By Vidisha Nainwal
As the word suggests, JAGAR comes from the Sanskrit root, JAGA which means to be woken up. It is defined as a process by which any god or deceased person’s spirit or soul is called or woken up from its dormant state and asked for favours or solutions to certain problems being faced by a particular person. To perform jagar, music is used as the medium to invoke the spirits, which makes it an important aspect of the process. In case you are still wondering what actually jagar is, let me put it in a simpler way, recall the time when you witnessed some people at temples or during jagrans (which is an all-night vigil including songs and dance in honour of a deity) in a frenzy mood, dancing to the rhythmic beats of the dhol, chanting of the prayers and claps, as if in a trance. Yes, you got it right! Many of us know it by the name, “Mata aana” or “devi aana”, which is a type of jagar wherein the person is considered to be possessed by the divine power.
The process of jagar requires three members namely, the JAGARIYA, the DAGARIYA and the SYONKAR. The jagariya or the singer sings the ballad of gods with reference to the great epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana and is the one who leads the ritual. The dagariya is the one who acts as the medium of incarnation for the gods and the spirits while the syonkar organizes the jagar in his home to seek supernatural intervention.To clarify the purpose of this process, it is necessary to mention that jagar is very closely related to the idea of divine justice and is often performed to seek penance for a crime or seek justice for some injustice.
Often regarded as the cultural and musical heritage of UTTARAKHAND, jagar is particularly practiced in the KUMAON and GARHWAL regions. Considering the first paragraph, let me introduce you to the two types of jagar: DEV JAGAR and BHUT JAGAR .The former is defined as the invocation of a god while the latter one is defined as the invocation of a deceased person’s spirit or soul in the medium’s body. As far as bhut jagar is concerned, it plays an important role in performing exorcism of a person. Exorcism is defined as the attempted expulsion of a supposed evil spirit from a person’s body. So, by invoking the evil spirit inside a person’s body and with the help of certain essential mantras and prayers, the evil soul can be cast out of the body of the dagariya by the jagariya.
Jagar is carried out in the following steps. Firstly, the room in which it is to be performed is purified by certain sacred processes under the guidance of the jagariya. Once purified, the sacred fire which is traditionally known as the DHUNI is lit, for HOMA. Homa is a ritual, wherein an oblation or any religious offering is made into the fire. As mentioned previously , the most important element of the process , that is music, is supported by percussion instruments native to the Uttarakhandis like the HURKA, DHOL, DAMAU and THALI .After the place has been set up properly and the necessities of the process fulfilled, the actual ritual begins.
Jagar begins with the chanting of the SANJHVALI GEET, wherein all the Gods are remembered and their names are repeated and assistance is sought for the successful completion of the process. It is then followed by the BIRTVAI, during which the spirit that is being invoked upon is praised and ballads relating to his or her adventures and his or her life are sung out loud. The next stage is known as the AUSAN, wherein the beats of the HURKA and the other instruments are slowly increased in cohesion.It is during this stage that the dagariya starts going into a trance with frenzied movement. And once the spirit gets inside the body, it is thereafter questioned regarding the problems faced by the syonkar.
Now that the ceremony nears its end, KAKH RAMAN, which is the ash also known as BIBHUTI obtained from the HOMA, is applied on the foreheads of all the people present. Thereafter, some natives express their DAINIK VICHAR, which involves thinking about the provider, the God and the way he provides for us. It is followed by the priest ritually blessing the people present by praying for their prosperity, also known as the ASHIRWAD. Finally, the spirits are requested to return or PRASTHAN for their respective heavenly abodes during this concluding stage. Not to forget, there also exists another essential part of this ritual known as the GURU AARTI, which is based on the local belief that all Gods and the Demi-Gods in the local assemblage of Kumaon are believed to be the disciples of GURU GORAKHNATH and therefore, he too is pacified and remembered and his protection is also sought.
Now that you are familiar with jagar, it is absolutely fine to doubt its credibility and question its practice. You might be wondering why jagar still needs to be practiced in the 21st century, which is often described as the era that has witnessed great scientific innovations and has almost reduced our belief in the supernatural to nil. Let us try to analyze the situation from the point of view of the people residing in these hilly regions where the practice of jagar is quite common. Apparently, the bitter life of the hills and the lack of basic amenities coupled with isolation and continuous vulnerability to the eccentricities of nature, it becomes absolutely necessary to have something to fall back upon, which is considered to be stronger than the above problems. Hence, this has led people to possess a strong belief in the paranormal phenomenon and various folk gods, who have slowly gained reverence of the hill dwellers.