Rode Village (Amritsar) March 2009
In Rome –Bacchus the God of Wine may have countless lovers, bedfellows and followers through the ages, but nothing could quite beat his craziest fans …in a tiny hamlet of India.
As spring arrives, ‘Bhoma’ also Popularly referred to as Baba Rode village, just 20 Kms from Amritsar in Punjab prepares for its annual cocktail. With huge drums some even fitted with indigenous taps and stirring ladles, to be filled with the fiery liquid to be poured in steel glasses for devotees.
Strange as it may sound, liquor finds its way as a holy offering at the ‘Samadh’ or ‘Mazar’ (tomb) of Baba Rode Shah in this tiny village. Not only, is it the only offering acceptable at the shrine but is also given as ‘Parsad’ (return offering) to devotees.
It is one of the strangest sights in the world perhaps, to watch women, children, share glasses of spirit with men in their sozzel-ed worst in a 3-day soiree from March 22 , during the Baba Rode Shah Mela (fair), as guzzlers are consumed by the spirited cocktail.
While consuming liquor is considered the ultimate sin in some religions, it hardly finds any respect in societal acceptance due to Health Issues, but flows in merriment at Mehfils, pubs, clubs or fashion parties and Page 3 dos.
However undeterred by its notoriety, the liquor has found an iota of acceptance and even ‘reverence’ during the 3–days of its unabated flow in “holy -glory”.
Lakhs visit the tomb during the fair while hundreds of thousands throng the site even before the start of the 3-day “Binging” on alcohol. Devotees at Mela flock for an ardent Wish or at Wish-fulfillment in a gesture of Thanksgiving …carrying …lo & behold !!…bottles of the finest wines and whiskies or even pouches, polythene bags- shopper bags, buckets, cans filled with even country brewed liquor, that find their way into a mixing drum, as holy offering.
All the liquor offering is then mixed in a container, irrespective of its foreign origin, kind, expense or emergence– into a heady potion and distributed as ‘Prasad’.
Mind you! No policewalla dare stop or cause any inconvenience during the drinking revelry that follows, for fear of incurring the wrath of the holy ‘Baba’.
People having faith in Baba Rode are seen offering prayers for jobs, resolving legal and court cases, marital happiness, to have a child, wishing to go abroad, find a seat in an institution and many weird wishes to come true.
The scene near the Samadh is seen to be believed with homo sapiens strewn around the place as if a great battle has taken place.
Devotees report that the stink of liquor can be felt from miles. It is the only time when a tiny tot boy or girl will call cheers with their father …although not so blatantly.
This time, amongst liquor revellers and drummers who played the drums at the mela the catchy Punjabi Pop Number by Hard Kaur …”Ek Galasi, Do Galasi, Teen Galasi CHAR…” found some crazy puppets and rag-doll dancing by devotees swinging limbs in all four directions in wild abandon, while less sozzeled –laughed and laughed holding their stomachs in pain before joining the weird groups .
Along with this mumbo-jumbo dancing, Devotees get to enjoy some of the choicest and mouthwatering roadside delicacies during the ‘pilgrimage’ , with the likes of chicken Tandoori, fish Amritsari and Mutton Tikkas Stalls –.The most delicious and famous cuisines of this entire region crop along roadsides, during the festivities.
Though rationalists pooh-pooh the claims of miracle cures at the shrine, the Mela at the tomb of Baba Rode draws a big crowd.
Interestingly, it is a little kept secret that some leaders from various political hues too are ardent followers of the Bacchus –Baba.
Legend has it that Baba Rode, the son of Sham Singh, a farmer, belonged to a Jat Sikh family and was a “teetotaler”.
The ancestral village of Baba Rode was Dhiman (Damodar) in border area of Gurdaspur district.
It is believed that Baba Rode moved to a village near Bhoma in 1896 and lived on the outskirts. His sister was married in this village.
People believe Baba Rode started blessing to help people in distress.
It is believed that once a devotee of Baba Rode offered him liquor in gratitude for a wish fulfilled and the Baba who distributed all offerings to his disciples also distributed the liquor offering among his disciples.
Later, this became a big tradition though Baba Rode died in 1924.
To the delight of villagers here, the tradition is still alive where drinking is considered ‘macho’ among men , after the hardworking Punjabi farmer turned into Landlords, lording over the migratory labor from poor states of Bihar and Orissa, who toiled in the fertile soil of the region to make the Punjabi farmer prosperous.
The once hardworking Punjabi farmer became lazy and fell into “aiyashis” of all kind including consuming liquor in groups in the evening. For these villagers at daily ‘Mehfils’ …..Baba Rode Shah’s Mela is indeed ‘Godsend’ having holy blessings to match!
We also do Media Organizing and offer Public Relations Services in Punjab