While searching for a beautiful location in the midst of hills, we found a beautiful guesthouse. It was highly generous of Aunty ji to let us shoot in the yard of the guesthouse. The guesthouse was very artistically designed. The yard overlooked the skies and the hills. Very soon, the artists came. We were shooting Rajinder and his wife. The couple had been singing for 20 years. They are basically from Bharmour but they live in a small village called Mangla with their family. They belong to the Gaddi community, a community well known for their art and culture in Himachal.
Rajinder was having his ruvana on his shoulders and a bag on the other, which presumably contained the gaddi costume and other instruments. Anyone could have easily seen the excitement in his eyes. We were busy preparing for the photoshoot. We were adjusting microphones, cables, cameras, and other devices so that there wasn’t any mess during the shoot. After a while, we asked the couple to handle us their instruments. The couple was apparently reluctant to give their instruments, initially. We found it quite strange. After some chit chat, Rajinder told that his ruvana is nearly a hundred years old and he seldom gives it to anyone outside his family. He gave the ruvana and other instruments to us and left to change into traditional costume. We too were excited to learn about a new instrument. Ruvana is a string instrument which is usually played with a dafli-like instrument called khanjari which is made up of leather. Both of them are rare and are played only by the Gaddi community in Himachal Pradesh. Even though the art form is getting depleted day by day. Playing Ruvana is a tough cookie because one has to play it with one hand while playing khanjari with the other and sing simultaneously. It is simply fruit of diligent hard work that Rajinder learned to play the instrument. We enquire more about the rare instrument. Rajinder tells, “ye ek prachin yantra hai sudama ka, jo ki shri krishna ke bhakt aur dost the. Wah ye bajate the ”
(It is an ancient instrument by Sudama, ardent devotee and friend of Lord Krishna. He used to play it)
“Mene gaana tab se sikha jab me 10 saa ka tha. Phir 9 saal ke lagadaar kadi mehnat ke baad, maine kisi tarah gaana aur ruvana aur khanjari bajana sikha”
(I started learning it when I was 10, then only after nine years of continuous hard work, I somehow learned to sing and play ruvana and khanjri.)
His parents were a constant source of inspiration and it took it years to learn it and start a practice to sing and play during events. Music runs in Rajinder’s family and it is tough for him to get away from this art form.
“..Ji ye kala humne apne pita se sikhi aur unhone unke pita se. Ye aise hi chala aa raha hai”
(I learned this art from my father and he learned it from his father. It goes on this way)
Rajinder and his family are dependent on music for their livelihood. The couple goes to villages far off to give their performance and get money out of it. Apart from singing and playing music, he writes songs as well. All his brothers sing and music is generally the main source of income in the house. He got married 25 years ago and after their wedding, Shakuntala entered into the world of music. Rajinder taught her to sing and play music. Twenty years of singing together is clearly visible in their performances. One can easily hear the sweetness of the music in their songs. Simple, sweet and adorable is what they describe their style of music and we can’t help but agree to it, after hearing them for the first time. Initially, they proclaimed that they were a bit intimidated by seeing such huge cameras and other instruments but when they started singing, it was like they got transported into another world. Their whole heart and soul were in their singing and they didn’t care much about who or what else was around them. It explains that they clearly feel what they sing in each and every performance.
Rajinder generally performs Musada Gayan. It is like a jagrata in which chapters of Ramayana, Mahabharata and Shiv Purana are sung overnight. The first song they sang was, “Hari Om Namah Shivay!” (Oh, Lord Shiva! I bow before you!) After chanting the shiv mantra, they sang the first song, Shiv Darshan. In this hymn, there is a vivid description of the physical attributes of Lord Shiva. The Lord of the Lords is wearing wooden slippers, skin of a leopard around his waist, rudraksha garland around his neck and Ganga is running out from his hair. The hymn describes the mythical tale of how Lord Shiva dresses like a monk and pretends to ask for offering in the street of Gokul in order to see the infant Krishna. The conversation between Lord Shiva and Mother Yashoda is intricately discussed.
“..Baalak Darshan ko aya Yashoda, baalak kyon chupai”
(came to see the infant (Krishna), why are you (Yashoda) hiding him?)
When Lord Shiva comes to visit Yashoda’s home dressed as a saint, Yashoda, being a possessive mother, doubts his intentions and doesn’t let him see infant Krishna.
During this time of rapid technological advancement and westernization, people don’t give much acknowledgment and appreciation to folk music as compared to western music. Due to this Rajinder faces a series of problems. People insist him to sing on different topics rather than religious folk tales. Rajinder and Shakuntala can’t help but write and learn new songs as demanded by the people. The second song he sang was called “Thekedarni”. The song is based on the sarcastic and humorous conversation between a couple. A young man goes to his lover’s home as a guest and asks her to serve him and take care of him.
“inna badhiya jo tudka laya ho thekedarniye”
“as khayi piye mauj manana ho thekedarni ye”
He wants to take rest, feast till late at night and have a tight sleep on the bed in the courtyard of his lover’s home. He teases her by saying that then they have the night, only God knows when else can they enjoy a night like that.
Meeting this couple elated us. There wedding has a strong bond by the virtue of music.