In Jammu an annual fair is held to commemorate the Dogra folk hero Baba Jittoo, a simple and honest farmer who preferred to kill himself rather than submit to the unjust demands of the local landlord to part with his crop. Here are few interesting things about Jhiri Mela:
- The Jhiri mela that stretches for nine consecutive days is the second most attended fair preceded by the fair of Pushkar in Rajasthan. Such fairs are like jewels to our culture and traditions and also pave a way of social gathering hence promoting unity.
- This annual fair celebrates the feeling of righteousness. Jhiri, a village, located at 15-20 km distance from Jammu and this fair is organized in the month of either October or November during Karthik Purnima (late autumn full moon).
- Legend has it that Mehta Bir Singh gave Jit Mal, a piece of barren land after signing an agreement that he would take one-fourth of total production. Jit Mal worked hard and his dream was realized. When he turned the barren land into lush green field, which yielded a rich crop, Bir Singh g0t the news about good yield and he arrived at the field along with his men and ordered to lift three-fourth of the crop and left behind only a quarter.
Jit Mal pleaded the Bir Singh to follow the terms and conditions of agreement but all in vain. The helpless Jit Mal, was not even supported by nearby farmers and was left with no solution. Incensed by the injustice, he preferred to take extreme step and stabbed himself while sitting on the heap of crop, leaving all grains drenched red with his blood. According to this folklore, he uttered his last words, “sukki kanak nain khayaan mehtya, dinna ratt ralayi” (don’t eat raw wheat, Oh Mehta, let me mix my blood in it).
- After hearing about injustice done by the goons of Mehta Bir Singh, his daughter Bua Kori, located the dead body with the help of pet dog and lit the pyre and burnt herself along with father. It is also said that after this, a fierce rain storm raged the area and spurt of blood stained grains and washed it away. All those who partook those grains suffered a lot. Realizing this, the people of the area asked for forgiveness by worshipping Jit Mal (Bawa Jitto) as “family-deity” and Samadhis of both father and daughter were then raised at the site. They made it mandatory for their next generations to pay annual piety at his Samadhi.
- It is being told that after farmer and his daughter’s death, a heavy storm hit the village and spoiled the entire crop by painting it in red with blood stains. After this, whosoever dared to eat that crop was cursed with a bad omen and suffered from various diseases. So, in order to save themselves from the curse, people started asking for forgiveness and since then they are worshipping the farmer as “Kul devta“.
- There is also a grand Pacca Talab popularly known as Baba-Da-Talab, where people take customary bath and offer prayers of regret. During the Jhiri Mela, people from all walks of life take a holy dip, which has miraculous power and is believed to have curative powers particularly about skin diseases. It is also believed that issueless ladies after taking dip in the Talab, are blessed with a child by the grace of Bawa Jitto and Bua Kori.
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Various camps and exhibition stalls are organized during Jhiri Mela by State Government departments to increase awareness among common masses and farming community and make them aware about the various programmes and welfare schemes being implemented by them for their benefits. Cultural programmes depicting rich cultural heritage of Dogras, entertaining shows, dangal, toys shops, sweet stalls, merry go-rounds, gaint-wheels, etc. are other major source of attraction of this annual mela.