By: SUREKHA DHALETA
The 27th and 28th of August witnessed the Jagra mela of Mahasu Devta (in Mandhol village) and Devta Banad of Mandal village – local deities of Upper Shimla. Jagra as it is locally known derives from Jagran – to stay awake all the night. But in the form of a ritual, it connotes all night worship in reverence of the deity and singing Birsu – devotional songs. Jagra of Mahasu Devta falls in the month of Bhadon (August-September) every year on the fourth night of new-moon, on the night of Patthar-Chauth.
On the day of the Jagra, in the afternoon all the paraphernalia used for the performance of prayers of the deity are brought to a spring and washed which is referred to as the Majainj, deriving from the word manjana, literally meaning to wash utensils.
A gagar – a round shaped utensil full of water is carried from the spring and taken to the temple to bathe the deity. But what is most interesting is that as anecdotal evidence suggests – the priest goes inside the temple blindfolded to bathe the deity. The water is poured into a bathing dish and water can be seen splattered on the floor after a while, as if someone has had a bath in the dish.
In the evening, people congregate at the temple of the deity for worship. Throughout the night, a torchlight procession – Chida Pujan – is taken in front of the temple complex while singing the Birsu and paying obeisance to the deity. Earlier animal sacrifices were made as an offering to appease the deity, but wherever the practice of animal sacrifice has ceased to exist, offerings are made in the forms of gola (coconut) etc. People dance in the Maal and sing the Naati till wee hours of the morning. The annual worship of the deity comes thereafter to an end.