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Tracing the Antiquity of Jhumur – I

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Dr. Nachiketa traces the antiquity of Jhumur. It dates to the Vedic era and predates the Buddhist period. In the first part, he explains the song and the stage, its content and philosophy. A cultural asset of the Chotanagpur, this subaltern folk song and folk dance is our cultural property. An exclusive for Different Truths. 

Just three decades ago, what I saw on most villages of Jhumur country, slightly away from the hamlets, open places used as open theater, under temporary round shaped straw shed raised of bamboos. Jhumur song with indigenous orchestra were latent with devotions surrounded by rural people. Time: dusk to dark mid night. One might see those performers under kerosene light in summer, rainy or chilling night sunken in dew. Colorful audience are held in sway by stage singer’s attitude.

At the center of stage, adorn Radha-Krishna idol or images. Deep blue-green colored Krishna, yellow robe, floral garland, flute in hand, right leg bent and crossed in front of his left; left arm around Radha. Radha the golden colored, large-eyed beauty compared with moon. A devotional orchestra consists of main singer and instrumentalists having attitude of Gopis.

In Jhumur, the instruments are bansuri (bamboo flute), srikhol (earthen drum with leathery heads), metallic paired cymbals. Lyrics unfold the story of Radhakrishna

Instruments are bansuri (bamboo flute), srikhol (earthen drum with leathery

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heads), metallic paired cymbals in Jhumur. Lyrics unfold the story of Radhakrishna interpreting human or divine narratives. Music starts to hypnotise and a divine dream takes over. The main singer sings the first (Kali) couplet of the lyrics, no Gourchandrica (introductory narration) are sung as in Kirtan, and the rest repeat it in chorus. The melody is sweet to accustomed ears, exciting and subtle. It is clear that the melodies and rhythms of the couplets, and of each song, are harmonious, musical, meaningful, declaring superiority of human love. Poetic brilliance is rare.

Content and Philosophy 

Krishna’s departure from Vrindavan to Mathura, is the best part of poetry or lyrics as it deals with the song of separation, it moves us all with heart-wrenching longings and desires. At the same time, passion, desire, longings, union, separation and sacrifices are spoken of about man and god.

Krishna is rather the next-door neighbour, a teenager, who is roaming around. You have to guard your teenaged daughter from him. There are playful banters.

This Krishna is different form that of the Lord in Bhagavat Gita. Here, he is hero of mainstream Indian people of North India, representative of cowherd region (pastoral people). He is not a prince, friend, or adviser of Mahabharat. Krishna is rather the next-door neighbour, a teenager, who is roaming around. You have to guard your teenaged daughter from him. There are playful banters. Vaishnava philosophy describes Krishna as a lover and beloved, agency of giving and receiving joy – it is approachable only by bhakti, by devotion and selfless dedication.

Jhumur as Cultural Asset of Chotonagpur 

A proverb runs in Chotnagpur plateau, if they voice it, it is song; when they move, it is dance. Jhumur is the traditional art-song and folk song for recreation among the assembled ethnic community of Santal, Munda, Ho, Kurmi and others. It is the exclusive assets of Jharkhand-Odisha-Bengal, the common belt of the then Chotanagpur, which is now addressed as folk song of Manbhum. Obviously, Jhumur is exclusive for its own lyrics, meter, beat, and musical composition. The folk song is always embedded with earthen simplicity, fragrance of the soil, and spontaneous fluency of life and people.

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Jhumur is the traditional art-song and folksong for recreation among the assembled ethnic community of Santal, Munda, Ho, Kurmi and others. It is the exclusive asset of Jharkhand-Odisha-Bengal, the common belt of the then Chotanagpur, which is now addressed as folk song of Manbhum.

Likewise, Jhumur was never treated as only entertainment among the people of Jharkhand or the then Manbhum. Still they celebrate Karam, Badna or Sohorai festival singing Jhumur. Meticulous research reveals whether it started from the era of Charyapada (Pre-medieval) and being nurtured till date demarcating ancient period, medieval period and modern. People say when Jhumur was luckily been granted, greeted and elaborated by Royal (feudal) adoption, Jhumur raised its height as art.

Jhumur influenced Vaishnava literature as evidenced by the songs of Vidyapati, Chandidas and Jaydev following Vaishnav tradition of Braj, known as Pustimarg. Getting Royal patronage, the literature and art form of Jhumur flourished in Bengal (Manbhum) during the medieval and colonial periods, separately, under the sponsorship of zamindar (feudal lords) of that region.  When it lost royal attention, it became liberated asset of the masses. Several Charankabi (extempore poets) emerged, other than Krittibas Karmakar of the modern era.

Jhumur in Literature 

Reference of Jhumur has been included in Sangeet Damodar (musical treatise of medieval period by Sri Suvankar) but believed as ancient as Atharva Veda. Actually Jaaowa (ritual) is the genesis of form of dance and song related to agro civilisation of this arid Manbhum. Jaaowa transferred into Karam festival (agricultural celebration) culturally, where from Jhumur was derived by the craftsmanship of woman.

A quotation of Sangit Damadar (1556-1606) during Akbar (Mughal empire) era runs as, “Praya sringara bohula madhwikaka modhura mriduu/ekaibaba jhumuri loke barnadi niya mozajhita,” may be translated as, “Erotically affluent, as honey and wine, soft and tender, as loose and free from grammar.” Jhumur is ancient, indigenous, whereas Kirtan evolved at a later period. 

Jhumur is older than Vaishnav movement, even the lore of Buddhist and Sidhhyacharyas are its forms. It is one of the best forms of six traditional music form of India

Jhumur is older than Vaishnav movement, even the lore of Buddhist and Sidhhyacharyas are its forms. It is one of the best forms of six traditional music form of India (recorded by Padarasa Saar Nimananda Das cited in Aini-e- Akbari of Abul Fazal).

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Jhumur lyrics were written in Bengali, Kurmali, Odishi, Panchporgonia (Indian regional language). Sanskritisation (a process of cultural hegemony) silenced and censured the cultural activity of marginalised people, they tried to copy the cultural environment of higher dominant strata of the society to remain culturally active. Folklores were also sometime incorporated into Sanskrit literature for enrichment. Other than the emergence of regional language, sub religious movements were means of Sanskritisation. It resulted in Jhumur songs being pushed to the margins, its poets were the subaltern composers.

Ancient literature of Greek or Latin, including Sanskrit are classic. In the musical world, the genre which persists for centuries, adored by intellectuals and the masses are also classicalised.

Single handedly, Raja Sourendra Mohun Tagore (19th Century), Bhatkhande and Paluskar (20th Century) in the field of music have preserved it.

In pre-independent India (the Colonial period) national movement was organised in order to revive the different forms of arts, including music. Single handedly, Raja Sourendra Mohun Tagore (19th Century), Bhatkhande and Paluskar (20th Century) in the field of music have preserved it. Indian Margi Sangeet (classical music) was revived, rejuvenated and reformed, which is now honored as classical Hindusthani Music from 20th Century onwards. Kirtan, the devotional song, an ancient music genre may be the precursor of Dhrupad (classical genre). Kirtans are also classical so far it is uncorrupted. Classical or folk song both deserve orchestration. Sometimes inter convertible. Regional songs and folk melodies lived long. Evolution of folk songs lead towards classical song as evidenced in Jhumur.

Cultural Property 

Cultural plurality is the characteristics of Indian way of life. Thousands of ethnic languages, hundreds of cultural varieties, numerous musical and dance forms, evolved spontaneously through the ages. Such art forms have been innovated by thousands of folk musicians from the ancient period. In most cases innovated by subalterns and improvised by super ordinates, sponsored by feudal wealth, whereas classical songs improvised by talented community, sponsored by elite during urbanisation.  Enclosed herewith the argument of Mukherjee runs as “In both the classical and folksong, there was a place of orchestration. There was no difference in between them; if that did not happen, there should not be any possibility of constant exchange. Folk melodies, regional songs and even non-Indian melodies were sustained under the umbrella of classical songs, and this new classical song also influenced the folksong.” (Ref. D.P. Mukherjee; Introduction to Indian Music. Bharatiya sangiter upokromonika, 1984)

(To be continued)

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