. Guru Tegh Bahdur was killed by Mogul ruler Aurangazeb in 1675. There was panic all around after Guru Teg Bahadur's death. With the suggestion of Lakhi Shah Banjara, Bhai Jaita and Bhai Uda arranged to take the head and the torso of Guru Teg Bahadur in their custody. Lakkhi Shah Banjara reached Chandni Chowk and carried Guru's torso in a bullock cart to his home three miles away. There, setting his house on fire, he performed last rites of the Guru. There exists a Gurudwara Rakabganj in New Delhi at the site of cremation. On the other hand, Bhai Jaita found the head of Guru. With Bhai Uda, he took the head and reached to Gobind Singh. Gobind Singh embraced both of them and said: 'Rang Rete Guru Ke Bete' (the true sepoys are the sons of Guru). At the place where Guru Teg Bahadur's head was cremated in Chandni Chowk, there exists Gurudwara Shishganj now.
SEVABHAYA

Sant Sevalal Maharaj was born on 15 Feb,1739 to parents Shri Dharmani Yaadi (mother) and Shri Bhima Naik(father) and hence sevalal jayanthi is celebrated by members of Banjara community on 15th February every year.  
Seva Bhaya born as Shiv Rathod is considered to be an incarnation of lord Siva and was blessed by goddess Mariama yadi. The goddess is said to have given a pill of dirt collected from her body to a banjara woman saying that a great man will be born from that pill. The banjara woman swallowed it and gave birth to Seva Bhaya. 

Mariama yadi also called as goddess of small pox, responsible for Seva Bhaya’s birth, fell in love with him. But he refused and hence the goddess haunted him throughout his life. Ultimately she killed him and his cremation place at Pohradevi in Washim district of Maharastra has become a pilgrim centre for banjaras.

While Banjara Leaders led by late Mr.Ranjit Naik were trying to locate the birth place of Bhagawan Sevalal, in the year 1998, near Charlopalli (Sevagad, Near Guntakal in Andhra Pradesh), another group of Banjara Leaders have identified a place called Suryagondanakoppa, about 15 kilometers from Shivamoga city of Karnataka as the birth place of Sevalal. Finally both the groups have concluded that Sevalal was born in Suryagondanakoppa and brought up in Charlopalli Thanda.


Banjara community members have now built a temple of Sevalal and another one for Mariyamma or Amba Bhavani at Suryagondanakoppa. To reach Suryagondanakoppa, one has to travel to Shivmoga city by bus or train which is  about 250 kilometers from Bangalore. From Shivmoga travel up to Savalanga village on Honnalli Road which is about 10 kilometers from Shivamoga then, take diversion on Shikaripura Road and travel about 5 kilometers to reach Suryagondanakoppa. The priest and his family members reside near the temple and available for performing pooja. 

MITU BHUKIYA
Mithu Bhukia  is revered among Banjaras as the god of power and fortune. It is said that he is venerated by the banjara dacoits as the cleverest dacoits known in the annals of banjara caste and a hut is usually set apart for him, in banjara hamlet with a white flag being planted before his hut. Before setting out for dacoity the men would assemble at the hut of Mithu Bhukia and light a lamp for him to ask for an omen. If the wick of the lamp dropped the omen was propitious, and the men would set-out at once on the raid, without returning home. They might not speak to each other. Challenged, for if any one spoke, charm would be broken and the protection of Mitu Bhukya removed, and they should either return, to take omens again or give-up that particular dacoity altogether. It has been recorded as characteristic trail of Banjaras, that they will as a rule, not answer, if spoken to when engaged in robbery and the custom, probably arises from this observance.
But the worship of this Mitu Bhukia is frequently neglected. After successful, dacoity a portion of the plunder has to be set apart for Mitu Bhukia; and of the balance, the Naik (the headman) receive two shares if he participated in the crime, the man who struck the first blow, or did the most to the common object received two share and all the rest one share each. With Mithu Bhukia's share, feast is given for all the participating men. For the success of the dacoity, incense is burned in his hut and liquor, poured over the flagstaff. A portion of food sent for the women and children and then men will set down to feast. Women are not allowed, to worship Mitu Bhukia or  to enter his hut. 

Saturday, 13 February 2016

HATHIRAM BAVA


An ardent devotee of Lord Ram (Seventh Avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu) from Northern part of India visited Tirumala on Pilgrimage. His name was Bhavaji. He is said to have lived from 1430AD to 1529AD. He was so fascinated by the majestic appearance of the Lord that he decided to stay in Tirumala for ever having darshan of the Lord all the time. He constructed a Mutt (a place where the saints live near the temples) and settled there. Bhavaji used to have the darshan of the Lord at least thrice a day. Still, he wasn’t satisfied of his darshan. He used to look at the lord unmoved for long. This continued for a few weeks. Temple employees have observed Bhavaji visiting the temple and gazing at the lord continuously for longer times. Finding suspicious about his acts, they reported the matter to the Temple Authorities. Next day when Bhavaji entered the temple premises to have the darshan of the lord, he was pushed out of the temple without allowing him to have darshan. He pleaded not to separate him from his Lord. No one listened to his cry. Instead, he was warned not to enter the temple for Lord’s darshan again. A sad and dejected Bhavaji returned to his Mutt.After getting back to the Mutt, he cried with the Lord. Hey Lord! What is my fault? Is it a sin to have your darshan? You know it very well that I can’t live without having your darshan. Why you punished me this way? What am I supposed to do now?

Next morning, Bhavaji went to the temple as usual to have the darshan of the lord. But, he was pushed out of the gate again. A dejected Bhavaji retuned back to his Mutt. He was not sure how to pass his time without having the Lord’s darshan. He then took up a dice board and started playing the dice himself assuming that he was playing with the Lord on the other side. He himself used to throw his dice and the Lord’s dice on His behalf. In this way, he played the game all along the day and fell asleep. When he was in a deep sleep at night, he heard a pleasant voice calling, Bhavaji! Wake up! It’s me, Your lord! Bhavaji opened his eyes and saw the Lord standing in front of him. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Is it real or a dream? Amazed Bhavaji asked the Lord. The Lord replied that it wasn’t his dream. He really visited him to play dice with him. There was no boundary to the happiness of Bhavaji. A jubilant Bhavaji laid a mat on the floor and sat with the Lord Balaji to play the dice. Bhavaji defeated the lord in his game. The Lord then asked Bhavaji to seek any boon against his victory over Him. Bhavaji politely said, Hey Lord, what can I ask you more than this? I am satisfied with your Vishwaroopa darshan. I do not need any material pleasure or wealth. Give me a little place at your feet to serve you. I need no favour than this. A pleased Lord blessed Bhavaji and vanished with a promise to get back for the game again.

Next day, Bhavaji excitedly waited for the sun to set so that he again play dice with the Lord. Finally the wait was over. When the temple doors were shut at night, the Lord moved out of his Ananda Nilayam and visited Bhavaji to play the game of dice. After finishing the game, the Lord returned back to Ananda Nilayam promising to come back again. It became a regular practice for the Lord to visit the Mutt and spend time playing dice with Bhavaji at night when the temple doors were closed. One day when the Lord was playing dice with Bhavaji, He heard a voice of someone calling Bhavaji. The Lord asked Bhavaji to go and check it out. When Bhavaji went out to see if anyone was there, he found none. He then returned back to inform the Lord, but he found that the Lord has already left the place without informing him. When he picked up the dice board to keep it safe, he saw a diamond studded necklace of the Lord lying at the board. He picked up the necklace and kept it safe thinking that the Lord might have forgotten it and he would return when He comes back to play next time.

Next morning when chief priest was getting ready to give bath to the Lord, he noticed a missing necklace. He then brought it to the notice of Temple Authorities. The Temple Authority was worried about the theft of Lord’s necklace. All the employees were called up on and enquired about the missing necklace. The chief priest informed the management about the incident of Bhavaji in the recent past and straightaway raised suspicion over him. The Temple Authorities ordered to get Bhavaji for enquiry.
On the other hand Bhavaji was waiting for Lord’s arrival to play the game of dice. For long, the Lord hasn’t come to play. In the mean time, he heard someone calling him at his door. By the time he reached there, the soldiers got in and started searching all over the place. Bhavaji was surprised to see them searching all over. He tried to enquire what was going on. He was told that someone has stolen the Lord’s necklace. Bhavaji immediately understood what they were looking for and got the necklace he held it safely to return the Lord when he visits again. Is this the necklace you were looking for? Asked Bhavaji! One of the soldiers said, “You have stolen the Lord’s necklace. You are under arrest” Bhavaji pleaded his innocence but they had not  listened any of his words. They arrested and took him to the temple Authorities. On enquiry by the Temple Authorities, Bhavaji told them that the Lord used to visit his Mutt and Play dice with him every night when the temple doors were shut. “The Lord had forgotten his necklace at my Mutt after playing the game yesterday. When I noticed, I picked up the necklace and kept it safe to return back when he comes again” he narrated. The chief priest of the temple raised his eyebrows and said; we have been doing all sorts of poojas and sevas every day to the Lord for so many years, the Lord hasn’t appeared to us and how come he appeared to you? Moreover how did he played dice game with you? Whom are you bluffing? Are you a greater devotee than us? There should be a limit of speaking lies. Some of the authorities suggested presenting him before the King’s courtyard for justice.

The next morning, he was presented in the courtyard of the Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya, as an accused alleged to have stolen the necklace of the Lord. After listening to the charges, Sri Krishnadevaraya asked Bhavaji’s explanation. Bhavaji explained all that had happened with him. The Emperor felt him to be innocent. He thought it would be unjust to punish him without sufficient proof and proper investigation. He therefore, decided to put Bhavaji on test. Sri Krishnadevaraya told Bhavaji that he will be given an opportunity to prove himself innocent. For this, he will be dumped with heaps of sugarcane in the cell and if he succeeds in consuming the entire heaps of sugarcane by dawn tomorrow; he will be released innocent and if he fails to do so, he will be punished for the theft.

Bhavaji never perturbed. He had no choice but to accept the Emperor’s decision. He was then taken to the prison cell and tons of sugarcane heaps were dumped before him and locked the doors of the cell. Bhavaji sat in the corner, closed his eyes and prayed the Lord. “Hey Lord! I am innocent and you know the fact very well. I have been charged of theft and put on test of eating this sugarcane heaps. Hey lord! It’s not my test. They have put you on test. They want to test your existence in this world. If anything I need in this life is a little place before your feet to serve you till my last breath. He left everything on the shoulders of the Lord and immersed in deep penance.

A little later, a giant elephant appeared in the cell and by the wake of the dawn, the Elephant ate all the heaps of sugarcane dumped there for Bhavaji. The Elephant then wakeup Bhavaji from his penance with its trunk. Bhavaji was surprised to see an Elephant in the cell. When he saw the entire heaps of sugarcane were finished, he realized that his Lord has arrived for his rescue and immediately fell upon his feet and cried Lord…! Oh Lord..! My Lord! Have you come here for my rescue. How lucky am I? The Elephant then blessed Bhavaji with its trunk and trumpeted at loud. On hearing the Elephant’s trumpet, the guards peeped through the key wholes and wondered to see an Elephant inside a locked cell. They immediately rushed to the authorities and informed the matter. Meanwhile, the Elephant broke open the doors and ran away immediately. Some guards tried to follow the Elephant but it disappeared thereafter.

When the Emperor visited Bhavaji, he was found gazed at the direction where the Elephant has left, repeatedly uttering a word “Hathiram”. When asked, who was Hathiram and how the elephant entered the prison cell? Bhavaji told that his Ram has come in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) to save him. Everyone who had assaulted him on the charges of theft exclaimed at the great devotion of Bhavaji. One and all had accepted his devotion to Lord Balaji is eternal. The chief priest in particular begged his pardon for ill treating him out of ignorance and ego.

Sri Krishnadevaraya then appointed Bhavaji as the chief priest of the temple of Tirumala. He happily obeyed the orders of the Emperor as he got a life time opportunity to serve his Lord. Since the Baba Bhavaji’s beloved Lord “Sri Ram” has personally come to the rescue of Bhavaji in the form of a Hathi (an Elephant) he as been named as Hathiram Baba. As a chief priest of the Temple, Bhavaji served the Lord for many years. He later sacrificed his soul to the Lord and entered into a Jeeva Samadhi. His body was cremated near Venu Gopala Swamy Temple on the way to Papavinasam on the hills of Tirumala. A Samadhi of Hathiram Baba had been constructed there and daily pooja is being performed even today. People visiting Venu Gopala Swamy Temple pay their homage to this great devotee of Lord Venkateswara. The Hathiram Baba Mutt was built on the south eastern side of Tirumala temple in his memory.

Many might have now really understood that Hathiram Baba’s real name was Bhavaji and he was called Hathiram Baba not because he was fat like a Hathi or Elephant but because his beloved Lord has come to his rescue in the form of a Hathi, when he was in danger. The Jeeva Samadhi of Great saint Hathiram Baba still exists near Venu Gopala Swamy Temple on the way to Papavinasam on Tirumala Hills. Pilgrims visiting Venu Gopala Swamy surely pays homage to this great saint’s Samadhi and seeks his blessings. If any body had been there and returned back without paying homage to this great saint’s Samadhi in ignorance, please do so if you visit the Samadhi next time around. You can also find the Samadhi of many other saints all around the place out there. One can find Hathiram Baba Mutt on the southeastern side of the Venkateswara Temple of Tirumala near the main entrance built up at an elevated place, in memory of the great saint Hathiram. One can visit this Mutt to know more about this great saint.

Another story about Hathiram Bava
Baba Hathiram Ji along with his two brothers from the hills of Una came in search of livelihood to Banga, Gunachaur in Punjab which was known as Dhara Nagri, the Capital of Raja Gopi Chand,. The original name of Bavaji was Asa Ram. His brothers were employed by Raja Gopichand for bathing and up keeping of the palace elephants. They use to take the elephants one by one to the river and after bathing them they were bringing the elephants to the elephant tabela. This was very difficult for brothers of Baba Ji, hence he took this duty himself. It is said that Baba Ji picked up alone all elephants one by one and took to river and brought back to tabela in the same way. The News reached to the Raja Gopichand who was very astonished to hear this and decided to see himself. One day Raja Gopichand seen this Miracle of Baba Ji and became devotee of Baba Ji and begged for his pardon.

It is said that Baba Ji jumped 21 elephants standing in one row and came to be known as Baba Hathi Ram ji. Raja Gopichand donated 12 acre of land to Baba Ji which was encroached by other people. Only one acre land is with Baba Ji temple now which too was allotted by the deputy commissioner who's father's name was Asa Ram. There is annual fair every year at this temple. Our young lads perform kala of bazi and winners are rewarded suitably by the Mandir Committee.


MOLA DADA STORY



Mola and Mota were two brothers engaged in the court of legendary Krishna. Krishna, disgusted with material life, distributed his belongings including the crown among his people. Mola and Mota were not present at the time and when they came back, Mola, who was very close to Krishna, asked Krishna as to what his share was. Krishna decided that since Mola is his most intimate friend, he should be given something invaluable and dearest to Krishna. Krishna gave Radha to Mola. Mola and Radha got married, but they could not have marital life because of Radha’s divinity.

Both of them, worried about their successors, devised a plan according to which they toured three empires, where, Radha danced and Mola sang. When the kings were impressed and asked what Mola and Radha wanted, they asked for a prince from each empire. Thus they collected three princes from three empires and brought them up as the children of Radha and Mola.


In those days, girls were supposed to be married before attaining puberty. A brahmin family had three girls who had attained puberty but were not married and hence the family was excommunicated by the society. As the family is sleeping under the tree, it came into contact with the foster children of Mola and Radha and the three girls were married to them. The children born out of these marriages are none other than Banjaras.


ANOTHER LEGEND
Banjaras claim to be descendants from Mota & Mola – two brothers who tended Shri Krishna’s cows. From Mota sprang the ancestors of modern Marwaris; Mathuria Banjaras and Labhanas. Mola having no issue visited the Prince’s Court with wife Radha, and there exhibited the gymnastic feats in which he was adept. The Prince was so pleased with Mola’s skill and so charmed with Radha's beauty & grace that he gave them as a reward three infant boys, of different castes, whom they adopted as their sons. In course of time these boys grew up and married. Their progeny has/have been collectively called as Chaaran Banjaras. 
Rich Marwaris and poor Banjaras
It is said that the sons of Mola and Mota were transporting gold, diamond and pearls in their caravans. En route the god is said to have appeared in the form of a sage and asked the sons of Mota about what are they transporting and they said the truth. But the sons of Mola told the sage that they are transporting stones and mud. The god cursed the sons of Mola to remain poor for ever for telling lies and blessed the sons of Mota for their honesty.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016