The Sindhi community and has an interesting myth which involves the Vedic god, Varuna, the god of the oceans. While many of the present day Sindhis either follow the Hindu mainstream deities or the Sikh religion, on the day of Cheti Chand, they remember their patron saint, Jhulelal.
It is said that around the 10th Century AD, the Turkish invaders were imposing their might and right on the Hindus by forcing them to convert to Islam, in the region of the Sapta-sindhu, the land of seven rivers. Among them was a tyrannical ruler called Mirk Shah who issued a dictat that all the Hindus should embrace Islam. The people of the region (Sindh, now in present day Pakistan) went to the banks of the river Sindhu and prayed continuously for forty days to the Varuna. On the fortieth day, they heard a voice which said that the Lord would take a human form (avatar) and be born to one Ratanchand Lohana and his wife, Devaki. The boy would be their saviour. Soon a child was born to the Lohanas, who was named Uderolal (one who came from the waters). When the child was placed in the cradle, the cradle started rocking itself and thus he came to be popularly known as Jhulelal.
During his birth and thereafter while he was growing up, there are many stories that highlight a number of miracles performed by him. All these miracles only reinforced in the minds of the people and the rulers that this was no ordinary child. Mirk Shah, in the meantime while had patiently been waiting for the ‘saviour’ who was supposed to bail out the Hindus from forceful conversion, as he wanted to give a fair chance to the people, much against the wishes of the clergy. Jhulelal’s fame had reached Shah and some of his people had also claimed to have witnessed some of his miracles.
Soon Jhulelal and Mirk Shah came face to face and Jhulelal and tried to convince Shah that who he called Allah was none other than who the Hindus called Ishwar and the two were one. Mirk Shah however did not give up till he was threatened by a miracle. It is said that when Jhulelal tried to convince him about the oneness of the religion, Mirk Shah ordered the arrest of Jhulelal in court. As soon as he did, waters gushed into the court from nowhere drowning all those who were present. They threatened to do the same to Mirk Shah too. At the same time, there was fire all around. Mirk Shah was surprised and scared to see what had just happened and begged for mercy. No sooner had he done that, the waters receded and the fire was extinguished.
After this, Jhulelal was worshipped by both the Hindus and the Muslims and it is said that when he died, to commemorate the site of his death, a structure was built, one side of which is a Hindu Samadhi and the other side is a Muslim Dargah – a rare symbol of the unification or the oneness of the two religions. In 1356, a shrine was built around his tomb, in present day Sehwan, in the Sindh province of Pakistan. Cheti Chand is the birth day of Jhulelal, who has come to be known as the patron saint of the Sindhis and a messiah of communal harmony. His shrine is thronged by people of both the communities every Thursday and on the occasion of Urs celebration.
The iconography of Jhulelal depicts him as an old man sitting atop a ‘pala’ fish (a fish which swims against the tide, again symbolic of Jhulelal’s going against the powers-that-be of the times). Since Jhulelal was considered to be the human form of Varuna, the depiction of fish (again a marine life) is not too far-fetched. Also since the civilization and the culture thrived on the banks of the Sindhu River, association of Lord Varuna can be explained. The popular depiction of Jhulelal being old and elderly could be to grant him a sense of acceptance amongst the people of the times as old was always associated with wisdom, though in the myth, there is a mention that Jhulelal grew up quite faster than what mortals did.
STORY COLLECTED BY: UTKARSH PATEL
LOCATION: SINDH, PAKISTAN
TEXT SOURCE: Contemporary Hinduism – By P. Pratap Kumar