Ramnamis of Chhattisgarh

 

The Ramnamis are a sect from Chhattisgarh who believe in chanting the name of Ram as the sole means of devotion and worship. They belong to the Panth communities from this region who are mostly from the so called lower caste, reject bramhanical practices and the caste system, and are followers of bhakti marg. The Ramnamis, the Satnamis and the Kabirpanthis are the main Panth communities from this region.

The wanderings of Gorakhpanthis in Chhattisgarh / छत्तीसगढ़ में घुम्मकड़ गोरखपंथी

 

 

 परसौदा बड़े गांव सारंगगढ़ से भटगांव जाने वाले मुख्य सड़क मार्ग पर स्थित है और एक औसत दर्जे का गांव है। यहाँ की आबादी मिश्रित है तथा यह अच्छा खेतिहर इलाका है। गांव के मध्य में एक मंदिर और एक पक्की चौपाल बनी हुई है। इसी चौपाल के सामने वाले घर के बाहरी बराम्दे में इन जोगियों ने अपना डेरा बनाया हुआ था।

Gorakhpanthi Jogis / गोरखपंथी जोगी

छत्तीसगढ़ की वाचिक परम्परा अत्यंत संपन्न है विशेष तौर पर लोक काव्यों, लोक कथाओं और लोक गीतों के क्षेत्र में यह अद्वितीय है। देश की आज़ादी के बाद जिन प्रदेशों से सर्वाधिक लोक कथा गायकों ने नाम कमाया है उनमें छत्तीसगढ़ भी एक है। वाचिक परम्परा की इस सम्पन्नता में यहाँ के अनेक घुमन्तु समुदायों का बड़ा हाथ है। इन समुदायों के लोग विभिन्न धार्मिक नायकों एवं कथानकों को गाकर भिक्षा वृति कर जीवन यापन करते रहे हैं। इनमें देवार, वासुदेवा, जोगी आदि समुदाय प्रमुख हैं। इनके अतिरिक्त बाहर राज्यों से इस क्षेत्र में आकर कथा गायन करने वालों में गोरखनाथ सम्प्रदाय के नाथ जोगी मत्वपूर्ण हैं। एक समय गोरखनाथ सम्प्रदाय

Singing in the Landlord's Courtyard: Sua songs from Sarguja

Sua Geet refers to songs sung and performed by women in Chhattisgarh celebrating the time of harvest. Women sing songs in a circle, at the center of which is usually placed a basket carrying harvested grain and a wooden figure of a parrot. The songs are sung to the beat of the clapping of hands, unaccompanied by any instruments. Groups of women visit the homes of landowning families and collect harvest grains. Sua Geet is a regional performative tradition.

From Pod to Packet: Processing Tamarind in Bastar

Tamarind grows abundantly in the district of Bastar in Chhattisgarh. The collection of tamarind, the treatment of its pods to make tamarind bricks have become a source of livelihood for many in this region. This video shows the process of making tamarind bricks.

This content has been created as part of a project commissioned by the Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh, to document the cultural and natural heritage of the state of Chhattisgarh.

Biodegradable Utensils: Making Dona Pattal in Bastar

Women from the Raut community collect leaves for making dona-pattal (leaf bowl-plates). After collection, they stitch the leaves together with the help of bamboo sticks to make biodegradable plates and bowls. This video shows the process of making dona and pattal in Chhattisgarh.

This content has been created as part of a project commissioned by the Directorate of Culture and Archaeology, Government of Chhattisgarh, to document the cultural and natural heritage of the state of Chhattisgarh.

Training the Body and Mind: Kung-Fu Nuns of Kathmandu

It was 4:30 in the morning and the air was chilly. My cab was making its way up the Druk Amitabha Mountain. The journey was slow, albeit peaceful, winding along the steep, narrow hillside road. Out in the distance, Kathmandu Valley was still asleep. As we climbed up higher and higher, so did my anticipation. I had been long waiting for this day—the day I would finally get to meet the Kung Fu Nuns of the Drukpa Order in Kathmandu.

                                    

The Druk Amitabha Mountain is locally known as the Seto (White) Gompa. It is the location of the Druk Gawa Khilwa Abbey, the primary nunnery within the Drukpa lineage. Three other Druk Gawa Khilwa branches are located in India—at Kortsa and Shey in Ladakh, and at Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh. The Kathmandu nunnery was established with 15 young Ladakhi nuns in 1992, largely a result of the efforts of the current Gyalwang Drukpa (head of the Drukpa lineage), Jigme Pema Wangchen. His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa has been a champion of women’s education and empowerment for decades. He elaborates his vision in these words: 

 

Everyone, whether man or woman, has the potential and the right to attain Buddhahood. Unfortunately, for many generations, not only in Tibet or Ladakh, but in fact throughout the world, women have not been treated fairly. I started Druk Gawa Khilwa mainly to lift the status of female practitioners in my small community. I feel that I am responsible for the well-being and spiritual progress of both monks (bhikkhus, the male practitioners) and nuns (bhikkhunis, the female practitioners). I did not start this with a great ambition of promoting female rights or [as a] movement. I just thought that at least my community of nuns should not suffer unfair treatment due to social or cultural discrimination that has existed for so many generations.

 

When I reached Druk Amitabha Mountain, I was greeted by a group of cheerful nuns whose warmth and generosity stayed with me long after my visit ended. On arrival, I was directed to meet Jigme Chosdon, who became a guide, friend and constant companion during my time at the nunnery. Jigme Chosdon is from Nubra in Ladakh. She joined the nunnery in 2003 when she was 29 years old. Like many others, her decision to become a bhikkuni was met with opposition from her parents, but they eventually let her join the nunnery at Ladakh where she received her initial training. I also developed a close relationship with Jigme Choeky, nicknamed Renu. She met His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa when she was studying in the 10th standard at a school in Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesh. Inspired by him, from 2000 onwards she immersed herself in Buddhist studies and decided to become a nun. She joined the Kathmandu nunnery in 2005. She told me that at the nunnery she realised the true meaning of life, and that His Holiness had shown her the right path. This, she said, was a result of her previous life’s good karma. Over the two weeks of my interaction with the nuns, I met many extraordinary women like Jigme Chosdon and Jigme Renu, who had committed themselves to the pursuit of enlightenment by practising a life of compassion and selfless service.

 

Today, the Druk Gawa Khilwa is home to more than 500 nuns from across the Himalayan region. Life at the nunnery starts as early as 3 am with prayers and meditation. The day unfolds in Buddhist religious studies and in learning the rituals that have to be performed during important ceremonies. Throughout the day, teams of nuns also manage the running of the nunnery, provide medical and veterinary services, operate a clinic, a souvenir store and a guesthouse, maintain three greenhouses, and harvest solar energy. The life of the nuns revolves around extending help to those who are less fortunate while also working towards making themselves self-sufficient in all aspects of existence.

 

Part of attaining self-sufficiency involves physical training through the daily practice of kung fu. Martial arts training, including the handling of weapons, plays a key role in developing concentration, discipline, self-esteem, perseverance, respect for others and a healthy lifestyle.The nuns are trained by Jigme Rigzang, a Vietnamese kung fu trainer. He travels to Nepal twice a year to personally train the nuns. According to him, ‘Since the nuns meditate daily, they are able to concentrate much more during kung fu. Besides self-defense, learning kung fu also helps them develop mental and emotional strength.’

 

However, the physical training of Druk Gawa Khilwa’s nuns is not limited to kung fu. The nuns are active cyclists, and through their yearly Cycle Yatras across Nepal and India they raise awareness about gender equality, environmental problems and human trafficking. Cycling is undertaken daily by a rotating group of 20 nuns. Instead of their maroon robes, the cyclist nuns are dressed in shorts, t-shirts and their cycling gear. They start out at 4 am and make a five-hour-long cycling tour down the hills, picking trash and rescuing animals along the way. Jigme Renu says, ‘Cycling is meditation for us. It helps us clear our minds. While we are riding our bicycle, we also recite our prayers.’

                                                                        

Interestingly, I noticed that all the nuns had the prefix Jigme attached to their names. Upon inquiry, I was told that jigme means ‘fearless’ in Tibetan. And jigme they are. Through their various initiatives, the nuns are championing physical fitness and sustainable living, and challenging stereotypes of pre-fixed gender roles, even within an orthodox religious institution. I see the kung fu nuns as an important part of a larger narrative about women’s empowerment in South Asian cultures and countries. As a visual artist, that is a project in which I am deeply interested. I hope to join these strong-willed women during their Cycle Yatra from Kathmandu to India someday, and continue documenting their incredible lives. 

 

                        

Interview with Syed Jasim Chishti, caretaker at the hallowed Ajmer Sharif Dargah

 

Sahapedia speaks to Syed Jasim Chishti, caretaker and volunteer at the hallowed Ajmer Sharif Dargah. He talks about the Rajput origins of Ajmer and how Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti, in whose memory the dargah was built, came to live in Ajmer. While speaking about the contributions of rulers from different faiths in building it, he notes the long tradition of religious amity that has prevailed there, as is evidenced by the public eating facilities at the dargah that serve food to all people irrespective of their faith.

 

बड़े भजन मेला/ Bade Bhajan mela of the Ramnamis

छत्तीसगढ़ में लगने वाले अनेक मेलों की श्रृंखला का आरम्भ पौष माह की एकादशी को आयोजित होनेवाले बड़े भजन मेले से माना जाता है। इस मेले का मुख्य आकर्षण इसके नाम के अनुरूप यहाँ निरंतर चलने वाले रामनामी भजनों के कार्यक्रम होते हैं।