Tag Archives: Pakistan

Sufism: Qalander and the Tradition of Jhuley Lal

Context: Some research showed that other sources spell Qalander and Jhuley Lal differently than informant JL, a former federal senator from Pakistan, did. This may be because of translation to the romanized alphabet, but the different spellings are Qalandar and Jhulelal. Regardless, Qalander is a Sufi, likely referring to Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, who lived in the 12th century and was buried in Sindh, which JL notes is his former country. Below, JL relays his knowledge of Qalander and his annual tradition of dancing. 

Main Piece: Transcript:

JL: One of the Sufis, his past name is “Qalander”, who is a very popular sufi. He also has an annual event, and his event is also marked by dancing… Even though he is a Muslim Sufi, most of his followers are Hindus because they believe that this Sufi is a reincarnation of a Hindu god… called Jhuley Lal. The word Jhuley means in the local language “the rocking” like dancing… and Lal actually is the red color. He used to wear red dresses always and he always used to dance going around in circles. And that is why people go in his tradition, and they all dance and most of them also wear red clothes. So you have a Muslim Sufi who is a reincarnation of a Hindu god. And there were people in millions even coming from across the border who are Hindus, and of course you also have Muslims. It is also in my former country, it is in the province of Sindh… His shrine is in a city, where you have the annual event where people will go and dance…

JL: So what happens is when the region was locked by terrorists for a time, who were hardcore islamists, they wanted to put a stop to this dancing, as you can understand you have man and woman rocking together at the shrine. Maybe 10 to 15 years back, the terrorists had actually planted a bomb in the shrine… and the bomb exploded and about 150 people died. And they thought that by doing that they would put a stop to all these followers coming to the shrine… And the tradition was that every morning at 4am they would ring the bell. And right after that explosion which probably took place at night, on the dot at 4am the caretaker of the shrine rang the bell and people came back to the courtyards and started dancing and nobody was afraid, so the tradition continued. 

I continued to ask JL about the strength of the belief in Sufism (for more, see Sufism: Festivals). He told me that, for the Sufist’s belief, so long as you were dancing and following the tradition of the Sufi, nothing bad would happen to you. The tradition of Jhuley Lal was so strong that not even a murderous bombing would stop the followers from dressing in red and dancing in the courtyard. 

Thoughts: Sufism is a firm belief system whose followers believe in devoutly in the hope that it will bring them good fortune. Even through death and tragedy, their devotion to Sufism did not waver, and I think that makes Sufism and its festivals powerful traditions. There’s certainly something to be said here about Sufis as role models for a population. The community of Sufists believe in these Sufis because of their positive qualities, and they practice traditions like dancing in red dresses so that they can imitate those positive qualities and find good fortune. 

Lazy Donkey Tale

Context: The following is an account from the informant, my mother. It was told casually as both entertainment and to teach a lesson at the same time

Background: The informant heard this from her grandmother in her mountain village. They remember this for the entertainment value that the story provided as well as for the moral advice.

Main piece: 

There was once a merchant who loaded his salt onto his donkey and took it to the market every day. On the way, they had to go through the forest and pass over a small stream. One day, the donkey slipped as it was crossing that stream, and the salt on its back dissolved in the water. As it stood up, the donkey noticed with glee that its heavy load had lightened considerably. 

Remembering this the crafty donkey made a plan. From that day on, every time he crossed the stream, the donkey purposely dove into the stream and pretended it was an accident. However, the merchant understood what the donkey was doing, and one day he loaded the donkey up with cotton instead of salt. When they reached the stream, the donkey once again plunged into the water. This time, however, his burden was increased several times over, and he was forced to continue with the sopping wet cotton on his back.

By the time that the donkey reached the market, it could barely walk. The next day, the merchant put salt on the donkey’s back yet again. However, the donkey didn’t fall into the stream this time but passed over it without issue. It had learned its lesson from the previous day and didn’t try to act up out of laziness again. 

Analysis: This fable is similar to many others with its inclusion of animals as characters and a negative characteristic resulting in a bad outcome, leading to the learning of a lesson. Although it is a specific version of a story, this seems very similar to any such story that might have been told around the world to children in order to teach them not to try to take advantage of things and be lazy, or else there may be consequences.

Budda Baba: Pakistani Boogie Man

This is the transcribed conversation I had with a friend of mine from Pakistan about what is essentially the Pakistani Bogeyman.

About:

E: What can you tell me about the Old Man?

A:  Throughout my childhood I would be frightened by the “Budda Baba”, which translates to “old man” in English. This was an icon in the childhoods of many Pakistani children as their parents would use him as a scare. An example from my life that happened the most was that my mother would say that this “Budda Baba” would come if I didn’t go to bed. I would immediately go to bed and hide under my blanket, trying to hide from this fictional man, and by doing so I would eventually go to sleep.

E: Was there any narrative or tale associated with Budda Baba?

A: None that I know of.

E: Did any of your friends experience similar of instances of being told Budda Baba would appear?

A: Many of them, but most instances were when they were misbehaving.

E: Around what age did you first hear about this and until what age did you believe it?

A: My parents first told me about Budda Baba, in the prior example, when I was around 7 years old. I believe it till around 12 when I figured out what my parents were doing.

E: Is it as relevant today?

A: Yes, my younger sister is ten years old and my parents and extended family still pull the Budda Baba on her.

E: What value does this still hold for you, if any?

A: I was never a very disobedient child but it did overtime reinforce the idea of parental authority. Although it is a pretty good way to get your kid to listen to you.

Reflection/Analysis:

I found the concept of the Budda Baba intriguing. For one the threat of the old man is rather vague, the only information is that he would appear and is visually menacing. I feel as though one of the factors contributing to this fear is how ambiguous it is and the possibility of how morbid it could be. This reminds me of Scandinavian folkloric tales of monsters who would kidnap, torture, or kill misbehaving children, though those stories have more grim endings. I also believe the translation of the monsters name should be noted. Since it’s an old man rather than some horrific beast, I think it reflects a sense of respect for elders and double as a parallel of a patriarchal society.

Urdu childhood rhyme

Context: The informant is a college-age male whose parents are both from Pakistan originally. He was born and raised in the Los Angeles area. He currently lives in Southern California in a joint family and has also visited Pakistan multiple times since he was very young. His extended family in Pakistan includes many young uncles and cousins who are closer to his age than his parents’. The informant recalls his older cousins would say to him, jokingly, when he was in trouble,

“___ ke bacche

daal daal kacche”

which literally means “___’s child, uncooked lentils”. He elaborates that this was meant as a warning, to scare him into an apology for some misbehavior, because it was always said a precursor to someone “tattling” on him to a parent.

Analysis: The informant explains that it is a saying that everyone, including himself now, says to children younger than oneself. He says that he has never thought about the meaning, and only remembered and said it regularly when teasing his younger cousins because it gave him a sense of authority over them (since only people older than you would say it to you, usually) and because it rhymed, so “it was easy to say and easy to remember”. He continues, “It was just, like a fun, teasing thing to say to the little kids, like you would joke with them but you wouldn’t actually get them into trouble.” From his own words, the informant seems to have recast the saying, not as the veiled threat his older relatives would use against him, but as something to relate to younger kids with.

From a more objective perspective, lentils are one of the staples in many Pakistani diets (i would venture to say, in many South Asian diets too). Uncooked lentils, however, are not very useful. So the rhyme could be commenting on the “bad boy”‘s or “bad girl”‘s lack of worth–no one wants you if you’re going to misbehave. Also, it could be a veiled warning that you’re about to be “cooked” or put “in hot water” or “raked over the coals”–that is, punished. The significance of not referring to the child by [his own name], but by “the child of [his own name]”, could be a reference to the fact that South Asian cultures are patriarchal and patrilineal, so knowing who the father is, is very important. Calling a child his/her own father may be a veiled way of saying they have no father and are therefore the object of shame.

Tuntun-Tuntun-Taara

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Chhat par billi bhaagi hai,

Neend se (Baby) jaagi hai

Billi ne chuhe ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Galli me bola chawkidaar,

“Choron se rehna hushiyar”

Chawkidaar ne chor ko maara

Hai!

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

Baje raat ke baaran

 

Translation:

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock (Chorus)

Tuntun-tuntun-taara

It struck 12 o’clock

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat ran along the roof

(Baby) woke up from her sleep

The cat killed the mouse

Hai!

(Chorus) x 2

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

In the street the guardsman said,

“Beware of thieves!”

The guard killed the thief

Hai!

(Chorus)

Analysis: For some reason, similar to many Western nursery rhymes and lullabies, this song is a particularly violent one. It talks about the elimination of a small threat (a mouse) and then of a much larger, much more serious threat (a thief). But this elimination takes place in a very definitive, violent manner–murder, essentially. Unlike Western lullabies, however (some that come to mind are Rockabye Baby, Rain Rain Go Away, Old Daddy Long Legs, and Sing a Song of Sixpence), the violence is not perpetrated on children or seemingly innocent bystanders, but on entities who do pose a real threat to the health and safety of the child and indeed the whole family and therefore could be said to “deserve what they got”. Mice spread disease and could ruin a family’s crop and thereby cause them to starve. Thieves also could cause financial ruin and would not hesitate to do away with any family member who discovered them robbing the house in the dead of night. In rural areas, or places that didn’t have a very trustworthy law enforcement and protection system, the idea that there were people (or animals) that would be able to protect a child from harm must have been very comforting.