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Amritsar: Akhara, jagrata fast losing their popular appeal

Economic and social factors coupled with changing tastes take sheen off

Amritsar: Akhara, jagrata fast losing their popular appeal

Satinder Sartaaj performs during a jagran in Amritsar. file photo

Tribune News Service

Neeraj Bagga

Amritsar, July 9

A host of reasons like demonetisation, introduction of GST, spiralling inflation and the impact of social media have made ‘Chinja’ and ‘Akhara’ (fairs in rural areas), social events and gatherings, including jagrata, less visible in the post Covid-19 period.

Performers including singers, musicians and others who earned their bread and butter from these events now look for employment opportunities in other arenas.

Folk singer Glory Bawa’s plea that income from live concerts and shows have dwindled lays bare the harsh reality that live art and concert performers are facing a serious threat to their livelihood in the cyber age.

‘Chinja’ and ‘Akhara’ (Melas) in villages have nurtured Punjabi folk singing for centuries. Over the past few years, they have turned their back to quality singing and switched to songs with double meaning. Glory Bawa, daughter of Padma Bhushan awardee Gurmeet Bawa, Malika-e-Hek (method of singing in extended breath), said organisers of these events no longer invite them to perform as the present generation does not like to listen to traditional songs. In case, they invite them, then the remuneration is so less that it does not make any sense to perform there. For instance, she recently got a call to perform in a village fair for a paltry Rs 2,100. She said people were ready to pay those who sing songs with double meaning but not to those who preserve ‘Maa Boli’ (mother tongue) and Punjabi folk. She said several people once associated with live performances were compelled to ply ‘Rehris’ to earn their livelihood.

Vicky Dutta, who continuously organised Jagrata from 2011 to 2020 in the city, said the overnight religious congregation no longer attracts common people who devote a major part of their daily life in earning livelihood and scrolling on their mobile handsets. “After Covid-19, the priorities have changed. People have become more individualistic,” he said recalling that motivation, especially among the youth to watch Jagrata all night, had subsided by 2010 as they were not interested in listening to traditional ‘Bheta’ (songs sung in praise of goddess).

He tried to revitalise the age-old tradition of jagrata by roping in prominent Punjabi singers like Gurdas Maan, Lakhwinder Wadali, Satinder Sartaaj, Kanwar Grewal, Master Salim and others. “It infused a fresh lease of life in the Jagran. The trend was picked up not only in the city but entire Punjab by inviting prominent Punjabi singers to the Jagran”. He recalled that well off people did not donate on their own for religious events and he had to convince them to pay in return for advertisements of their stores and showrooms during the time of Jagrata. At present, they are not even inclined to pay much. So, he has not organised any Jagrata for the past few years.

Rajan, known as Mini Chanchal, who sang for over 15 years with Bhajan singer Narendra Chanchal, feels that perhaps high unemployment rate and being underpaid turned away the youth from Jagrata where most pool their money to organise events. A majority of youngsters employed at stores and in other private jobs earn between Rs 8,000 to Rs 15,000 per month. In this scenario, they do not have surplus money to spare for the religious work.

Raman Naaz, 71, who had been singing in the Narendra Chanchal group for about 25 years, held unscrupulous elements responsible for hurting the feeling of devotees by performing in an inebriated condition. When devotees come to know of such performers, their ‘Astha’ (devotion) is hurt. Many groups resort to haggling to get fresh assignments for Jagrata. It lowered the wages of rightful performers who felt cheated. He said all these reasons are responsible for a decline in the holding of Jagratas, also known as Jagran.

He recalled Narendra Chanchal created a Facebook page to perform during Covid-19 to earn a living. He said they used to perform for two hours at a stretch. Now, things have changed completely.

About The Author

The Tribune News Service brings you the latest news, analysis and insights from the region, India and around the world. Follow the Tribune News Service for a wide-ranging coverage of events as they unfold, with perspective and clarity.

#Demonetisation #Goods and Services Tax GST #Inflation #Social Media

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