Sunday, July 11, 1999
IT was an overcast day with a stiff breeze. The breeze made the tall stately deodars bend and whistle. There was a hint of rain and the local people looked forward to this. It would be welcome by the parched mountains and rain is always a good omen for any occasion.
This was a solemn and joyful occasion. The Nag Devta of Bhagi Jubbar, a small village near Naldhera, was being taken out for the annual procession.
The village of Bhagi Jubbar has a small temple, which houses the local Devta. The name of the deity is Mahu Nag Devta. The main residence of the original Mahu Nag Devta is in Mandi district, where there is a place called Mahu Nag.
About Bhagi Jubbar, the story dates back to ancient times when two brothers from Mahu Nag came to this place. It is only then that this Devta, the family deity, was discovered in Naldhera.
"The Murti was found on this very spot", meaning Naldhera, explained one of the pujaris of the Nag Devta. He continued: "There were some miracles associated with this place. People used to bring their cattle for grazing.Every afternoon the cows would go to a certain spot and the milk would flow from their udders un-aided. The villagers saw this and were amazed. After some time they looked around, and after cleaning and digging, a statue was unearthed. The Murti was placed in a temple and it is there to this day. Not everyone can see it, but it is there, and prayers are offered to it daily by special pujaris. They have access to the Devta.
That days function was an offering of thanks to the Nag Devta. People believe in the Shakti of the Devta and have made wishes that have been fulfilled. To allow the locals to offer thanks, the Devta is taken out in procession. People host lunches and the entire population from far and wide comes to pay homage to the Devta.
"We have been on the move for a whole month. People invite the Nag Devta and host lunch, tea, and dinner. Sometimes we stay overnight", said the Pujari.
There is another tale of old that adds to the legends of this area, which has boulders strewn around. A Devta from this place on his travels visited an area which had some unusual and beautiful trees. The Devta decided to bring some of these trees back to Naldhera. This angered the other Devta, who gave vent to his anger and a shower of steel pellets was made to rain on this area. The stones still bear marks of this amazing episode and myth.
The sound of the procession of the Devta in a Palki could be heard from a distance. It was the hollow booming of drums in the heavily forested hilltop, punctuated by the wail of a trumpet. The procession, in single file, came into view. The drummers came first, followed by a man with a huge colourful umbrella. He would stop every now and then and twirl the umbrella around. This was followed by the Palki bearing the Devta.
The Palki is a splendid ornate affair made out of silver. The base is square and has three Devtas embossed on each side. On this base is a pyramid, also with the Devtas Murtis on the four sides. A Chattri sits atop the apex of the pyramid. Flags, flowers, garlands and bells adorned the Palki. It is carried on two long poles that have an animal with a ring in the mouth, made in brass, at the front end. Four persons carry it on their shoulders.
After performing rituals along the way the procession came to a halt at the place where lunch was to be served.
Lunch and the ceremony after lunch were the highlights of the days proceedings.
The Palki was laid on a special durree and the head Pujari, Bhim Singh, stayed by the side of the Palki.
The host for that days lunch was Major Mahendra, a long time resident of the area. "I wanted to host a lunch for a long time. But the Devta has a very busy schedule! I am grateful that I have an opportunity today to offer my thanks", said Major Mahendra.
Lunch was being prepared by the special team selected by the Pujari for this occasion. Major Mahendra only provided the rations. The fare was also the choice of the Pujari. Explained Major Mahendra: "It is an elaborate ceremony and must be carried out according to the custom. The first course is Rice and Bundi. It must be sweet. The second course is rice and dal, then rice and paneer, followed by rice and vegetable koftas. The last dish will be Khatta (sour), rice and curd. The devotees even bring their own utensils and do the cooking, said the Major.
By early afternoon a large crowd had gathered at the Majors garden. Lunch served, the prayer ceremony began. This involves chanting and dancing. It is during this ceremony that the spirit of the Devta manifests itself.
The dancing and chanting went on for a while and suddenly one of the dancers went into a trance. The spirit of the Devta had "entered" this particular person. He stood still, he shook, he trembled. The eyes were wide open, but otherwise the body was calm except for brief moments of trembling. He spoke and would have answered questions. It is common to ask advice on matters of matrimony, land disputes, sale of cattle. That day no profound statements were made, no great questions asked. Everyone took the opportunity to thank the Devta and ask for rain.
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