Jangams add colour to city’s spectrum
Varinder Walia

Jangams sing Shiv Vivah at the historic Dungha Shivala in the walled city of Amritsar.
Jangams sing Shiv Vivah at the historic Dungha Shivala in the walled city of Amritsar.

Jangams, the ‘kul purohits’ of Lord Shiva, who wear brass flowers in their ears and peacock feathers in their headgear, add yet another colour to the religious spectrum of the Holy City. They sing ‘Shiv Katha’, about the glory of their Lord and can be spotted in various lanes and bazaars.

They settled at the local ‘Dungha Shivala’ in Chaursati Attari — the heart of holy city — after Partition. Dungha Shivala in the walled city is almost 15 ft below the ground and seems to be an ancient place. A large number of Jangams migrated from Karachi. About 50 Jangams live permanently in the Shivala bit their number increases during Navratras, Divali and Shivratri. Most of the Jangams settled in Amritsar hail from Haryana, some are Punjabis.

They believe in the traditional family system, yet have a different way of life. They settle their disputes in their panchayat. The state BJP Senior Vice-President, Ms Laxmi Kanta Chawla, who lives near Dungha Shivala calls them the ‘most peace loving’ community. They have flocked the city for many generations yet no member of their community has ever been booked for any crime.

Jangams are divided into four groups: Mul, celibates who practise yog in the pranayam form; Langoch, celibates who carry the image of Shiva in the Narbadeshwar incarnation in a small phylactery round the neck (chiefly found in south India); Sail, celibates found in the hills as they avoid mixing with worldly people; and Diru, found in the south-east Punjab. This last-named group is secular and is recruited from the Brahmin, Rajput, Bhat, Jat and Arora castes. Usually, this art of singing ‘Shiv Katha’ is practiced by a team of two or three people from the same family of certain class.

Jangam Virkha Nand Swami, Baba Chhajju Ram and Chatur Swami were among the first ones to make Amritsar their permanent abode after Partition. Ram Mehar Swami says Jangams beg to keep the tradition alive. “We are not beggars as no Jangam compels anyone for donations.” On an average, a Jangam does not collect more than Rs 2,000 per month.

A visit to Dungha Shivala reveals that they believe in community kitchen. Strict vegetarians, they believe in simple food.

The legend of origin of Jangam, or Jogi-Jangam (called to distinguish them from Jogis), goes thus:: When Lord Shiva married Parvati no one would accept alms at his hands, so he created man from his thigh (jang) and, giving him alms, promised him immortality but declared that he would live by begging. Another version is that Lord Shiva at his wedding created two recipients of his alms, one Jangam, from the sweat of his brow, the other Lingam, from his thigh. These Jangams accept alms from devout.

Jangams belong to those unique sects who have been able to keep their distinct identity for the past many generations. Their rituals differentiate them from others. The religious attire present icons of five Hindu gods and goddesses, including ‘karn phul’ (brass flowers) of Parvati , ‘mukt’ (diadem) and ‘seshnag’, icons of Lord Vishnu with Lakshmi on sheshnag, ‘kalgi’ (plume) made of peacock feathers (of Lord Vishu) and ‘janeu’ (sacred thread) of Lord Brahma, the Creator, and ‘talli’ (bell) of Nandi, the white bull of Lord Shiva, and the leader of the Ganas (attendants of Shiva and live on Mount Kailash). They go about in the bazaars, demanding alms from each shop and are not be mistaken for common beggars.

As per tradition, one of their family members has to be Jangam. They too have started sending their children to school and many of them have been absorbed in high posts in the police and education field. Son of a Jangam, Mr Surjit Swami is an engineer in the USA. Mr Subash Gautam, son of another Jangam is Principal of ITI in Haryana.

Despite the position, all have to act as Jangam at least once a year. Their panchayat is strong and can excommunicate anyone found consuming liquor or indulging in anti-Jangam activity.

President of Jangams is Mr Darya Ram, a renowned kabaddi player and a retired DSP of Haryana.

The Jangams, only sing about the glory of their Lord and do not beg from anyone. When someone donates money to them, they receive it via the bell (talli), they sound while singing. To the Jangam, Shiva gave the bull’s necklace hung with a bell, and everything that was on his head, and so Jangams still wear figures of the moon, serpents etc on their heads.

The birth land of Jangams is Kurukshetra, pilgrimage centre for Hindus. A small section of Jangams live in Patiala district, bordering Haryana. They also live in other parts of the country, including Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.

They narrate the great wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Maha Shivratri is the longest and darkest night of the month. It is the night on which Lord Shiva and Parvati tied the knot and became ‘One’. Hence, it is symbolic of the meeting of the Soul with the Almighty. It falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of ‘Phalgun’ (February-March). The name means ‘the night of Shiva’. The ceremonies take place chiefly at night.

On this festival people worship ‘Shiva - the Destroyer’. The night marks the ‘Tandav’ by Lord Shiva. He is known by many names —Shankar, Mahesh, Bholenath, Neelakanth, Shambhu, Kailasheshwar, Umanath, Nataraj, besides others.

He is a sought-after deity and the devout pray to him for grants of their wishes. The festivities also include a fast. Some devotees do not even take water and keep vigil all night.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva are sung as it is said that he who utters the names of Lord Shiva during Shivratri with devotion and concentration is freed from all sins.

He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths.



My City
Preserve glorious heritage of Amritsar
Balvinder Singh

The next period — from 1947 to 2006 — was the worst period for the city. It was badly affected by the Partition of the country in 1947. Due to riots about 20 to 30 per cent of the areas in the walled city were burnt. The city was given due importance and a special Act — The Punjab Development of Damaged Areas Act 1951 — was enacted.

Under this Act, the Amritsar Improvement Trust was assigned the responsibility for undertaking redevelopment works. Unfortunately, due to lack of expertise in the field of conservation, redevelopment was considered as demolition. It lead to destruction of the built heritage to a large extent. More damage was caused when under the shadow of the Act another project “approach Road to Jallianwala Bagh and Golden Temple” was introduced in the areas which were not affected due to the riots of 1947.

The aim of this project was to give 60’ wide across to these important areas. In fact this was the beginning for the destruction of heritage on one hand and invitation to the traffic on other hand.

Another setback to the heritage city was the “Corridor Plan”, termed by the media and “Beautification of Areas around Golden Temple Complex” the name given by the authorities. Under the ‘Beautification Plan’ my city’s gorgeous buildings, bazaars were knocked down and a corridor created which has encouraged traffic all around the sacred place.

My city still has unique land use; one can find life, hustle and bustle, as there is mixed land use. But now due to the change of land use, it is losing its character, both within and outside the walled portion. It is facing many problems, such as vehicular pollution, encroachments even on footpaths and shopping corridors, traffic congestion, garbage, besides others. Who is responsible? We the citizens, the lackadaisical attitude of the administration and poor enforcement are the major factors.

My city has many NGOs but even then it has not shown any results as far as cleanliness is concerned. The latest threat to the old historic part is of elevated road. It will not only destroy the streetscape but will have other serious implications, such as polluting properties along the road, the effect of pollutants on Harmandir Sahib (it is located on leeward side of the proposed parking) and the increasing number of vehicles towards it. Even this elevated road in the walled city is against the guidelines of the National Commission on Urbanisation (NCU) as well as of the International Council on Monuments Sites (ICOMOS). No impact assessment study has been undertaken. The surroundings of Harmandir Sahib should be declared as a traffic-free zone. Battery operated buses should be started and we must think of an underground metro link to this important spiritual place.

We must make our city clean and green without disturbing its heritage character. Let us explore its religious, cultural and recreational heritage tourism potentials, which will also help in its sustainability. We must identify places related to prominent personalities and then evolve conservation strategy for their conservation.

Here, I must mention that the residence of Dr Bhai Vir Singh (four acres with trees such as almond, walnut planted by the great personality) has been preserved as a museum by the Bhai Vir Singh Sahit Sadan, New Delhi, through its local committee, but the original house and the Press from where the Khalsa Samachar (weekly newspaper started in 1899 and now published from New Delhi) was published are not given any importance. For this I have established a non-government organisation — Society for Educating Values, Architectural & Cultural Conservation (SEVAC). Support from all those who love my city of glorious heritage is welcome.


The author is Associate Professor, Conservation professional, Guru Ram Das School of Planning, Guru Nanak Dev University.



CII, WWF, GND University
join hands to clean Hudiara

Neeraj Bagga

The CII, WWF-India, Art of Living, an NGO and Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar, have joined hands to clean the rivulet Hudiara that finally falls into the river Ravi in Pakistan.

The project would be funded by the United Nations Development Project (UNDP).

This was stated at the Session on ‘Eco Conservation – A Corporate Social Responsibility’ organised by the CII Punjab State Council here.

Mr Ravi Singh, secretary-general & CEO, WWF India, said a meeting had already been held in which representatives of Pakistan had also participated.

The cost of the project would be ascertained after the preliminary survey and report, he added.

Mr Gunbir Singh, chairman, CII Amritsar Zonal Council, urged the WWF-India to transfer its office from Chandigarh to Amritsar for the benefit of the people.

Mr Gunbir Singh said the CII emphasised upon sustainable competitiveness of Indian Industry and worked towards creating a better climate for Indian businesses.

They had created CII–ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development and CII Sohrabji Godrej Green Business Centre in this context, he added.

Dr Anish Dua, Art of Living, Amritsar, drew Mr Ravi Singh’s attention towards Asia’s biggest wetland Harike Pattan, about 60 km away from here.

He opined that if developed on the pattern of the famous Bharatpur bird sanctuary it could generate tremendous revenue of from tourism.

Mr Ravi Singh assured the gathering that he would take up the matter of developing the Harike Pattan wetland to promote nature and tourism.



Mandira pitches for Kumble’s
inclusion in one-day team
Our Correspondent

Trendsetting TV cricket anchor Mandira Bedi pitched for the inclusion of leg spinner Anil Kumble in the one-day team, adding that the Indian team was not complete without him.

Mandira was in Amritsar to participate in two matches of ‘Gully Cricket’ organised by channel Max. “Kumble is a bowler with a big heart and has not received the attention he deserved,” said the anchor.

The actress, who created a sensation with her spaghetti strap dresses during her debut as cricket anchor, said her dresses had received undue attention.

She revealed that she had hired a reputed designer for the next show, whose name she declined to disclose.

Two matches were played in the noon and in the evening at posh Ranjit Avenue locality.

Earlier, matches of ‘Gully Cricket’ were held in Nagpur, Kolkata, Visakhapatnam and Mangalore.

When asked if she would be able to match former cricketer turned MP Navjot Singh Sidhu in comparing, her answer was in the affirmative.

She opined that despite commendable results, women cricketers did not draw enough attention in the media as compared to the men’s team.

Ignoring the criticism that she was speaking on a game she had not played, Mandira said she was an anchor and not a commentator. However, she added that she has become more comfortable with the game since her debut in the programme.

She said Charu Sharma had helped her understand the game, besides she read newspapers to know nuances of cricket.



Beant, Tejinder win cross-country run
Neeraj Bagga

International player Beant Kaur came out triumphant the cross-country run in the women’s category organised by the Goodwill Athletics Club here on Saturday. The event saw about 150 boys in the under-17 section and about 70 men and women participating in the run.

Beant Kaur of Punjab Police outclassed all women and covered the distance in impressive time. Following her closely was BBK DAV College’s Sunita while Kiran of Jalandhar managed the third place. The winners won cash prizes of Rs 2,000, Rs 1100 and Rs 700, respectively.

In the men’s section international athlete Tejinder Singh covered the 10-km, distance first. He got cash prize of Rs 2,500. Rajesh Sharma of Rail Coach Factory, Kapurthala, and Kirpal Singh stood second and third, respectively. They received cash prizes of Rs 1500 and 1000, respectively.

In the under 17-year boys section, Parminder Singh, Satnam Singh and Harnek Singh stood first, second and third, respectively. They pocketed Rs 1,000, Rs 700 and Rs 500, respectively.

Rankirat Singh Sandhu, joint secretary, said the Club was formed to promote athletics in the district which has the distinction of producing several national and international athletics. It organises such events and competitions, besides encouraging youngsters.

Raj Kumar Verka, MLA, gave prizes to the winners. He announced a grant of Rs 1 lakh to the club.



Effigies for Dasehra a tall order
Our Correspondent

With the festival of Dasehra, which symbolises the victory of good over evil, just four days away artisans are working day and night to prepare effigies of Ravana, Kumbhkarna and Meghnath.

Effigies in open ground are usually 55 ft high. The artisans work together in group to carve out artistic figures to convey the desired message. Expressions of maliciousness and cruelty inspire awesome feelings among onlookers. However, as these effigies are put on fire, they symbolise the short duration of egoistic life.

Expert artisans generally wait for this month to earn their livelihood. However, it does not mean that they sit idle rest of the months just in wait of it. They are adept in various vocations. Some of them embellish flowers in parties and function to make the venue a delightful location.

The local artisans not only prepare effigies for the city but for the towns like Lopoke, Majitha, Ajnala and Tarn Taran also. The cost of effigies depends upon the size. A 55 ft high effigy costs nearly Rs 20,000. Bamboo sticks, cloth, paper, rope, gum are used.

Dasehra committees are formed in various parts of the cities to collect donations in their areas to celebrate the festival with spirit, fun and fare.



City Jains resent Gujarat Govt’s move
Our Correspondent

The Punjab unit of the All-India Shwetamber Sthanakwasi Jain Conference strongly criticised the Gujarat Government’s decision to club Jains and Buddhists with Hindus.

Mr Amrit Lal Jain, senior vice-President, of the Jain conference, in a communiqué to Mr Naval Kishore Sharma, Governor, Gujarat, requested him not to give his assent to amendment to the Freedom of Religion Act-2003 which would construe Jainism and Buddhism as denominations of Hindu religion. The Jain community strongly protest at this uncalled for amendment, which hurt the feelings of Jains, he added.

Quoting from history he said: “Prime Minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had assured a Jain delegation on January 25, 1950, that Jainism was a distinct religious community.”

Jain as a minority community has already been notified by the states of Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. He said Jainism does not owe its existence to any other religion.



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