By Ram Panjwani
Those who sail comfortably across the sea of life are the worshippers of Uderolal.
Greetings to you all for the new moon of Chet (the month of April), and good wishes for the New Year.
Old Man Winter has rolled up his carpet and departed. Spring has come and blooms in all its colourful beauty and vitality. Birds sing and fill the air with their sweet syllabilings. Mother Earth has become young again.
When Basant Panchami arrived, we knew that spring was not far behind. We, too, therefore, put on the garb of spring, the garb of our own flaming youth, and made merry. When Shivratri came, we knew that old Man Winter was almost dead. We sang the praises of Mahadev and sought the blessings of Kapleshwar. Came mid-spring and Holi, the festival of colour, of song and dance and merry making.
We sprayed coloured water on friends and relatives, smeared their faces with red powder, gathered together in a theatre and held musical soirees, sang the praise of Saraswati, and let ourselves go for the sheer joy of living.
Now Cheti Chand has come, the new moon day in the month of Chet, the month of April, and we celebrate the coming of the first moon of our New Year. We sing and dance and frolic. We take out the Bahirana and pay our homage to the God of the Waters, to our River God Uderolal. We sing our song of gladness to the lilting melodies, breathed out on the shehnai and beaten out on the drums. The air itself seems to dance with the gladness which gladdens our hearts.
The new moon comes every month; but the moon of the New Year is distinct and unique, a thing apart, for it is pasted on the forehead of Lord Shiva in the likeness in which it first emerged from Amritmanthan, the nectar of the gods, which itself rose from the waters when the ocean was churned. The month of Chet, the first month of spring has come again. Gardens are in bloom and joy reigns everywhere. This day, this new moon day of the first month of spring, is a sacred and historic day, for it was on this day that our Amarlal, variously known as Uderolal, Dulhalal, Jalapati, Jindo, Zindo, the very incarnation of God of the Waters, took birth in the land of Sind. He came to us on this sacred day in response to the pleadings of the people, in response to the call of their love, their agony. He came to protect their religion, to breathe the breath of vigour and vitality and courage into the weak and the faltering; he responded to the suffering and wailings of the downtrodden to take victory to Hindus wherever they lived.
Shivaji Maharaj fought against the Moghuls. He cut them down to size and took the Moghul Empire on a sort of merry-go-round. Guru Gobind Singh fashioned lions out of jackals, eagles out of sparrows, to defeat the enemy, to exterminate him utterly, to deal a body blow to the oppressors. In Sind, Uderolal, with his divine power, subjugated Mirkh, a fanatical official who had become a symbol of tyranny. And that is another reason why we pay our homage to Uderolal, this divine victor; and our hearts take wings and our joy knows no bounds when we look at his enchanting picture as he rides on a horse, now with a naked sword in his hand, now with his saffron flag held aloft, his crown fluttering against his forehead. When Shivaji went into battle, he lustily raised the slogan: “Victory to Bhawani!” When Guru Gobind Singh raised the banner of revolt against the oppression of Aurangazeb, he lustily shouted. “Sat Sri Akal!” (God is Truth). But we raise a simpler slogan. We simply shout with gladness and out of the fullness of the heart “Jhulelal swing, swing, O Lord”, for he is the lord of the land and the sire of the sea.
He is the symbol of light, this, lord of ours, and he is the supreme deity of the waves and the waters, generally riding a pala fish. When we place his picture in the cradle, we sing a lullaby to him as we rock this cradle to and fro and put him to sleep for the night, this beloved of ours whom we worship as Amarlal, as lord of eternal life.
Uderolal is the patron god of the Sindhis. They worship fire and water because both are sacred to him, and he is their presiding deity. And this patron god of theirs is easily pleased, even with such simple offerings as those of rice and flowers. He is the lord of human hearts, and there is nothing that he wants from his devotees — nothing other than the homage of their faithful hearts.
Ratan Rai of Nasarpur (Sind) was indeed a very fortunate man, for it was in his house that this patron god of the Sindhis was born in the evening on the first day of the month of Chet, the new moon day, in 1007. He was named Uday, but soon came to be known as Udero, one who has been praised in the Vedas, one who is close to one's heart, dearer than one's eyes. Only think of him or remember him; and he will be with you in the twinkling of an eye. It would be no exaggeration to call him Varuna Devta, the god of the waters.
Temples have been raised and shrines built to Uderolal in many parts of Sind. When, after subjugating Mirkh, he set out on a tour of Sind, shrines were built in his honour wherever he went, at Sroghat and Shahi Bazar in Hyderabad, at Larkana, in Jhijhan, at Bukkhur, Nasarpur, Manora, Mangha Pir, Lar, Sehwan, Shikarpur, Sukkur and Thatta. In India, too, you will come across many such places all over the country - temples and shrines where the flame, once lit, is never allowed to go out. In the past, it was the Thakurs who were considered the recognised devoted disciples of Uderolal. Now every Sindhi pays homage to him and sings his praise.
Lal Sain (Uderolal) laid stress on unity, on the supremacy of intelligence and of the intellect, and on breaking down the barriers of caste and creed. In order to promote and ensure this unity, the Sindhis celebrate the day of Cheti Chand and refer to it as 'Sindhiat' day, sacred to all Sindhis, be they Hindus or Muslims. On this auspicious day, fairs are organised all over the country, where people get together. They sing and dance; they eat and drink sweet drinks of milk mixed with pounded poppy seeds and ground almonds. They sing penjiras (series of couplets in praise of the River God) and Arti, songs that express their love of, and praise for, Uderolal.
But more important than all these is the fact that at these get-togethers, efforts are made to popularise Sindhi art, literature and folklore. For, though Sind is no longer shown on the map of India, it nevertheless exists, a very real and vital thing. Sind is everywhere where Sindhis are located. And, though it is not a part of India any more, it still finds mention in the national Anthem, thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru's generous appreciation of our contribution to the diverse culture that is India's.
Some friends often advise us to forget Sind and lose our separate identity. They are welcome to their opinion. But how can we forget Sindhiat, the way of life that is unique for the Sindhis? Someone once asked me: “But what is Sindhiat?”
I replied: “The special qualities of the Sindhis - the qualities that make them what they are.”
“But what are these particular qualities?”
I was taken aback by his ignorance. But I held myself in, and said: “All right, I'll tell you.
The first quality of a Sindhi is self-sacrifice and forgetfulness of self. Like Rai Diach, a Sindhi would say: “If my head is of any use to you, I'll cut it off and present it to you.' Every Sindhi is a potential Rai Diach. Did not every Sindhi make a sacrifice and willingly abandon the soil where he had taken birth when the call for this sacrifice came from Bharat Mata, the Mother of us all?”
The second distinguishing quality of a Sindhi, I said, is that he wishes everyone well. When he prays for Sind, he prays at the same time for the well being of the whole world. He tells you: “You're my friend, my loved one. May God bring prosperity to you.”
Third, he is a good and a loyal friend. He believes in the old adage, “once a friend, always a friend,” Marui, Moomal, Sasui and Noori - these are the legendary heroines of Sind and symbols of all that is best and finest in the Sindhis. When Sasui was advised to give up Punhun, to abandon him and forget him, she replied: “Even if my flesh becomes food for animals, my bones will move unbidden towards the home of my beloved Punhun.”
Fourth, a Sindhi would do a good turn to one who has done him an ill turn. He would say with Shah Abdul Latif: There's no one like you who returns good for evil.
Fifth, a Sindhi does not believe in confrontation He never hits back:
Let them say what they will,
But never a word should you speak in retaliation.
Sixth, a Sindhi is a Sufi, above all considerations of caste and creed. He does not discriminate, for he loves humanity. A Sufi is above time and space, fads and fanaticism. Yet isn't it wonderful that he helps even those who are hostile to him?
Seventh, a Sindhi would not demean himself, would not do anything that would make him lose his self-respect or the goodwill and good opinion of others. Like Marui, he sings : I shall not be lured by the glitter of gold.
Eighth, a Sindhi is very hospitable. For him, a, guest in the house is a god in the house. He would say, with Moomal: If he graces my house with his presence, I would, for his comfort and well being, sacrifice myself and all that is dear to me.
Ninth, a Sindhi is the very embodiment of humility. He does not boast; he is not proud, not even when he has attained a top position of wealth and influence. He would say, with Noori: You are king, I'm a nobody, full of faults and foibles: And I suffer from many shortcomings.
But enough. If I continue to dilate on the special qualities of the Sindhis, volumes would be filled.
Time and again, our poets and saints have given us glimpses of the light that has lit up the soul of Sind. It matters, not at all whether these saints are Hindus or Muslims, for saints have no religion, or, rather, they are the essence of all religions, for their religion is the worship of God. And God is one, though he may be known by a variety of names.
Call me what you will. I am what I am.
Let no one fear or imagine that Sindhiat, the Sindhi way of life, would dominate the Indian way of life. You might as well fear that the river will swallow the ocean. The river, after all, merges in the sea, becomes one with it. In other words, this current of water is a river in the place where it originates and the places across which or through which it flows down to the sea; but once it merges in the sea, it loses its individuality, and becomes the sea itself. This is equally true of Sindhi culture of India. Let the river flow for ever as a river - a river which symbolizes the affection, unity, culture, art and literature of Sind.
Today, Sind is no longer shown on the map of India, for it is now a part of Pakistan. Yet Sind is everywhere. Wherever the Sindhis are, Sind lives and breathes, a vivid and vital thing, for everywhere the Sindhis have held aloft the banner of their individual identity, even though they have merged with the peoples of the areas in which they live.
The Sindhis, who have been trading beyond the territorial limits of India, are known as “Sindworkies” - that is, those who work outside Sind. Centuries ago, when a sea voyage was potentially a thing of menace and of danger, the Sindhis took courage in both hands and ventured out into far off lands to engage in trade and commerce. They went to different parts of the world - to Java, Sumatra, Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka), Japan, Africa and many other countries. And they travelled by ships that were comparatively smaller and relatively unsafe as compared to the modern, ocean going liners, and they felt they were under protection of the god of the waters. But before they embarked on a sea voyage, the Sindhis, both men and women, offered their worship to Uderolal for their safe home-coming. This is the main reason why they worship Jhulelal or Uderolal as the incarnation of the god of the waters and as their own patron deity.
The first day of the moon of Chet has come again, and we pray to the lord of the waters: “Oh, Amarlal, let us live our lives in dignity and with self-respect. Protect the weak, and guard the chastity of our womenfolk. Bring prosperity to those who flounder about in poverty, food to those that are hungry, and hope to the hopeless. Let us not be dependent on, or at the mercy of others. Give us this day the good sense to be united and strong. And grant that we live in amity and happiness and that we may have wisdom and enlightenment.”
Beloved, once when, you cast your benevolent eye on us,
We reckon not, nor care for anything,
When we fall upcn difficult times,
You ever abide with us,
Great and holy one, you alone are
the protector of the weak.
I was once asked whether the story of Uderolal had any historic basis. I said:
“When you celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi, do you ever ask whether it has any historic basis? When you read stories of Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu, do you ever ask such a question? When you read the life stories of Ramachandra and Krishna, do you ever have any doubt about their authenticity? When Lord Shiva cut off the head of an elephant and fixed it on the headless neck of his son in such a way that the elephant head seemed to be a natural part of the infant god, do you question the validity of that story? Or the validity of the story about Shri Ganpati riding on a mouse? How did it happen that the waters of the Jamuna receded as soon as they touched the feet of Lord Krishna, as he was being carried across from Mathura to Gokul, or how, at the birth, the gates of the prison house flung open and the chains that bound the prisoners broke. How long did Lord Krishna take to communicate the lessons of the Geeta to Arjuna on the battle-field of Kurukshetra, and why did not the Kauravas attack during that period? Lord Krishna had 16,108 wives, Were they his wives or were they symbolic of the infinite desires of a human being the control of which makes man akin to a god? How did Lord Rama reach Shri Lanka on foot? and how did the monkeys build a bridge across the waves to Sri Lanka? How did Lord Shiva swallow the poison hidden in Amrit manthan and hold it in his throat, which became blue and he came to be known as Neelkantha as well?
Every story, every narrative contains an inner significance, a wisdom that is not apparent on a superficial view of it. For example, there is the Sanskrit word mooshak, meaning a thief. This word mooshak becomes moosh in Persian, and mouse in English. In ancient Prakrit it is mua which, in Hindi, becomes chua and in Sindhi kua. Lord Ganapati rides the mooshak because the word also signifies a thief. Death, too, is a thief, for he steals life. When Lord Ganpati rides the mouse, he controls this thief of life, for the god who presides over the commencement of any worthwhile task must necessarily ride the mouse, or in other words, acquire power, control, supremacy over time.
Underolal is the lord of the waters, and the waves. Without water, no form of life is possible. Every community, every country, has its own patron deity. What does it matter whether or not the story of this deity has any foundation in fact? Let us forget facts, forget history and remember only the tremendous enthusiasm and faith he inspires in us. Let our love and passionate belief in him move us to raise our voice to the greater glory of our Lal, our Jhulelal, for he is our salvation. It is he who shall forever make fresh and green the garden of our dreams and who will ferry us safely across the sea of life.
(from Sindhi ain Sindhyat)
Thakur Chawla adds :-
Prof. Ram Panjwani was the first and foremost founder of “CHETICHAND” celebration. The celebration was initiated at Mr. Nanik Motwani's bungalow (Chicago). Where he announced that 'We Sindhis' will celebrate our Jhulelal Sai's Birthday every year and address it as our pious festival and named it as “Chetichand”.