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The Role of a Badva in the Ritual of Baba Pithora

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Interview with Kochar Rathva in Gabadiya village, Chhota Udepur, in 2016

My name is Kocharbhai Thavarbhai, village Gabadiya. I am an artisan of handicrafts, and Adivasi Rathva, from Chhota Udepur taluka, Vadodara zilla. We are a family of 15-20 members and have 3 acres’ land on which we labour, we have no well and depend on rain. We are dependent on farming and eat whatever we get. We also do manual labour. By doing a little labouring, a little farming, we sustain for our family. Our ancestors were Badva. When I was 20 years old, my dream was to be a Badva. So I started treating somebody’s cattle, someone’s buffalo, sometimes people, and little by little they started getting better like it happens with a doctor. In this way, my work started to grow. I also do Pithora painting, Javara Vaha Vidhi, do the rituals and write. Even though I have aged and I work less, my work is still on.

 

We ask each other a lot about our work. This badva will ask that badva, and so on. Ghardhani will bring arad grain in khakhra leaves in a podi. Sometimes they come from outside, we do not know them, where have they come from. When they bring podi, we ask them, Is this of your house? Is your cattle sick? Are you facing losses in farming? I suggest, Do a Pithora vow in your home, and he agrees. So we tell them, You would have to do this. Sometimes we do the grain-reading ritual, tie sacred thread, which gives them relief. When they get the relief, they first perform tipna vidhi, in which the Badva is alone. Then they do panga in which Badva and Gayni (singers) are present.  After this when Ghardhani feels he is in a good position and has some income, some money, some grain, he would be ready to undertake Pithora. When they wish to do Pithora, they say they want to do Raji na Gayna (songs of happiness). So then we go there, do Raji na Gayna, do Notra. Then they ask the Badva from where to bring the Lakhara. They will ask Naran, How is that Lakhara? Naran will say bring Lakhara from this particular village. The Badva will then demand which Lakhara is to be brought. The Badva will say to Ghardhani that I only want Lakhara from this particular village. After this agriculture, cattle, in-flow of income, everything becomes better. Nobody even catches cold or fever. This is the vidhi of Pithora. The cost of Pithora vidhi earlier was very low, but now a day it goes up to lakhs. People come and tell me, Become Bhagat (retire) from this Badva, Maharaj. I reply that if I go leaving this gift from nature, it is like hugging a bavar (thorny) tree, won’t I get pierced with thorns?

 

Thirty years ago they used to bring pandu, now they have forgotten about bringing pandu, and apply chuna (whitewash lime). They have also forgotten the colours, now they use fabric colour. First they paint five horses, and then paint nine, then they paint horses of akho (complete) pithora. But nowadays, as soon as they get relief from one thing, they say they want to do Pithora, Javara Vahani Vidhi, to fulfill the vow for unmarried girls. This is how everything comes together. First Pithora is worshipped, then in the morning Ind ritual is done, and along with it rituals for unmarried girls are also done. In reality they say Indraj is the handicraft artisan of Adivasi Rathva, it means farming, but in reality Indraj is the Lord of Rain. There is no rain (megh) without Ind. The patron of grain and wealth is Indraj. The cattle like cow, goat (bokdi), and chicken (kukadi) are the work of Pithora. If we have sown the grains (anaj) in Jeth (May-June), and if after sowing it gets spoiled, it means jatar bagdeli che ('the crop has got infected'), then they go to the Badva, who again does the grain ritual. He will say, Keep it in the farm which will take care of it. I have all kinds of experiences in the subject of Pithora. No experience is pending. It requires alcohol, tadi, but nowadays they use beer in bottles. Meaning they are leaving the authentic things and holding onto fake things.

 

A carpenter is called on the day of Pandaliya. We ask him to make Pandaliya the night before, as we have to go the next day to get the branches (daali) and no girl will work. A day before we have to complete the worship of jatar (plant), which has to be brought, then properly arranged, taken near the jhape (gate), where its blessings are sought, and finally it is taken to the farm and planted there. And then the akhada, where after it is built cooking is done all day and night and also arrangements for eating food. This is what is akhado. The gaadi (seat/throne) of Ind, on the day of Ind ritual, is to be prepared. Everything is properly arranged in the taandor (veranda) and Pithora is khapede (inside). When the Badva does the vavavanu (sowing), if the seat of Pithora is here, then the seat of Ma-Behen (Mother-Sister: mother to Pithora and sister to Ind) will have to be in front. The seats are always different; they can never come together. Our Kuldevi is Indraj and Phooljatar. The Pithora (ritual) is the seat of Mama-Bhanej (Uncle-Nephew). When times are good they feel like feeding the people, so they do Javara Vave (ritual) on a Monday. So from Monday the kitchen opens and it goes on for two weeks, it is a grand feast. It is like prasad and you have to feed people.

 

A goat (bokda) is sacrificed in khapeda near Pithora, and then they do the Kadam ritual, where people go into trance and kill a goat there too. They cut it into four pieces and start worshipping Ind and then go back to worship Pithora. Hymns are sung for Pithora all night; he is not offered puja. Hymns are sung for Indraj as well.

 

It is said, ages ago there were Kavo Kag and Kormo Kag; Kali Koyal is the daughter of Kavo Kag, who fell from the sky and was caught by earth in Amdavadi. Above there is heaven, below there is earth. She lived in somebody else’s house and wanted to go and see Vatvala Ben Ravtala near the dungar (mountain). She goes there and asks, Sister, may I graze the goat? While grazing she went to the jungle of Kadam. On her way she whistled and skipped, and returned home in the evening. She went to wash clothes to Nara Dungar and Nara Vahein, with a bamboo stick with seven and nine rings. She took clothes near the darya (sea), washed the clothes and then started bathing. She saw ratu roynu (red flower), and got up to get the flower. She asked Sawariya to leave her alone and go meet Vatvala Banevi who is like her father. But Sawariya did not leave her alone. She left this place, and came to Khakhriya, where she collected branches of mahuda, kakayia, hajavdi, and made bunches of them. Suddenly she got pricked by the karsali thorn and called Sawariya for help. Sawariya tried to find the thorn but he could not find it. He told her he could find it. She demanded, Why are you looking here and there, when the thorn is between us. From here, she started walking again and came to Kasla and dug a well, where she sowed methi, sherdi, jaiphal etc. One day her stomach started to pain, but she could not understand what it was. In such way, nine months and nine days went by. After that she called for Kanka Kumbharni brought Koydu (pot), Gangi Ghasliu brought tel (oil). Here she gave several births, from her pinky finger a child was born. She wrapped the child in a cloth and set him afloat on the river. Rani Kajal had come to draw water with her golden pot from Ganga and Jamuna. She heard the cries of a child and went into water to get it. After bringing him back, she unwrapped him and held him high in the sun to see him properly. She took him back with her and put him in a crib (hindolo) and rocked him all day and night. One day she asked her helper to rock the child in the crib while she went to fill water. After her return she did not find the child even after searching. Then she said ‘Jhangu valiyu Dudh, Thane Valiyu Khoon’ ('milk fed by one, but blood is of another'). This is the identity of Pithora. She asked, Why are you troubling your mother? She held some gold in her hand, sogadiya diva (lit lamps) on her head, in the other hand a paniyaro (water jug). He was hiding in the wall.

 

The son of Sawariya Maulan, Pithoro Dev, Dudha Raval’s son Bholo Ind, Dudha Mogal’s daughter Phool Jater. This is how all of them got together. Dev Indraj, where is he from? On the Abu mountain, a ball of dung was made from which Nanga Bavo was born. Bhurya Gosavi is the son of Nanga Bavo. Dudho Raval is the son of Bhurya Gosavi. Bholo Ind is the son of Dudho Raval. His elder brother is Daharo Brahman, younger brothers Indraj, Hamonio, Hatolio, and the five brothers were together. While climbing he took support of Kadam tree, as he was tired. A govadiya (shepherd) met him and fed him dhebra (big rotis). He said, If Ind comes to my home, I will sow javara and with it worship Ind. If there will be progress in my home, field, farms, cattle, wealth, then I will sow javara. So he did this javario. After that came the writing of Pithoro, which since then has to be done together.

 

chaar kan ni dharti che

saat kalna padta che

kal taro navro che

potech bhagwan

yahu taro,

medhi taro,

kamlo taro

hatsak varso halje

 

… And with these words we start our songs. Dear God, everything is yours. Give us your blessings.

 

Pithora painting ritual is going on in the same way, as it did in earlier days. Now people say they are followers of Swami, Muni, Bhadro, Baba Ramdev, Asharam, Kabir, Ramanand, and Christi. Everyone says that you commit sin by killing chicken and goat. Due to this sin, many people became bhagat (leave this religion). Then how does the Pithora grow? There is a decline in Pithora. But within this very decline there is great growth. When all this is lost, the human nation will come to know. In next five or ten years all these bhagat will yet again start to drink and eat, you mark my words. In Devliya all were old bhagat were they not? They have all started eating. These villages all were bhagat, all of them eat and drink, who is bhagat anymore? Children drink alcohol. There is no Adivasi Rathva who has kept his hold on the truth, even if he is a drunkard. They do not worship Babadev. All Bhagat have forgotten Babadev. What does the government say? All of you become ujliyat (white collar). But how does one become Ujliyat where there is no koti (house) of our own. Who will give us respect?