Guga Pir a melting pot of cultures at Chappar
From a seven-year-old girl walking on a tightrope while juggling items in front of a giant Ferris wheel to the aroma from an array of stalls of scrumptious food drawing crowds, the three-day Chappar Mela, which kicked off on Friday, put a perfect picture of Punjab’s rural life on display.
Braving the heat, thousands of people from all walks of life were seen visiting the stalls and taking obeisance of the historical shrine of Guga Pir, a melting pot of religions. With the changing times, some new additions have also been included to attract youngsters.
Darshan Singh, 75, who has been visiting the mela for the past 65 years, said, “The place is revered by Sikh, Hindus and Muslims alike.
“Muslims families that had migrated to Pakistan used to visit the shrine even after Partition. Of late, the concept of mela has changed. Private companies and banks are also installing their kiosks to lure people,” said Darshan.
Those who have been visiting the mela on a regular basis expressed their disappointment over shrinking number of women and children visiting the mela ground. Some of the old timers said a huge number of people used to visit the mela along with their wives and children. While the men visited the political rallies, the women used to shop along with their children.
“Nowadays, groups of rowdy youngsters flock to the mela. They can be seen occupying the swings and the joyrides. This deters families, particularly women, from enjoying the rides,” said one of the men operating a joyride.
Apart from rallies by different political parties, there were many stalls selling kitchen utensils, agriculture machinery and Ayurvedic medicines. Eateries stayed hustling and bustling with visitors, and so did stalls of soft drinks and water bottles owing to the humid environment.
Several medical checkup camps and childline awareness camps were also organised by different organisations.
Quacks grab eyeballs
Making medicines from herbs and extracts and claiming to cure the diseases of heart, muscular pains and other health issues, quacks gathered the attention of several villagers at the mela.
One of them, Hari Singh Chahal, was seen selling some Ayurvedic medicines made of some herbs. He said, “I started the work in 1970 and have been setting up stalls at different fairs since then. Apart from selling the medicines at fairs, I have opened my centre at my residence in Kili Chehlan village in Moga. My two younger brothers have also joined me and are helping me in distributing Ayurvedic medicines to the people who want to cure their ailments.”
Held in the memory of Guga Pir at Chappar village in September, the fair one of the most popular and spectacular festivals of the Malwa belt.
People mainly worship the snake embodiment of Guga Pir at the fair. It is believed that the fair was started around 150 years ago by a small congregation of devotees.
Dharminder Sharma, a member of Sri Sidsulakhan Guga Mari Mandir Committee, shared the importance and history of Guga Mari Mandir. He said the Guga Pir was believed to be the god of serpents and, by worshipping him, people believe to be relieved of snake bites and skin diseases. Special rituals are performed on this day.
Sharma also said that the footfall was less as compared to previous years, but is expected to increase on Saturday.