THE MUSICAL TALE OF DHANAAH
What picture do you get when you think/hear about Himachal Pradesh? Mountains and snow, right? But it is not only about those impressions alone!
It is about those small undiscovered villages and their untold history and generation-long tales.
One of those tales dates back to my village called ‘Dhanah’, which is a tiny village with barely 150 to 200 people and is situated in the lap of the outer Siraaj valley. Like every village of Himachal Pradesh, the village is named after its local deity which is Mata Dhaneshwari.
The story that I am going to share with you goes way back around, more than 150 years ago, maybe 200, it goes way back before even my father or Grandfather were born or I can say before the concept of “tarred road” was known.
The only way people used to travel from one place to another was either through mules or by scaling through these huge mountains that surrounded the villages. The namesake road, also known as the “khachhar road” (mule road) was only 4-6 feet broad and often turned fatal for travelers. It would usually take days for villagers to reach their destination that today at present time takes hardly 40 minutes by car. Technology did wonders, right?
Unlike current times, Himachal Pradesh was covered in a thick forest once. There was so much wood available for people that the government used to give every citizen one tree from the forest for personal use. But people already had enough wood that many would often reject these gifts. Transportation of woods was a month-long process. It was a very lengthy process namely chopping trees, throwing those huge logs of woods into the river, then people would collect them below and load them all up into the trucks, and lastly, a group of people will travel along the river and poke the stuck logs with the help of long bamboo sticks. The Deodar tree was transported from Kinnaur and through the river Sutlej.
Tales Of ‘Baja‘
On one such transportation, two huge logs of Deodar got stuck in the way and the villages nearby came together and took the matter to the Panchayat. Panchayat decided that competition should be held. It was a race among the Baja’s (local band).
Every village or temple in Himachal has its traditional band also known as “Baja” And everyone boasts about having the best Baja. Some are made up of pure brass and some are coated in silver. Nevertheless, no auspicious event is ever started or completed without Baja. Baja is just as important as a bride and groom for marriage is. So it was decided that Baja members of all the participating villages will descend the mountain carrying their instruments from a common starting point. The first one to reach the endpoint wins and can take the logs. And hence the race started.
My village won and they were chosen as the rightful owner of the logs. Interesting right?
Now the issue was that these logs were so huge, they couldn’t be carried by a single mule or a bunch of people. People all around came together and decided to “deliver” these logs to us. It took them several days to reach our village on foot. And once they reached, there was a festival-like celebration in our village. It was a really big deal for our people. Friendly competitions such as this one were and are still very common. It’s their way to socialize with each other. The logs were used in the construction of the Mata Dhaneshwari temple. Even after so many years, the temple still stands and tells its tale to the new generation.
There are many tales and astonishing construction in and around my village and many other small villages in Himachal. Some have an explainable fact behind them and some have mysterious existence.
While the city lights might look intimidating and chase-worthy but one can only find a sigh of comfort only in a place which they can belong to! It’s never too late to return to one’s very own roots.