Rut Rahde is the name of a local festival in Jammu that was, till recent times, celebrated with great fervor and gaiety. The festival especially designed for the women folk is one of the most colorful fetes of the ‘Duggars’ of the region. Through its various customs and activities, the festival gives a strong message about environmental conservation, thus being one of its kinds.
According to the Vikrami calendar, the festival falls on the first day of ‘Aashard’ and continues till the beginning of next month, ‘Saavan’.
The four Sundays that fall within this period of one month witness the major highlights of this festival.
Rut Rahde is a festival that is mainly celebrated in villages. In this festival, the women, especially young girls form groups of 4- 5 members. They then select a corner in their house and clean it with a mixture of mud and cow dung. This is done to make the place pious and religiously pure. This step is then followed by using the neck of earthen pots (Rahde) and then placing them on the pious platform. Ideally, the pots used need to be in odd numbers (starting from 5), with the biggest pot (Tamma Rahda) in the centre and the smaller ones surrounding it. The pots are now filled with soil and seeds of the kharif crops(maize, rice and gram ) are sown into it. These pots are beautifully decorated, symbolizing life and rejuvenation.
Each Sunday, the women folk assemble in one of the houses and celebrate together, dancing to the tunes of the folk songs. Traditional ‘Duggar’ dishes are prepared and thus a lavish meal is ready. The menu includes ‘Khamera’ (yeast bread), ‘kiyur (a pancake prepared from wheat flour), Babru (a sweet dish) and the very famous ‘Rajma Chawal’. This practice goes on for a month and on the last Sunday; the entire village assembles at the nearby river, bidding adieu to the month long festival in a traditional manner.
The earthen pots are a major attraction in this festival. These pots are intricately decorated using natural colours. Red is derived from the bricks, yellow from turmeric, white from the wheat flour and green comes from crushed leaves. The women who decorate these pots compete amongst themselves and on the last Sunday of the month, the village heads choose the most artistic Rahda (earthen pot) and thus declare the winner.
Through its various customs, this festival gives a strong message of environmental conservation. The purification of houses in order to place the earthen pots reflects the importance giving to sanitation and clean surroundings. The seeds that are sown in the earthen pots help the people to test the quality of these seeds for the coming Kharif season. At last, the designs that are made on the pots are dominated by plant and animal motifs. This further symbolizes the concern of the people towards conservation of bio- diversity.
The Bridal Link
The festival of Rut Rahde has a major role to play in the life of the newly-wed women. According to the tradition, the brides visit their maternal homes in this month and ‘play’ Rut Rahde with their friends. The bride brings along with her bags full of special gifts given to her by her in-laws. Looking at what all she has been gifted is a major craze among the friends.
Reviving the Tradition
The festival of Rut Rahde was a major carnival in Jammu till the modern era. But with increasing modernization and lack of interest among the youth, the festival has now got confined to the exterior regions and the backwards villages. But the recent times have fortunately seen the rise of many organizations that have shown interest in reviving this women oriented festival. A special mention can be made of the ‘Duggar Sanskriti Manch’, a NGO that has been in action for the past 25 years, trying its level best to revive this festival that holds a very crucial place in the history and heritage of the ‘Duggars’.