The famous Minjar fair of Chamba valley, celebrated to commemorate the victory of the raja of Chamba over the ruler of Trigarta (Kangra) since 935 AD, carries with it a heritage cultural legacy, relished by the local population for centuries.
It symbolises the pain of separation from loved ones and sacrifices of forefathers.
However, the present day Minjar has lost its sheen as folk art forms have been put into the cold storage by the onslaught of Punjabi pop and Bollywood music. As a result, folk artistes have become victims of diminishing avenues and lack of sources for sustenance.
The fair has been reduced to organisation of money minting games during cultural nights, making Minjar an alien event at least for the older generation who are still connected to the original legacy of the fair.
“Sanskriti sanrankshak aibi kabai ho gaye, kunju chanchlo ab punjabi ho gaye (the so-called custodians of culture have turned into crooks or shifted to popular Punjabi music),” a heritage enthusiast remarked on the current situation. Kunju and Chachlo are characters of a true love story, part of narrative musical tradition in Chamba.
The fair used to boast of unique styles of singing ‘Kunjari-Malhar’, ‘Masadha folksongs’, ‘Enchali’, ‘Ghurei’ and others. “Ironically these traditional folks songs are no more a regular feature in Minjar, except for Kunjari- Malhar, which marks the beginning of the fair,” said a local folk singer on condition of anonymity.
What substantiates his contention is the fact that Himachali artists don’t even earn 1% of the earnings of Rs 5-10 lakh per performance of Bollywood or Punjabi artists.
Apart from it, the famous Chaugan ground is always reserved for the popular forms at prime time. Speaking against the discrimination only invites the organiser’s wrath.
“Himachali artists will never be a profitable option for the brokers who play this money game in connivance with the organiser,” said a local folk singer. The brokers earn a huge commission by favouring Bollywood or Punjabi artistes.
The folk singers also alleged the government’s apathy is responsible for their situation.