By Gauri Jagatap:
The Rann of Kutch is a vast, lonely desert, almost impossible to cross. Yet, some people do cross it for reasons of their own. Najab Hussain also crossed the vast desert for a very special reason.Â What was it?
That’s how ‘Love Across The Salt Desert’ by K. N. Daruwalla opens. And why just Najab Hussain? Several others have several reasons to cross the vast desert, in a seemingly endless, arid and inhospitable terrain of the Gulf of Kutch. One such reason may be said to be the Kala Dongur or as the English translation goes, the Black Hills.
The story of the Black Hills accounts back to almost 400 years. According to legend, Guru Duttatreya was praying at the Black Hills for many years when speechless animals were fed every day at his place. Once a hungry jackal came to him and Guruji didn’t have anything to give to him.Â There was an unwritten rule that no one was to go on an empty stomach from his door. For keeping the rule on, he cut one of his limbs to feed that jackal. ‘Le ang’ was what he called it, which means, ‘take my body’, to satiate the jackal’s hunger.
Since that day, everyday jackals from around are being fed with the ‘prashad’ which is prepared by Guruji’s disciples and locals from the nearby Khandva village alike. No one at the place eats anything before feeding the jackals.
As a tradition, ‘Laung Prashad’ derived from ‘Le ang’ is prepared ritually for jackals using kilos of rice as well as jaggery.
Such practices serve as a unique yet inspirational story of peaceful co-existence between man and the wild. The jackals which are naturally carnivorous have been trained to survive on vegetarian food which is a miracle of sorts as this maintains a healthy population of jackals as well as keeps them from hunting down humans for survival.
In days of mass deforestation and destruction of natural habitat, one may be surprised to note the integrity with which the locals carry out the tradition every day. While wildlife wanders around, shelter-less, the jackals or Kutch are religiously taken care of.
It is customs like these which make us aware of how religion helps propagate ideas of peace, sanctity and cooperation. Instead, the uneducated and surprisingly, even a few educated, chose to follow ‘rules’ which only prove to be detrimental to societal and worldly amity, like dowry, or marrying off young women to trees and animals.
In a land where prosperity and commotion seldom find inlet, the Dattatrey mandir stands atop the Kala Dongur, as a statement of humanity and morality. It is the sweetened rice amidst jackals amidst mountains, amidst a city of love and sincerity, which symbolizes something more than just devotion.
Yes, that’s whatÂ Najab HussainÂ crossed the vast desert for didn’t he?