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15 Mar,2014
Vishwanath Sood

'ढोलडुआं आला मीन्हा'-(Month of small drums) -- A CUSTOM WHICH IS NOW ALMOST EXTINCT.Today is SAKRANTI of ' चैत्र ' month of VIKRAMI calendar.

More than sixty years ago when Vikrami calendar was in vogue and common usage, being as popular as English calendar in Northern India among the middle class / orthodox generation, it was a custom not to utter the name of this first month of the calendar known as 'चैत'. This tradition would continue strictly up to BAISAKHI and sporadically later on as well. Almost everyone and especially people belonging to SOOD community followed the practice. Soods would commonly refer to this month as ढोलडुआं आला मीन्हा। instead of uttering its name.

On the first day of this month (Sakraanti or सगरान्द called in our Himachali Sood dialect) people belonging to a particular class of backward community would knock at the door of the house with an explicit purpose to proclaim the arrival of the new calendar for the year. It was assumed to be sacred to hear for the first time, the name of this month uttered from the lips of people of this backward community. They would come in a group of three- four persons including a female. The ritual would begin after the visitors would squat at the entrance of the house and sing a verse as a devotion to lord Shiva and Goddess Gauri as also to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi. This pious recitation would be go along with MILD beat of a small drum known as 'ढोलडु' After the completion of the religious song, the leader of the group would pronounce the name of the month whereas people would hear it with their heads covered with a cap or a DUPATTA. The visiting group used to get the offerings of coarse sugar (शक्कर या गुड), provisions like rice, wheat or maize flour and some lentil for this holy ceremony. A SUHAGI consisting of glass bangles, vermillion powder (सिन्धूर) and मौली also used to be given to the female. A piece of dress material or a towel also would be bestowed. The members of the household would have a pinch of coarse sugar (SHAKKER) as PRASHAAD after hearing the name of the month. This was often witnessed during old days in some selected houses even in town like Shimla.

I was in my village about seven-eight years ago on this particular day and had the fortune to hear the name in this conventional style for two consecutive years, almost after fifty five years, when the group visited our ancestral home seeing the door open of a house remaining locked for most of the year.

Alas! Many people now do not know about this tradition in as much as most of the present generation is not even aware of any VIKRAMI calendar or the names of its months.

This also used to be the day when the RALLI 'रली festival identical in many ways to LOHRI would start this day and continued for full month till Baisakhi / 'बसोआ'.

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