MUSSOORIE, Jan 24
The work hard, party harder motto seems to be lived out thoroughly in the villages of Jaunsar in Uttarakhand for a month. And even though it has been almost a week since Maroj began, the fervor is still on a high. For the month long festivity with meat and homemade liquor that keeps the villagers busy.
Every family in the villages sacrifices a goat on the festival day to store meat for the coming months. After worshipping the goats and their sacrifice, thin strips of meat are hung in the kitchen. Surprisingly it is simply the heat and smoke from the chulha which is said to preserve the meat naturally. The meat is then simply taken off and fried for guests and family visiting.
And the visits mind you are plenty. In fact the entire month is about visiting family and friends and enjoying together with the meat, ghani soor (local liquor),Maroj songs and taandi dance.
Be it the young men and women working in different cities or girls married in faraway villages, this is one time everybody heads home to their villages to relive the nostalgia of their childhood.
Like Ashish Rawat who lives in Mussoorie likes to put it, “My ancestral village is in Siransu and I make sure I go there every Maroj. It is one time when we all come together and relive our memories and make new ones.”
In fact the music and feast is a much deserved break for the hardworking people back in the hills.
Like Rajesh Sajwan, village head of Sainji Village (17 kms from Mussoorie) says loudly, to cut out the noise of the drums in the background, “Maroj means reconnecting with family and friends. The grain sowed in small right now so it doesn’t need too much attention. Also after all the hard work in the fields through the year, the ghani soor from keem (A kind of disc made with grains and saps of trees used to make the liquor) and meat help us to stay warm.”
Author Surendra Pundir who has penned several books on Jaunsar traditions says the festival is centuries old, some even linking it to the Mahabharata era. “Draupadi is said to have vowed not to tie her hair till she washed her hair in Duryodhan’s blood. The sacrificial blood of the goats is said to appease her. The other logic of course is that the winters in the hills are pretty severe The meat and liquor help one to stay warm.”
The younger generations might not know too much about how or why the tradition was started what they do know however is that they look forward to it through the year.
Take for example Jabar Verma of Kandi khal, village who is delighted to spend time with his sister Sheila Devi who is married and settled in Kharak village near Nainbagh.
As the tradition goes, the men in the family after the night of Maroj, go to the homes of the married women of their families, carrying with them three types of meat, (roasted, cooked and raw) along with pakoras and puris for their families. “I came back with my sister and her father in law. Maroj is easily the most awaited festival for every family in Jaunsar” smiles Verma.