Jhumur, one of the ancient traditions and oldest folk art forms predominant mostly in Purulia district (West Bengal) and the adjacent regions around the Chota Nagpur plateau, has its own nuanced, prolonged yet lesser known history of development.
For centuries, Jhumur has been a way of life for the local communities like Rajwar, Kumhaar, Kudumi Mahato and tribal communities like Oraon, Munda and others. The beats, rhythm and the essence of the song overtly speak of the everyday life of the people. Thus, songs of Jhumur have an unmistakable connection to the social, political and obviously, the climatic and topographical conditions of the region and its people. That explains why traditionally, apart from the recurring motifs of love and longing of Radha-Krishna and episodes from epics, poets and composers of Jhumur songs also incorporated topics like social issues, natural calamities and hardships of life in their songs.
Previous Kaahon Folk Update:
Now if we wander along the pages of history in an attempt to explore the initial or primitive form of Jhumur, we will find that it was originally devised as a work-song. While working on their fields, the tribal communities used to sing songs which lifted their spirits and increased their productivity. These songs therefore had simple rhythms, easy tunes and were composed in local language. Gradually, these songs got associated with different harvest festivals and ultimately with the indigenous folk rituals and other social festivals, like Karam, Tusu, Bhadu, Sohrai, Chaitali and so on. Songs initially associated with each of these festivals were thereby brought together which culminated in the organic blend of Jhumur. Hence in terms of style and essence, Jhumur has such close resemblance to the individual songs of these festivals.
Following the Bhakti movement and the advent of Vaishnavite belief sweeping across Bengal, the flow of Jhumur took a distinct religious and sensual turn. Tales of Radha and Krishna and their love and longing for each other became a frequent topic of Jhumur songs, thus, bringing in the theme of love, both devotional and carnal, in its close ambit. Along with the content, the Vaishnavite movement strongly influenced the form of Jhumur songs as well. By gradually merging with the ragas of Indian classical music, a new form of Jhumur emerged by the name of Darbari Jhumur which literally translates to ‘Jhumur presented in the royal court’. As its name suggests, Darbari Jhumur initially received royal patronage from local princely states and later the wealthy Zamindars and Babus or the nouveau riche became its primary patrons.
Over the years, the flow of Jhumur has never been one-dimensional. Rather it has frequently changed its forms whenever necessary! In this update on Jhumur, a conversation between the teacher and student, between the past and present, has been presented to observe this transition closely where the present never negates the past but takes the lesson from it and remodels itself according to its needs.
But one thing is certain; no matter how the form changes or how it is presented, the soul of Jhumur will always be the same. Even though Jhumur is performed throughout a wide region from Chhattisgarh in the west to western regions of West Bengal in the eastern India, it is in the Purulia district of West Bengal where its influence can be felt at the highest level. Jhumur is deeply rooted in this land and its cultural psyche. Therefore, as long as the land and its people are there, Jhumur will keep flowing and growing ceaselessly.