Bhartha | Recounting the divine life

Bhartha (in Kullu, lit. “news”)
Ganai (in Saraj)

Bhartha is a story–a religious mythological legend–giving narrative of the life of a deity. In a bhartha, goor narrates–in first person–events from birth till final settlement at present abode of deity; place of origin, travels, conflicts, ancient people and other deities met on the way, etc. Bhartha is thus an autobiography, a “divine autobiography” precisely.

Bharthas are oral and revealed (by deities) through goors who are considered not to have learnt or memorized them. Bharthas are considered secret; recited once or twice a year, mostly in isolation, and that too in a not so easily understood language, “devbhasha” or gods’ language.

Following is the bhartha of Devta Shangchool of Teel (Sainj Valley of Kullu). It’s taken from a research article by Mr. Tej Singh Thakur, published in a 2012 SACH news-letter.

¹ Indicates a person’s name
² Indicates name of a place
³ Indicates a deity’s name

Faraway in the mountains, in a country called Basu Desh², I was born without parents–from a lotus–I was born myself. From there I went to Gadgadsar², where the snowy mountain peaks were colliding against each other.

One step forward I reached Shakti², where a Kamadhenu³ was milking herself under a tree–pouring milk onto the earth. I made it the place of myhonour. At that time Shakti and Moror² were each inhabited by sixty people. They were all bad and did obscene activities, sparing not even the elders; they were prosperous but indecent. I decided to finish them. I warned and asked them to behave. Only the youngest one came forward. He begged me for mercy and promised to remain in my service. I was pleased with his request. Then, using my staff I flooded the place with lake Raktisar². All the Marechhas and Tanguls were washed away except the youngest.

Leaving the place behind, one step forward, I reached Mail². It too was a place of bad-mannered people, uncivilized; washed dirty utensils inside their living rooms and called their mothers in ugly language. Here, five Marechhas came forward and challenged me. So in a small fight I killed them all. I posted guard there and left.

I reached Shensher², inhabited by the Khasha¹ people. They all were neat and clean. Amidst the walnut trees I made my place and left, handing that over to Risha³ to look after.

After crossing the river I reached Shanghar². Here a cow poured milk under a cedar tree. With a hit of my staff I divided the meadow in two halves. One for the cows and one for a Brahman’s son for my service and worship. The local chief came to capture me and put his tents in the meadow. He didn’t heed my objections. So, I placed a lion on one side, God’s serpent [Dragon] on the other, fire on the third, and myself on the fourth. With this I destroyed his whole army. He came with folded hands begging for mercy and accepted me as his family god. From that day I banned shouting, firing and putting tents in this meadow forever. This place I made highly respected for my worship.

One step forward I reached a mountain,Thini². There I met Aladoo Gudal¹, who came there for Guggal Dhoop [a herb used in prayers]. I asked him to accompany me and he agreed. His container reached his place [Gada²village] the same day, while he reached after seven days. There [Thini] I played with Jognis³ and gave them gifts before leaving.

One step forward I reached Mannon², the place of Kande Nag³. He was naked in his dwelling. I gave him clothes and made him my God brother, which is still the same.

Moving ahead I reached Balah². This was the village of a famous Tantric,Udeu Bardayhe¹. He used to harass all whom he met with his magical powers. He challenged me and I accepted. We were supposed to make a blanket of flowers [Mandla] on the river water. The longest lasting flower blanket be the winner and the loser had to die. My blanket stayed for more than two and a half ghadi [1 hour] while Udeu’s got destroyed within one and half ghadi. Before being killed, he asked me to be his family god, and also that my priest be only from his clan. I agreed and till today the priest is from his family.

One step forward I reached Bhau². There I played game of throw ball, and Chossar with Jognis³. After that I took part in some romantic dance with them and thus started Phag and Phaguli [dance festivals] there. From that place I reached Mohani Dhar². Five Marechhas started showing eyes to me. So I finished and buried them. I placed a black smith above, so that by his hammer’s hit their evil spirit won’t rise again.

Moving ahead I reached Nagani² and started a dancing fair to please Nagani³. From there I reached Raiyalu². Here god Raiyalu³ was weeping under a bushy tree, tanialah. Upon asking for the reason, he sadly replied of not having a good area to rule over. “I only have Khun² and Khanala²”, he said. That area was full of bad people. So, he wanted Mohani². Back then, 8 families were in Mohani and 60 in Muhadagad². Mohani was under Markandey³. With a hit of the mighty staff I threw dust from top to bottom and from bottom to top. At the same time, with a hit from a blue bull, I threw Markandey to Sarndhi². I gave Mohani to Riayalu and set up brotherly relation with him.

Moving back, I reached Sandha². A powerful Marechha lived there. In the night he uprooted cedar trees thatI’d planted during the day. He threw ash of his fireplace onto the way in front of his house. He also washed household utensils, particularly used for having food, inside his living room. Moreover, he challenged me for a fight. Therefore, I killed and buried him. That’s why, I go there regularly to crush his evil spirit from coming out. I placed my right foot there and made that place too, my own.

One step back I reached Taghiyara². There I danced and moved forward and reached Pouri². Here I distributed sattu, made a ground as my dancing place and left. After that I reached Sarandhi². There were Jognis and Panch Veer³ beside a pound. Since they did not trouble me, so I marched forward. Then I reached Shidany Nag². He and twomarechhas, deep in the forest, did not trouble me and I went ahead.

I reached Fathepur², Jamaiyan³ was the ruler here, the ruler of seven areas. I distributed six of them among different deities and kept one important area for myself. I kept the power of lightening and pouring hailstorm with him.

One step backward I reached Palicha². There were five Marechhas thrashing crops with wooden sticks; abusing, and hitting each other with the sticks. They were priests of Jamaiyan and Chhoi³. They challenged me and i told them,”I am here to finish you”. Youngest one came to me promising his service. He also assured that he’ll arrangeJagra [bonfire] every third year in my respect. So I spared him and killed the others.

Moving ahead I met Jamu Nag³ on the way. I told him that I am there to finish him. He requested not to kill him and offered his service. So I placed him as main guard at the place named after him.

Then I reached Bachhoot², god Narsingh’s³ abode. I made brotherly relations with him. Here I also put my right foot, and made it as my main place.

One step forward I reached Gada². This was Aladoo’s¹ village. I made a member of his family my permanent representative.

One step forward I reached Marach², HQ of Marechhas. This I destroyed.

One step forward I reached Kanayali². There were two blacksmith women, Sangla¹ and Bangla¹. They bathed, in a copper bathtub, openly. They used to uproot my cedar trees that I’d planted during the day. So I killed and buried them in Jalaha Gad². I placed a blacksmith over, so the evil spirits won’t rise.

One step forward I reached Chhuad, place of god Chhoi. I established brotherly relation with him and exchanged trees for remembrance. I gave him a cedar tree and he gave me a bushy tree, kuduchho.

Then I reached Khanoshi²; there was a temple of Marechhas there. Khokhunu Nag³ was their god. One Jadwalu¹ and one Patshangru¹ were their religious heads, the Mehtas¹. These Marechhas were so rich that even their dogs and cats wore golden chains and rings for special occasions. I destroyed them completely and dumped them in Chhuad.

Moving ahead I reached Raushi². There was a resident of this place named Raushu Kol¹. I told him that I was there to kill him. He requested and asked me to be the god of his country. He promised to serve and worship me. I spared him and handed over my main band to him.

Then I reached Teel². Here a widow came out with lighted incense to worship me. From that day I allowed even widows to worship me in Teel. I made it my main place of worship. Here, I have banned shouting and abusing forever.

Moving ahead I reached Nahaseri², a big field about 4km from Chheaidhar² to Janaadi². A Marechha named Khima¹ was ploughing this with his oxen, Neelu and Nagnu. He did 2.5 rows in a day. There was a lake above the field in the mountain. So big that if one saw it for the first time, he’d die to shock. So, I decided to close it. With a single hit of my staff I broke the mountain. Khima, his oxen and one fox got buried alive. To remember three innocents [oxen and fox] I started a fair to confess my guilt.

Then I moved forward and reached Hion Dhar². Here I placed my right foot and made it my resting place.

One step back I reached upper Kanyali, a deep forest covered with trees and small ponds of fresh and clean water. I made it my permanent residence. Its vastu I made different from all the others. This I measured with spider web. There were ten families in this area at that time, which I called as Marach. Prominent men whom I still remember were Tanhu in Teel, Khama in Khamarada, Jama in Jamach, Baroo in Bachhut, Chhana in Chhunar.

Though religious and mythological, bhartha/ganai nonetheless can put some light on rather vague ancient history of Kullu. The history of which, when writing, the scholars always face inadequacy of material.

So, in-depth research and analysis of bharthas–of all devi-devtas–with a scientific perspective could prove helpful in knowing Kullu’s history.

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