An Introduction to Dogra Culture


Culture has played a crucial role in human evolution. Today’s world is characterized as a single global-scale culture, in which people are linked together by industrial technology and markets of commercial exchange. But the apparent variation among cultures proves that every human society has its own particular culture or socio-cultural system consisted of language, ideas, beliefs ,customs ,taboos, codes works of art,rituals ,ceremonies, symbols etc. so is the Dogra culture ; the culture of the people of “Duggar Pradesh”. Politically, this region  is called Jammu division of  Jammu and Kashmir  state of India ,one of the three regions of the state and the city of Jammu is the winter capital of the state(the summer capital being Srinagar, in the Kashmir Valley).

This region is bounded on the North by the Pir-Panjal Range of the middle Himalayas ,on the south by Punjab, on the East by Ladakh and on the West by Pakistan. This is the native land of world’s renowned warriors and artists, known as Dogras. But they also live in adjoining areas of Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Northeastern Pakistan. They have their own language, Dogri which was included in the 8thschedule of the constitution of India on 22 of December, 2003.

Geographical conditions play an important role in the knitting of the pattern of the culture and Dogra culture is not an exception. Dogra region  is situated in the lower Himalayan ranges and  ecologically ,it is the land of  mountains, thick forests, barren lands and rivers; a land of contrasts and combinations. It is watered by Ravi, Tawi, Chenab, Basanter and Ujjha rivers.

Dogra culture is a secular culture of various castes and tribes, which got present shape with the passage of time. People belonging to various tribes came here, got settled and established their own power centers in certain areas of this land.  In the beginning, they had different lifestyle as well as traditions. But due to specific changes, people came together and had exchange of ritual and thoughts. Today, it is difficult to differentiate that which caste/tribe had influenced the life-style of the other. So ,Sociologically, It is  the land of nomadic tribes and civilization.

The family is standard social unit today and it has been found in some form or other at almost all levels of cultural development. We have patriarchal families.

In the olden days, there was joint family system in Duggar, which is still prevalent in rural areas.  The great-grandfather and grandfather lived among their grand children together.  The joint family sometime might have the strength up to 50-60 members in a family. They lived very peacefully as the orders of the elders were followed without any argument.

Kinship and family relations were both important in agricultural societies, as well as for many people in commerce-based societies. But for many people today living in large societies,kinship and family relations have become less important. Many people live in small families.

Economically,this land is a land of agriculturists, soldiers and businessmen.

This region is a land of many beliefs and customs and true colours of Dogra culture can be mainly seen in rural areas. Though the urban culture is changing very fast. But here is hardly any influence of urban culture on rural culture. In the present scientific and industrial age,the rural people are still very strict to their old traditions and rich rituals as it was in the olden days. Customs and ceremonies which deal with specific ceremonies for specific occasions; customs appeal because of the grace and beauty they bestow on the routine business of living till death. Since birth, the people get influenced and carry on the inherited customs ranging from pre-birth ceremony, to house warming ( Chattha), to Wedding (Byaah). Even the dead bodies are buried/cremated with all the due honors or and remembered during the Shraadh. On the religious front people fast, pray, do aarti, holi dip, donation etc. according to their religion.

Dogra land is a land where people of different religions live in harmony. The message of love and brotherhood is expressed by all the religions. This harmony is seen in the celebration of festivals and at the religious places.
Whether it’s the tomb of mosque, or Kalash of temple , Nishan Sahib of Gurudwara, Cross of church, each one appears like one of the four pillars standing firm to provide a common roof of brotherhood and amity to their followers. If Vaishno Mata is the presiding deity of Jammu, the Dargah of Peer  Farid-u-din Sahib of Kishtwar is the other shrine that protects Dogras.

Fair and festivals are also an integral part of Dogra culture. Dogra festivals are innumerable and are equally varied in origin marking the local, religious, seasonal and social fervor. The calendar is like a one long procession of festivals dedicated to various deities, saints, prophets and also seasons just like waiting in the queue for their turn. Many of these festivals are common to most parts of India, Each festival is unique in style and is characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm,feasts and rituals  especially Rahre, Sakolare, Dhamdeh, Lohri, Janamashtmi , Eids, Guru-Parvas, Charismas etc.

Reflecting the vibrancy and the multi-hued traditions of the people, fairs bring to the fore the cultural sentiments and so these are inseparable from festivals. The eruption of colours, enthusiasm and festivities, resounds the whole environment, with excitement and brings about a magic in the air. The fairs held in different places are very popular as these serve many purposes: pilgrimage, shopping and entertainment. In fact, people travel miles together to the fair-grounds of  Suddha Maha Dev Mela , Jhiri Mela, Purmandal Mela, Mela Patta etc. Fair Chambliyal has attained the magnitude of the significant common festival and people from Pakistan cometo join the revelry on the common fair-ground on the border.

Dogras live a simple living –simple dress and simple food. As this region has two main terrains : hilly and plain. And both are climatically different so the food habits of the people are also different. In plain belt in their day-to-day life

Wheat and millet are staple food besides Rice, Cereals & Maani, the whole dish is called Daal-Bhatta-Maani and in hilly belt maize is staple food besides Rice, cereals and local vegetables.

Mitha Madra ,  Shree Pulao, Auria, Ambal, Ghyur, Succhiya, Sakaran, Cchile etc. are delicacies prepared, especially during ceremonial and seasonal cooking. Non- vegetarian food was limited to Rajputs only . Khatta Meat – mutton cooked with sour pomegranate seeds or lime juice and flavoured with fumes of a burning charcoal soaked in mustard oil is the specialty of Dogra cuisine.

Amusements and entertainments form an important part of the life of Dogras also. As they are hard working and dutiful, so to compose the tired body and mind ,they have had dicing, music, dance, games and sports, festive gatherings, listening to stories and historical narratives, hunting etc. as popular means of amusement and entertainment But today cinema,T.V.have got preference over listening to stories and historical narratives.

It is said that it is art which inspires the human to create and to become the creator.Whenever a culture is talked about, the forms of the art are considered as the main tools. In this regard it can be said that Dogra culture has a rich tradition of performing as well as creative arts.

Among Dogra performing arts, folk-music, folk-dances and folk-theatre have their prominence. Though we do not have any tradition of classical music but Kaarak and Bhaakh, these two are special due to their peculiarities and styles . Kaarak issung in some special Raag and with special instrument called King where as the uniqueness of Bhaakh is that no instrument is needed. Dogra folk-dances have an important role as a part of worship, ceremonies and a pastime but the main force behind the folk-dances is the celebratory mood. Dheku, Phummani, jagarana, Ckauki, Chhajja, Kuddha, Hirana etc. are  main dances. Bhagtan, Raas , Chandrauli etc. are main folk-drama styles.

Creative art forms represent the culture and ethos of a Dogra region . Dogra region is well known for its  paintings, Dogri folk-literatue, and handicrafts. Ram Nagar, Riyasi, Jasrota and Basohli palaces are known for Mural paintings which are based on mythological themes. Approximately in the last quarter of 17th century, a movement in miniature painting came into being and that is what is known as Pahari paintings.World’s renowned miniature paintings are none else than Pahari paintings. The earliest paintings in Pahari style originated in this area are known as KangraKalam (School), Chamba Kalam (School), Basohli Kalam(School),Poonch Kalam (School), Jammu Kalam (School)etc. Each andevery School has its own peculiarities, but among these the Basohli Kalamhas been accredited as the greatest school of miniature paintings. Rasmanjari, Ramayana, GeetGobind and Ragamala ,hundred illustrations each in a set have been prepared (An introduction to Dogri Folk-Literature And Pahari Art by Laxami Narayan and Sansar Chand ,Edited by Nilamber Dev Sharma; 82)  .

Literature is the most common form of creative art and Dogri folk literature has its rich tradition comprised of prose and verse forms.

(a) Prose forms short stories,proverbs and riddles;

(b) Verse forms can be classified as under :Ballads and lyrics.

Ballads :- (a) Baaran,(b) Kaarkan, (c) Love ballads, 2. Lyrics :- These are vast and varied and difficult to mention e.g. love lyrics, ceremonial lyrics, dance lyrics etc. Dogri folk songs too range from love to heroism and sacrifice.Ceremonial lyrics give analysis of human reaction to ceremonies.

Weaving ,Wood-work and block-printing are prominent handicrafts of the region.

The introduction to Dogra culture can be concluded with these few words that the time has proven that it is inclusive in nature and stands for and by patriotism, amity and mankind. It strengthens the heritage with characteristics such as patience, sacrifice, secularity and unity. and Dogriyat is the essence of the culture of Dogras . It follows the motto of “Live and let live”and adds the same in the ever flowing stream of culture towards the single global-scale culture that I mean to say mankind.

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Shashi Pathania
Born in July, 1955, Prof. Shashi Pathania is an academically experienced individual with a doctorate in Dogri (Dogri Verb), serving through various positions (including H.O.D.) within the Department of Dogri (Jammu University) retired as Professor in Dogri. She started writing in Dogri in the year 1984 and has written prolifically in various genres of Dogri including short story and poetry and has been Co-guide a scholar at Ph.D. level for making Machine translation tool. She has been conferred Sahitya Akademi Translation Award for the year 2012 in Dogri.



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