Last night found us talking about Gujjars*. My grandfather was telling us about how, when they first came into India from Afghanistan, they split into three main groups. One of them settled in the north, in Khyber Pakhtun Khwa and Gilgit Baltistan. The other one along the Grand Trunk Road (GT rd). And for a long time, they actually did herd cattle and sell milk. In South Asia, lots of people don’t buy pasteurised milk. The trend has increased in recent years, but still a lot of people drink fresh milk provided by gawalay. These milkmen were invariably (as my grandfather says) Gujjars. However, for three days every year, they didn’t give their milk to anyone but instead they all gave the milk to the grand Urs of Data Darbar. For three days, any man could come and take as much milk as he wanted without any charge. This Darbar is actually a shrine of Hazrat Ali Hajveri who was a saint and a deeply spiritual man. The Darbar is called Data Darbar because Data means “The giver” (a crude translation, forgive me) and it is believed that anything will be granted if the person in need asks God through Data Sahib. Shirk, yes, but nevertheless it is a notion held by many.
This practice of giving all the milk to the Urs actually has a very interesting origin. There is a story about it, and when asked about its authenticity, my grandfather said it was completely true.
The story goes that one day, Ali Hajveri sat by the bank of the Ravi. A woman passed by him carrying a pot full of milk. He asked the woman if she would give him some milk.
“I cannot. I will only milk my cows for the jogi that lives yonder.” She replied.
He asked her to give him some milk for that day only. She refused. He asked the reason.
“Whenever I give this milk to anyone other than the jogi my cows start giving blood instead of milk.” The saint then understood that the jogi had cast some sort of spell.
“Give this to me, and I assure you, your cows will never give you blood again.” He told her. Reluctantly, the woman gave him the milk. The next day, when she milked the cows, there was such an abundance that all the containers in her house were not sufficient to hold the milk. Word quickly spread throughout the village, and all the other milkmen soon stopped supplying milk to the jogi and gave it, instead, to Ali Hajveri.
When the jogi realised this, he confronted the saint and threatened him. The saint said there was nothing he could do to harm him. At this, the jogi flew up in the air. The saint took of his kharawan (a very simple shoe — a wooden block with a single canvas strap across it) and threw it after him, and the shoe started beating the jogi in mid-air! The jogi realised this was no magic, that it was actually a Divine power. And so the jogi was defeated!
I don’t know if the milk thing still happens, but it was quite interesting to know this!
*Gujjars are a cast in the Indian subcontinent. The usual stereotype says that Gujjars sell milk and herd cattle, but it doesn’t apply anymore. Lots of other casts have taken up this profession. Similarly, one can find Gujjars in all fields now. Chaudhary Rehmat Ali, an eminent Muslim leader in the Creation of Pakistan, was a Gujjar. He suggested the name for Pakistan in his famous publication, “Now or Never”. Two strangers will become instant friends upon learning that they are both gujjars. It is said that Gujjars are quite fierce (it doesn’t apply anymore though). After the War of Independence (1857) in India, the British had commanded their officers to shoot gujjars on sight. They were considered “rebels”.