Jhiri Mela- Tribute to a Courageous Farmer

TNN Bureau. Updated: 11/4/2017 2:53:19 PM Edit and Opinion

There are fairs and festivals galore in India. Some celebrate the coming of spring and a rich and bountiful harvest, while others commemorate a god or goddess. But there is one fair, held in the village of Jhiri a short distance from Jammu, which is celebrated for reasons both unique and extraordinary. Referred to as the Jhiri Mela, it is held sometime in late October or early November and draws thousands of visitors not just from the state, but from across the country.

Celebrating Courage

The Jhiri Mela is held annually to celebrate the courage of an honest and hardworking farmer, Jitu. According to local legend, he rose against the zamindars or landholders who made the lives of poor land tillers like him, very difficult by demanding huge portions of their crop yield as tax. It is believed that this farmer preferred to kill himself and destroy his crop rather than give in to their greedy demands. His young daughter is also said to have immolated herself on his funeral pyre. The Jhiri Mela is celebrated to mark the strength, courage and sacrifice of this farmer, who today is referred to as Baba Jitu and honoured with a samadhi or tomb.

The Mela

The mela or fair attracts thousands of visitors from nearby villages as well as Jammu and other parts of India. They come here to not only pay tribute to Baba Jitu’s tomb, but also to take a holy dip in the Baba da Talab, a pond located a short distance from the fair grounds. It is believed that the water of this pond has medicinal properties. The tradition is to first smear oneself with the mud of the pond before taking a dip here. Men, women, children and even infants are encouraged to do so.

The fair also forms an important marketing outlet for the local sugarcane crop, which is bought by most farmers and visitors to the fair. It is a great occasion for a family outing and is particularly enjoyed by women and children. There are stalls laden with a variety of attractive goods – from vases and pottery, to utensils, toys and books. Essentially, a farmer’s fair which lasts nearly a week, also boasts songs, dances and a variety of local foods. There are several other entertainment options including cultural programmes as well as local rural sporting events such as wrestling.

Comment on this Story