Wadars are a wandering community found on the border area of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh (Today’s Telangana) and Karnataka. Every year during Dasara and Gudi Padva they gather near the river bank at Pune, to perform a ritual called Jaladi or Gangasthal.

Dasara and Padva being a Hindu new year, it is also an occasion for the members of Wadar community to come together and recite oral tales of their clan. This annual ritual is an important reunion for the Wadars as it consists of many important rituals such as repainting of traveling shrine they carry with them. The mobile wooden structure or shrine, measuring two feet by one and half foot is called ‘Gudi’ meaning temple in Telgu. These shrines are in shape of palanquin covered with painted images in ‘patachitra’ style of Andhra Pradesh. The tradition of narrating stories through these patachitras is known as jatipurana or clan stories. Jatipuranans are particularly significant to wandering Wadaries, since it helps them to identify with their history and provides a unique identity to the clan.

The narratives of the Jatipurana invariably establish a link with Ramayana and Mahabharata. Here is a story about a curious custom followed by Wadari women to identify themselves with the plight of Sita.

While living in forest, Sita kept longing for luxuries of the royal palace. Noticing her weakness, demon Maricha took the form of a golden deer and grazed in front of her hut. As Sita set her eyes on the golden deer, she felt an intense desire for its golden pelt. “Oh , how wonderful the golden skin of that deer looks. I always wanted a golden blouse for myself. Why can’t I tell Rama to get me that golden deer? I can make a blouse out of its golden skin”. Thinking thus, she turned to Rama and asked him get the golden deer for her. Rama who was siting outside the hut, attending to some chores, declined her request and chided her for making such a juvenile demand. Rama’s refusal to grant her wish made Sita very angry. She now needed that deer skin all the more. She would not take no for an answer, so she tried all the tricks to persuade Rama to get the golden deer and threw a tantrum. Finally Rama gave into her tantrum and went chasing after the deer. The sequence of events that followed this act of chasing the golden deer narrated in Ramayana is well known.

The tragic events that ensued due to Sita’s desire for the golden blouse, prompted Wadari women never to wear a blouse. ( This tradition is now changing) In this way they bring upon themselves the pain and suffering of Sita’s life and make amends.

Story collected by : Vidya Kamat
Source: As told by Dr. Vikram Kulkarni-  (educator and research scholar ) tr. by Sushma Sabnis
Location Pune, Maharashtra.
Image source: Wikipedia commons