DHAKKU and GHURAI, which is religious in inspiration and characteristically devotional in nature. The dance DHAKKU is not a dance of individual participation or of a small group, but a large number of men participate in the dance. Despite of the fact that large numbers of people participate in the dance, a complete synchronization in the hands and feet is seen with elaborate, rythmatic movements and planed steps, backward and forward. Dance is performed in three stages depending upon completion of a particular ‘ TAAL '. First stage is smooth and consistent in movement, which is called ‘DHAKKU'. The second stage called ‘DHORU DHAKKU' where in the movement gets accelerated and in the final stage called ‘LAASTI', climax of the dance is reached and spectators gets into ecstasy. Instruments used; In the course of dance are Dhols, Flute, Bells and historical important instrument ‘NARSINGHS'.
DHAKKU is performed on a special occasion called ‘KOOD' which signifies the annual religious festival of the people, some how similar to the ‘MEL' gathering of other places in JAMMU . KOOD is celebrated once but on different dates at different places. There is a central camp fire in the night, around which the DHAKKU is performed. Both cultural assests: DHAKKU and KOOD find its religious importance in vast areas from Lahul-Spiti, Pangi of Himachal Pardesh to Duddu, Basant Garh and Ramnagar area of Udhampur including Bhaderwah, Doda, Kelar, Padar and other.
The other major Dance is ‘GHURAI' in which only women participate. The name of the dance GHURAI is because of the fact that this particular dance is performed with the accompaniment of particular song ‘GHURAI' sung by the participants. Some view that the dance name is named after GORI MATA consort of SHIVA. Women observe a fast on GAURI TRITYA worship GORI MATA and seek blessing for their continued marital status. This is called KONCHOWTH Fast and the occasion is termed as KONCHOWTH. In the evening women assemble at a common place and GHURAI is performed. Widows are excluded from the fast and dance. No musical instrument is used in the course dance. They dance in a circle. At the end of each round they clap their hands gently, bend down and touch the ground and dance again.
It is a hidden fact for the general masses that these both dance which represent the Duggar dances, are basically the dances of culturally and religious rich place Bhaderwah. The matter of concern is that, this dance is wrongly pronounced as ‘KOOD'.instead of ‘DHAKKU'. The original name of the dance must be conserved and Jammu & Kashmir Cultural Academy and other organizations of state culture should promote the DHAKKU as DHAKKU.
Like Karwa Chouth that is celebrated in plains, Kanchoth is celebrated in hilly Bhadarwah. Both are celebrated by women to pray for long life of their husbands. Style is almost same. The only difference is the timing. Where as Kanchoth falls in winters, Karwa Chouth is celebrated duringsummer. Also that on Karwa Chouth women break their fast when the moon appears while as in case of Kanchoth the fast is broken after Gouri Pooja during the day. Ladies clad in their best suits and ornaments gather at the nearby water body, perform pooja and then sing Ghurai and dance one by one.
The festival though is of one day yet the festivity remains for three days. During these three days, ladies go in the neighborhood to offer ‘Thel’(respect) to one and all irrespective of creed and caste; age and sex and get in return their blessing ‘Suhagan Bho’(Live long your husband). The ladies are supposed to take food in every house they visit. In some cases it so happens that they have to take their meals in scores of houses each day. In the night ladies gather, sing Ghurai and dance at their tune. During these three days the kitchen is managed by husbands. On hilly terrain covered by snow when ladies dressed in their colourful traditional dresses move in a line from one village to another, it gives a feeling as if fairies from sky had descended on the earth.
Agriculture has been the basic profession in Bhadarwah. Paddy, maize, mustard, potato, Knol-Khol and variety of vegetables are grown here. Quality of Rajmash is so high in Bhadarwah that Rajmash of other places are sold in market by calling them as being Bhadarwahi. Agricultural activities begin on first of Chet every year. After a long spell of winter when earth becomes clear of snow, people irrespective of their creed and caste take their oxen to the nearby field, perform their pooja by putting a ‘tilak’ on their fore-heads and ‘gur’ in their mouth and plough the land. The ritual is done by every male of the family including small children. Women folk dig the land with ‘kudali’. The day is called Dharamdees (Pious day). In the preceding night, a large ‘Thali’ filled with rice, coin and gur is placed at the feet of the family deity. Next day, before dawn someone from the family goes to the nearby ‘bawli’ to fetch fresh water. It is supposed that one who fetches the water first of all is blessed by the God almighty. The pot of fresh water is then placed near the ‘Thali ’ called Kamrath and some gur eaten from it. This is done by every one from the family one by one.On Dhar-amdees people avoid going to each other’s house believing that their going there would caste good or bad effect on the family for the whole year.
Bhadarwah has been the land of God and Goddesses also. Its famous Gods and Goddesses are-Chandi Mata, Sheetla Mata, Bhole Shanker and Vasuki Naag. Among them Chandi and Sheetla have a great significance for people of Bhadarwah. Every village has a temple of either of the two deities and presence of their nishanis (Tridents) at every hill top, every cave and under old trees bears testimony to the fact that the two deities have had a great impact on the civilization of Bhadarwah. Though people throng darbar of Seetla Mata at Nalthi, Chinote, Haddal and Kansar round the year to pay their obeisance, the main fair is organized at Rehoshira temple where on eighth Navratra of autumn every year thousands of people from across Bhadarwah and adjoining Chamba district of Himacahal Pradesh, Bani Basolhi of Kathua and Ram nagar and Dudu- Basantgarh areas of Udhampur reach to offer their respect to the deity Goddess. Perched on a hill top, a long and tiresome trekking to Rehos-hira makes the journey memorable. The fair becomes all the more interesting because on this day hundreds of rams are offered to Mata as sacrifice. They are beheaded, their meat cut in pieces and distributed among the devotees as Prasad to be relished at dinner. Amidst chanting of Bhajans in praise of Mata the devotees spend the night on the hill top making Mangal in the jungle.
Piala is attributed to Lord Shiva. Like Kanchoth, it is also celebrated by Bhadarwahi people only. Paste of Kodra flour in boiling water is made and then put in a large earthen pot called ‘Matt’ for three days to ferment. The fermented substance is called ‘Piala’ and is considered as Prasad of Shiv Ji. ‘Piala’ is prepared by selected team of experts called ‘Bhandaris’. On the third day relatives and other people from adjoining villages are invited to take the Prasad. On the occasion feast is served to the guests that generally comprises of meat of the rams slaughtered as sacrifice in the name of Shiv Ji.
Similar function is organized by Brehmans and other backward classes separately. Whereas in case of Brehmins it is called as Ghanchak, the other one is called as Bagni. All the three functions are conducted under the guidance of head priest called ‘Guru’ and he is from Yogi Family of Bhadarwah a tradition that has been going on for centuries together. Shivratri is also celebrated in Bhadarwah with full gaiety.
Besides Shakti and Shiv Pooja, Naag Puja is also an important aspect of Bhadarwahi culture. The process begins with opening of ‘Dara’(gate) of Nag temple at Subar Dhar on last day of Chet every year. The temple is closed before onset of winter that experiences heavy snow fall making it virtually impossible to reach the place. On that day a huge procession of devotees belonging to Bhadarwah and its surrounding villages converges at Subar Dhar temple. They perform puja of Subar Naag and then dance on the sprawling hill amidst blooming mountain flowers and flocks of flying butterflies at the enchanting tune of traditional music played upon large drums and pairs of flutes. This is followed by puja of Vasukinag at Vasak Nag Temple, Bhadarwah the next day called Baisakhi. On second day, puja of Vasuki Nag is performed at Gatha temple. Puja of other Nag deities like Budhu Nag at Bheja, Chatterbhuj Naag at Mathola, Vasuki Nag at Nalthi, Shantan Nag at Sartangal is also performed on their annual Jaterday separately.
As has already been mentioned, Bhadarwahi is predominantly an agricultural society. The agricultural activity begins on first of Chet and ends in the month of Magher before the harsh winter begins. But the intensity of such activity spreads in two phases. One from sowing up to ‘gudai’ and another harvesting in the autumn. In between, farmers are almost idle. During this time people of Bhadarwah celebrate by organizing fairs and festivals locally called as Jater and the process continues for long three months. Jater are annual celebrations dedicated to Nag deities. On this occasion relatives and friends are invited for a dinner that comprises of mutton dishes. In the morning specific puja of rams to be sacrificed in the name of the deity are performed which make them tremble. When the rams tremble they are slaughtered believing that their sacrifice has been accepted by the deity. Every house performs the sacrifice and during the night a fair is organized at the local Naag temple where people dance at the tune of the traditional Dhaku music amidst chanting of devotional slogans. Jaters begin on 1st Amawas of Sawan and ends up on Purnmashi of Katak every year. Hirai, Rotran, Shadu and Malcheh are main Jaters of Bhadarwah. During this time some pilgrimages are also undertaken and Kailash yatra and Manimahesh yatra are some of them.
After harvesting it is time for organizing marriages. Marraiages in Bhadarwah are mostly arranged ones. Dowry is not a curse in Bhadarwah. Parents of the bridegroom give whatever is in their means. Though marriages in Bhadarwah are not expensive, their festivity is far impressive. Relatives and guests arrive on the first day of the marriage ie. Mehndi and leave only after departure of ‘Dulhan’ or her arrival. For these three days atmosphere in the house of the marriage remains festive and lively.