Celebrating Spirit of Supreme Sacrifice to the cause of Human life : Young Girls Show the Way
(With inputs from Mr A S Rai, (Exe Engg,ONGC, Ankleswar ) of Utpalta)
Utpalta is one of the better known Villages of Jaunsar Bawar and the most famous of the few villages which are habitats of Rai clan. Others that come to my mind are nearby village Kuroli, an off-shoot of Utpalta itself and Gambhari in Pashgaon Khat (Patti). Headquarter of the Khat Utpalta named after the village at Utpalta itself perhaps due to the pre-eminent position of this village. Spread across the neighbourhood Khat Samalta, Utpalta Khat falls in an area popularly known as Manjhiyarna in the Jaunsar Bawar. Utpalta is also famous for producing one of the most well- known intellectuals-academicians like Late Guruji Rai Saheb and the persons of highest integrity like the super cop Shri Sultan Singh Rai. Coming to the Festival of Payanto, it is held at a very few villages in the entire Jaunsar Bawar which include, Utpalta, Lakhwar, Shemogi, etc. But the most famous/ popular is the one celebrated at Utpalta.
Why Payanto Festival is celebrated
This unique festival, Payanto coincides with celebrations of Dashehra festival in the rest of the country. Payanto in Jaunsari dialect means dowry of usable articles given away to a daughter on her marriage. This is in no way near the ugly status dowry has assumed elsewhere. Its purely voluntary and restricted to few utensils like, Thali, Lota, Bowl, Tamiyan, Parat, etc and is in no way associated with prestige or precedence.
However the festival Payanto at Utpalta is a tribute to the human values which two little girls left behind. Their demise in an effort to save the drowning one, is not mourned but actually celebrated in a grand manner. A very few must have had the fortune of their deaths being treated as an occasion to rejoice in a positive sense and also receiving tributes at the same time. The Payanto is one such occasion in Utpalta which began following deaths of two small daughters named Rani and Munni of the village. As these girls could not get the fortune to get Payanto, the offerings every year on the day is considered a part of the Payanto which was due to them
Love over-comes animosity- the story behind
The story goes like this. Over 200 years ago, there were two sweet and bubbly little girls Rani and Munni in the village. In fact, their birth had brought tremendous luck, prosperity and fame to the two clans (Aals) of Utpalta namely Benan and Pathan. It is said that these clans were often at loggerheads. But these girls as they grew up became very friendly and fond of each other. They would defy dictates of their respective elders desiring them to stay away and to respect the age-old tradition of animosity between the two clans. In fact Rani (from Benan clan) and Munni (from Pathan clan) would clandestinely take out eatables from their homes to share with each another. They also made it a habit to time their visits together to the village-well for fetching drinking water so that they could be togethar, play and have fun on the well-side.
Supreme sacrifice to save a Friend
Unfortunately, on one such visit to the well, Rani fell inside while playing by the well-side. Seeing her friend drowning, Munni jumped into the well to try save her dear friend Rani. However as both did not know swimming, they died, leaving behind a great legacy of even sacrificing ones life an effort to save a friend. Thoroughly dejected and shell-shocked, the two clans of the village decided to eschew their animosity forever and resolved to celebrate the incident as a shining example of a great event showing the way to humanity for a life full of love, affection, self-less sacrifice, etc. Thus the memories of these two little girls have been inscribed forever in the history of Jaunsar Bawar and has been kept alive by a Festival called Payanto. Payanto festival of Utpalta slowly became popular all over the area and is today the most famous of such Festivals celebrated at different places.
Five way Celebrations
1. ‘Pooja’ The day begins with one member each of the two clan families offering prayers, ‘Pooja’ in the morning at the Village Temple dedicated to Lord Batishar, considered an incarnation of God Shiva.
2. Baboi-dolls' Immersion After that the two groups representing the Benan and Pathan clans, reach the village well and immerse two bunches of Baboi a long grass specially woven into the dolls of Rani and Munni. In this way, they pay their homage to the little girls. After completion of tribute paying ceremony, Pathan group is joined by co-clan male folks of Kuroli. The assembled gentry then exchange pleasantries in the community ground of the village.
3. Banana leaf-throwing Another attractive feature of the Utpalta Payanto is the Banana leaf-throwing which takes place after assembly divides itself into two groups the Benans(on the down-hill side) and Pathans(on the upper side). Its real fun and a sight to watch as one see waves of the banana leaves and trunks flying around. This in a way reflects the affection to each-other as the banana leaves-trunks are considered pious-auspicious in the region. They thus wish good-luck to the other clan members of the village.
4. ‘Peeththapai’ People hugging each other follow this event. They pat each-others’ back and this marks completion of the formal events of the Payanto at Utpalta. This is called ‘Peeththapai’.
5. Group song and dance The assembled gathering thereafter launch themselves into a series of group song and dance performances. The guests are especially offered chance to lead the long and separate queues of men and women. As part of the excellent hospitalities, guests are treated to the local dishes and cuisines throughout the day. The celebrations then go into the evening before dinner supper awaits the guests at each home in Utpalta. Dinner is generally followed by hosting a play or Ramlila which may run-over to the next day/s as well.
Thus culminates one of the highly celebrated events in Jaunsar Bawar which not only show-case the deep sense of friendly co-existence but also reveals the great culture of guest-hospitality of the highest order.