The vibrant Indian Community in The Gambia too has this diversity. It has several energies and one of the most prominent and energised components of the community is the Sindhi Community – originating from the Sindh province of India before its partition. The Sindh region boasts of being one of the oldest civilisations in the world “The Indus Valley Civilisation”. The excavations in Sindh, on the banks of the Indus River of pre-partition North-Western India, exhibit a modern civilisation dating some 3,000 to 4,000 years BC, that was a seat of learning, social understanding, culture, business, modern city planning and governance. The seat of the Bronze Age they say.
Flash forward to 1947 AD, an upheaval in the lives of many Sindhis when India suffered a partition, saw many Sindhis migrate to a new India and then to many parts of the world, becoming a business force to reckon with wherever they settled, leaving their original home, looking for new pastures to settle and thrive.
On Sunday, the 3rd of April at the Coco Ocean Resort & Spa in The Gambia, in an exhibition of social warmth, and community gathering, we witnessed this thriving community celebrating Cheti Chand – the birthday celebrations of Sindhi Patron Saint Jhulelal and New Year's Day for Sindhis. Cheti Chand is celebrated on a day during the waxing phase of the moon (chand) of Chet month. It is observed on the first or second day of the Sindhi Chet month (March - April) or Chaitra month in the Hindu calendar; therefore, it is called 'Chet-l-Chand'.
‘Jai Jhulelal, Aayo Lal, Jhulelal’ the chant still reverberates in the confines of Coco Oceans’ main hall. Community members paid obeisance to images of Jhulelal, gave offerings, sang prayers, and songs, recited poems, and played music. And they danced. The women folk danced, with the men-folk clapping, singing and encouraging them on. Performances by children were a highlight. Art-works by children were displayed showing that while away from India, these children have strong ties with the culture, to be passed on to the next generations. The continuity of culture seemed to be ingrained in their celebration.
The event attended by close to 300 members of this community, from all faiths, all regions of India, was deeply steeped in an exhibition of colours and flavours – Yes flavours! From a selection of strictly vegetarian food, starters and main course, and refreshments (alcohol was strictly avoided on this otherwise solemn occasion). The celebrations went on from mid-day to late evening on Sunday, and culminated with the immersion of the offerings to Jhulelal into the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Images of Jhulelal, who is depicted sitting on a Lotus leaf cross-legged on a palla (Hilsa) fish in the Indus River, where he is believed to have performed many miracles, were carried by members of the congregation while making the offerings, with the waters of the Indus being represented by the Atlantic Ocean.
This vibrant community, thriving in every part of the world, are evidence of the miracles of Jhulelal.
“Aayo Laal Sabhainjo Jhulelal“ (The clarion call to Sindhis around the world)