The Bhopa Nayak community of Rajasthan carries with them a rich cultural treasure known as “Pabuji ka Phad.” Pabuji ka Phad is an overnight ballad performance composed of folklores of Pabuji, a semi-historical figure who lived in Rajasthan several centuries ago. This performance is not just a form of entertainment; it’s a sacred tradition that embodies the heart and soul of the Bhopa community.
This narrative unfolds on a canvas known as the “Phad,” which is a long cloth adorned with intricate illustrations and text. One of the most striking aspects of the Phad is its intricate artwork. Additionally, the Phad often depicts scenes such as traditional wedding rituals and the grandeur of Rajasthani marriage ceremonies. These depictions provide a window into the cultural and social fabric of Rajasthan.
Passed down through generations within specific families, the Phad serves as a repository of knowledge and tradition. Raju Devi and her family is one such guardian of the phad, who have preserved and performed it for the past 25 years. Raju Devi’s connection to this ballad was not formal instruction; instead, it evolved naturally as she listened to it from her grandparents and later her parents.
Raju Devi along with her husband, Jatiram Bhopa and brother-in-law Pappu Ram Bhopa and her wife Sohani devi are the custodians of this art form. While women sing from inside their ghunghat, men sing and play ravanhatta, a popular folk string instrument of Rajasthan.They are the Bhopa and Bhopi, husband-wife storyteller pairs who also serve as priests within their community. Dressed in traditional attire, with the husbands wearing colorful turbans and the wives veiled in ghunghats, they form an inseparable duo in the storytelling tradition.
Pabuji, a Rathor Rajput, is the central character of this ballad. His legends include battling rival clans, protecting the honor of women and the lives of cows, and embarking on a quest to acquire a rare breed of camels for his beloved niece. The Phad vividly depicts these heroic episodes, bringing the story to life.
In the past, the knowledge of Pabuji ki katha held immense importance within certain families of the Bhopa community. It was a litmus test for marriage, if a Bhopa knew the song but the Bhopi did not, no marriage could take place. This underscores the cultural value attached to this tradition. Today, Pabuji ki katha continues to thrive. It’s not confined to temples and fairs; it’s performed in the homes of Rajput families during joyous occasions, celebrations of achievements, or the start of new chapters in their lives. Hence, it remains a living heritage and not a dying one, enduring the power of storytelling.
Raju Devi along with her family, reside with the other Bhopa Bhopi community in settlements near Pushkar railway station. During the renowned Pushkar Fair, they are actively invited to perform. The fair becomes a vibrant canvas for their storytelling, drawing visitors into the enchanting world of Pabuji ka Phad.
Pabuji ka phad is a blend of history, divinity, and artistic expression that continues to thrive in the hearts and homes of the Bhopa Nayak community. The storytellers are not mere entertainers; they are learned individuals who hold a profound understanding of the world and humanity through their sacred art. As long as there are Bhopas and Bhopis to share their stories, the legacy of Pabuji ki katha will endure, ensuring that this captivating tradition remains a cherished part of Rajasthan’s cultural heritage.