Vrindavan, 2014.10.01 (VT):
mera tesu yahin adha, Khane ko mange dahi bada….
Tesu and Jhanjhi went to the bazaar, where they bought mango chutney,
My Tesu will stand here and he wants dahi bada to eat…
Songs such as these can be heard from the local children of Vraja even today in rural areas during the Navratri festival. In the cities it is becoming a thing of past, as the children are more absorbed in television, cricket and playing with the crackers. It also seems that this tradition is being superseded by Halloween in the big Indian cities.
“It is a lost culture which needs to be preserved”, said Shri Dhananjay Gautam a Brajwasi who is nostalgic about the tesu, or toy scarecrow.
These small children are maintaining traditions of Vraja by displaying the tesu and jhanjhi. It is an old time tradition in which children would decorate their tesu-jhanjhi and roam around the neighborhood reciting the accompanying songs.
The boys carry a small toy made of sticks and clay head, the girls in turn have a small perforated clay pot with a lit earthen lamp inside it. They go door-to-door in the neighborhood on the eve of the Navaratra and recite the traditional children’s song. Delighted with this performance the neighbors give them gifts and money.
On the day of Dusserra the children blindfold the Tesu- Jhanjhi and sing the songs in the day time. Then they immerse them in a well, pond or in Yamuna.
The tradition of the tesu-jhanjhi is related to a story of Mahabharata. At Krishna’s request, Bhima’s grandson Barbarik sacrificed his own head before the Mahabharata war. But before actually chopping his head own head off, Barbarik expressed his desire to view the forthcoming battle. Krishna agreed to place Barbarik’s head at top of a mountain that overlooked the battlefield.
At the end of the war, the Pandavas were arguing amongst themselves about who had made the greatest contribution to their victory. Krishna suggested that Barbarik’s head should be allowed to act as the judge, since he had watched the entire battle. Barbarik’s head stated that it was Krishna alone who had been responsible for the Pandavas’ victory. His advice, his strategy and his presence all had been most crucial to the victory. Pleased with Barbarik, Krishna blessed him that children would worship him in the Kaliyuga in the form of tesu. The tesu thus resembles the head of Barbarik and the jhanjhi resembles his body.
More on tesu-jhanjhi and its similarity to Halloween here.