Rooh ji Rehan

Rooh ji Rehan unravels the emotional and spiritual world of pastoralism through its poetic narratives. Some of the most evocative folk music and poetry has sprouted from the pasturelands of our country; with pastoralists expressing their love and entwined relationship with the grasses, shrubs, rain, animals as they roam the land in search of food and water. Pastoralists have also emoted through a range of musical instruments – especially wind instruments. The musical and spiritual traditions of the herding communities are a reflection of the landscape, of deep man-animal bonds, and the poignant uncertainties of a mobile life led under starry skies. These traditions are best personified by some of the wonderful singers of Kutch, most of whom are pastoralists themselves.
Saidu Ibrahim, a singer from Dhumado, becomes one with the grasslands of Banni as he signs Bhitai. His earthy voice reverberates with tranquility as he signs about his native lands and animals.
Sumar Kadu Jat, Mitha Khan & his fellow Waee singers come from Bhagadiya, Kutch. They are keeping a complex form of singing that involves high pitched calls to god; a way to express the deepest desires to the almighty.
Welcome to this rooh ji rehan – a gathering of souls- where poems, songs and stories are shared, questions asked, yearnings expressed. Living closely with the elements, as herders do, can bring forth deeper inquiries. Where have we come from? Why are we here? Cast the gaze of a poet around you and every element of the landscape- moon, mountain, camel, cloud, hurricane or river- begins to glow with hidden meanings.
You hear many voices here- Sindh, Kutchi, Gujarati, Hindi- some of recent poets and some of poets who lived many centuries ago, who stay alive because they sung, shared and quoted in the day to day lives of the herder communities of Kutch.
So take a pause. Allow stillness. Move with heart. Let the songs speak to your soul.

Eyes of the Sky

Eyes leap like stars across a sleeping world in the imagination of the Sufi poet Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai, a deeply loved voice in the life of Kutchi herders, and in Sindhi cultural life in general. He lived in the first half of the 18th century, eventually settling on top of a ‘bhit’ or ‘mound’, away from towns and villages- hence being called ‘Bhitai’ (the one of the mound). Latif often speaks in the voices of strong women – Sasui, Marui, Sohini – real women who lived many centuries ago, but whose tragic love stories grew over time into widely-loved poetic legends evoking powerful feelings and ideas. As we journey through a day in the life of the herder communities of Kutch, we also implicitly journey through a dream universe sketched by Latif’s poetry- where one quarrels with the moon, and eyes have secret trysts with the Beloved.
Don’t look with the eye
Of worldly love
Those who seek open-eyed
Find him missing
Only they behold him
Who close their eyes
I Scrambled to Stop these Eyes, Shah Abdul Latif Bhitai
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Mountain The upside down yogi

Legend goes that centuries ago the great yogi Dhoramnath – in a state of repentance after destroying the city of Mandvi – decided to do tapasya (meditation) on a lonely hill. First he climbed the highest hill he could see in the north, but ‘weighed down’ by the immensity of his sin, it shrank becoming ‘Nanao’ (small). The second hill he climbed too couldn’t bear the burden of Dhoramnath’s guilt, and collapsed coming to be known as Jhurio, or ‘broken down’.
Finally he found a sturdy mountain – the ‘patient bearer’ Dhinodhar – on which he stood upside down on a betel nut for 12 long years of intense mediation. He was served by a Charan – cow-herding woman – who would bring him milk during these years. The gods grew alarmed with the power of his penance, and asked him to stop. He warned them that when he opens his eyes his gaze will burn whatever comes in front of it. So they turned him to face the sea. The blaze from his opened eyes scorched the sea, leaving a lush grassland in its wake – called Banni. Imagine – a land born out of the power of meditation!
The moon so close to the hill- What a wondrous sight!
As though a radiant Radha leans over
To whisper in her dark lover’s ear
Clouds cluster her moon-face Like tousled locks
The Black Hills of Kutch, Aal
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Desert Walk and Burn

Perhaps there is no landscape more evocative of ‘viraha’ – the pain of separation from one’s Beloved – than the desert. Sasui has set off across the harsh desert of Thar in search of her beloved Punhoon. The sand dunes, sun, wind, sky, earth, rocks and mountains are her only companions in her tough walk from desolation to self-discovery and freedom.
Sasui was a Brahmin girl abandoned at birth by her parents and raised in Bhambhor by a childless Muslim couple. When she grew up, she and prince Punhoon of Ketch, Baluchistan fell in love with each other and planned to get married. Punhoon’s father – king Ari Jaam – was incensed at the ‘ill-matched’ wedding, and plotted to bring back his son. Punhoon is abducted by his brothers on the wedding night and carried away on camels across the desert to Kutch. Next morning, Sasui, determined as steel, sets off alone into this desolate land, without any provisions, in the pursuit of her retreating beloved, eventually perishing in the hot sands.
Sasui knows that the path to her Beloved, her truth, her own true self, cannot be without strife and suffering, just as herders know that no journey can be without pain. Her walk resonates with the walk of the nomads. For them, Sasui represents their commitment to always keep moving and braving all odds.
O camel-mind, shed your laziness!
The road to the beloved I straight.
It’s not crooked, so give up your groans
Quicken your pace
So that I may meet him tonight
Oh Camel-Mind, Shed Your Laziness!
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