Baisi is a 22-day long traditional ritual that is performed in the pahadi villages of Kumaon and Garhwal in Uttarakhand. It is mutually organised by two or more villages once in a year.
In this ritual, any person who takes part as a devotee has to stay in the temple (in Pahadi language, we call it ‘Dhuni’) for 22 days. The devotee goes through a strict routine — eating once in a day, performing Arti three times a day, bathing every time one goes to toilet, calling your wife ‘Mayi‘, or mother, walking barefoot for miles, asking for Bhiksha (seeking food) and Dakshina at every house, even at the devotee’s home, while chanting Bhajans and slogans.
Each activity performed is a lesson learnt. In Indian spiritualism, Bhiksha is an integral part of the search for Moksha (liberation), and calling your wife and other women ‘Mayi’ inculcates a sense of respect towards women.
While performing the Arti, the kind of steps, which seem like a combination of Asanas and Namaskar, performed by each devotee activate the mind and centres of energy of the human body system. The music in the Arti is the medium through which the gods or the inner soul is invoked. The singer (in Pahadi, we call him as Jagariya) sings a ballad of the gods from the great epics of The Mahabharata and Ramayana, in which the adventures and exploits of the almighty being invoked are described. The Jagariya uses the musical instruments Hurka, Damaru or Doonr, Dhol, Damau, Thali and Ransingha. This whole activity or art is called ‘Jagar’, or awakening the soul.
On the 21st day of the ritual, all devotees go for a snan (bathing) in a river nearby a sacred temple. the snan is similar to stepping into a new life, freeing yourself from self-doubts and negativity. Finally, it ends with a bhandara, where all devotees celebrate their new life with their devotee friends, and the bond they make during these 22 days with each other is worth cherishing for lifetime.
It is a scientifically-proven fact that any activity performed continuously for 22 days becomes a habit. By this, we can say that our ancestors knew about it and designed this ritual to be able to transform human lives, so that people get to know their inner self better, and help them to bring desired changes in their individual life.
I use to go to watch the whole ritual when I was a child, but never thought about it deeply. But recently, after a long time, when I visited my homeland, Bandhara, Jalali, which is about 37 km from Ranikhet in Uttarakhand, especially to attend this ritual, I saw it very closely and was surprised by how knowledgeable our ancestors were. I think nowhere in our country will we able to find such a ritual, where a common person is doing all sorts of work, while seeking God in himself, in just 22 days . It is something that needs to be preserved and respected.
But unfortunately, the participation in Baisi is declining each passing year, due to migration of people from their very roots, i.e. their villages, to the cities, in search for jobs. Yes, it’s true, and unfortunate, but the least we can do is visit our village at the time of Baisi, so that our next generation gets to know about it and its importance. It’s a responsibility of parents to pass on the cultural heritage from their generation to the next one.
(I urge every pahadi who is reading this, to visit and attend Baisi once in their village, and feel the energy of the almighty in yourself)
Jai Ma Bhagwati, Jai Golu Dev, Jai Bhumi Dev
Featured image is representative.