Intangible Cultural Heritage of Thar

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Bhaiyo or Bhayyo …. Folk song of love between a sister and brother

By Noor Ahmed Janjhi

A tiny body of earth is just a dot in a vast context of universe. However, it has been a much focused place and many an activity by human being or other animate things is remained a focal point of different discussions. Man has been leading all of the major activities of earth. Somewhere he has disturbed the entire ecosystem and created such miraculous things that everyone wonders on it. He has done many things through his biological, social, political and historical evolution. Those experiences have benefited and somewhere proved strong detrimental to the nature. Uplifting from a savage life, he did establish human settlement which evolved into societies. He established his power through these structures and has tried to become an all-powerful on earth. Thus, state came into existence firstly in shape of kingdoms and monarchies and then in form of nation state. The system produced a culture with a top to bottom approach. A few people do rule on world and utilize the shared resources on their wish and will and decide the fate of millions and billions of people. All of the natural resources were made a commodity to be sold out on the sweet wish and will of the oligarchy. It devalued not only invaluable natural assets but also devalued human being. Consequently, an ambitious fatal culture of power grabbing emerged throwing humanity into abyss of unending wars and battles. Since centuries, human beings are waging such wars and fights to ravage the paradise of earth. Countless human beings have been thrown to the altars of power. However, the fire of human ambition and greed for power is not put off yet. Man has been licking those centuries old wounds but to no avail. Human history observes a colorful costume soaked in the blood of countless innocent people. It is the history of a few people with power and pelf. Such one sided narrative of the history neglects a vast majority of human populace.

Despite the monopoly on world resources, some people from these neglected and marginalized classes emerged having documented human feelings in form of intangible cultural heritage. Thar is rich in such gems of the cultural heritage. Folksong Bhaiyo or Bhaiyyo is a well-known song of Thar. It is the song of love between a sister and a brother. Ustad Raichand has commented about the folksongs in these words, “Folksong is an asset of our cultural value system. It is not certain about the time period and authorship of these folksongs however can be narrated some traditions about some songs which are composed in recent times. Mostly the songs contain sentiments of love and longing and initially were composed because of love and separation feelings (Tareekh Registan vol. II p 412)”.

Longing has its mainspring in heart. There prevails love among different relations. Every relation has a unique tinge and taste of love. Love between a sister and brother is an exemplary love. It is said that a sister loves very much to her brother. If brother may reciprocate to sister’s love, then there would be no drought in the area at all. Folksong Bhaiyo (beloved brother) presents verbatim of such immense love. Dr. Nabi Bakhsh Baloach has given three traditions of the song in his book “Lok Geet”. According to him, “This is a famous song of Tharparkar being sung firstly during cleaning of weeds and then at reaping of the crop.”

The song starts with the narrative of a sister, separated from her brothers and living at a far flung place. She feels longing for her brothers and sings the song. That is why the song was called Bhaiyo or beloved brother. Main character of this song is the isolated sister, living far away from her parentage. She becomes nostalgic in monsoon season and sends message to her brother to take her to the parents’ immediately as she has made all preparations for it. The song begins as follows….

ڀئيئا ! وٽڪيءَ ۾ ميٽ ڀئيئا

 ڀئيئا، تيلهوڙي ۾ تيل ڀئيئا

She says that she has prepared for bath and dressing and asks the brother that now his arrival is necessary. Further, she says that she will take bath after his arrival and Babhi shall also dress my hair. I have taken a thread to hair of choti and there is a comb in her hand too. She requests her beloved Babhi to make beautiful knitting of choti. The following are the lines of song:

ڀئيئا، تيل ميٽ هلي ڀيڙ ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا تون ٻهنل رو مٿو ڌوئاڙ ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا تون ڏور ڪانگسي هٿ ۾ ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا باڀلڙي ! مارو مٿو گونٿ، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، باڀل مارو چوٽلو ٽاڙ، ڀئيئا

Such intense nostalgia for parents’ is because of Teej festival. It is a festivity of young girls and recently married girls. It was a tradition to make matrimonial relationship in faraway villages where there should not be any lineage of blood relationship. The social tradition is called “ganatapi” means developing afresh relationship. During the Teej, young girls enjoy swinging and singing special songs. The festivity becomes a fanfare of swinging, singing and fasting. She sends message to her brother to come along with she-camel saddled with silky quilts. Further, she says her brother that his arrival will justify her leave from in-laws’. She sings….

ڀئيئا ، توآوي سرامڻ ٽيج ، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، تون سائي توڏڙلي پلاڻي،  ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، سيڻل سيرک رو گاسڙو مانڏي، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، تون  ٻهنل نان تيڙو جائي ، ڀئيئا

After it, there is the scene of camel and its riding is depicted. She requests her brother to let loose the camel as it may run rapidly. She advises the brother to take stick in the other hand and she is waiting for him. A feeling of waiting is expressed in these lines. The sister eagerly wants her brother there to take her to the native village. She is standing time and again to see the coming camel taking her brother.

ڀئيئا ، تون  ڍيلي ڇڏ مهار، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، تون ڏائي هٿ ۾ سائي مهار ، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، سائي هٿ ۾ ڪرهل ڪانٻ، ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، تنا ٻهنلڙي اُٺي جويو، ڀئيئا

After expressing about the waiting feelings for her brother, an image of the coming brother emerges in her mind. She thinks that her real brother will come and all of her sufferings and sorrows will be faded away. She feels happy as she thinks of her brother’s arrival. For celebration of the happiness, she hangs the swing in pipal tree. She plans about the swinging. She thinks that she will be on swing and her brother will move it. In this way, the song concludes on the merry note of enjoying the swing. It is feeling of happiness and freedom. It creates thinking about going in a relatively relaxed environment at the native village.

ڀئيئا ، تون آوي مانهنجو ما ڄايو وير،ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، مين پيپڙ ۾ ٻڌي هينڏ،ڀئيئا

ڀئيئا ، لوڏسي مانهنجو ما ڄايو وير، ڀئيئا

The song Bhaiyo or Bhayo depicts the lovely relation between a sister and brother. Considering the sanctity and sensitivity of the relation, the compatible language is uses and a humble tone is maintained. The song runs with an impressing style. The key points of the song are as follows:

  • The song is composed by a sister for her brother. However, the word Bhaiyo (brother) is repeated frequently and it became the name tag of the song.
  • Keeping oil and fuller’s earth in bowl indicates preparation and meeting. It was a custom in the past in Thar to wash with the preparation as soap and other material was not introduced in Thar. It indicates the song was composed before the British period.
  • Hair dressing and knitting has been an important custom among women of Thar. After taking bath, oil is applied on hair to get them knitted beautifully. The hairs are set at the end with a thread. The girls get made beautiful designs of hair knitting called “Veendhla”. The Veendhla are set with the help of special pastes made of different oily seeds. It is a special activity of girls and women and adds value to their beauty.
  • “Siramann Teej” is a special song of the recently married and young girl. It is sung during the celebration of the festivity of Teej after showers of monsoon. The girls hang swings and observe fasting. Their brother goes to take them from their in-laws.
  • Before vehicular transport, the desert-ship or camel was mostly used for taking people and goods. It needs a special preparation before setting for journey. Its saddle is called pakhro and upper garment is called “jhull”. The saddle is fixed after covering camel with jhull. Soft quilts are kept over pakhro as it may remain comfortable. It is because of long distances and difficult terrain of Thar. There had been certain protocol while ridding the camel. The male will sit in the back seat if he is with his sister and if his wife is with him, then he will sit in front seat.
  • By loosening the reins of the camel means to leave it free as it may cross-over the distances easily.
  • It has been a custom in all of the Hindu communities to make marriages from non-relatives. It is called “ganatapo” or new relationship. That is why all the marriages have been arranged from far flung villages to avoid any real relationship. However, the tradition has decreased and the transport system is also improved.
  • Fig (پپر جو وڻ) tree is regarded a sacred tree in Hindu communities. In the past, all of the houses had planted at least a fig tree, where the sister used to hang a swing in the tree to make fun with her brother.
  • All of the folk songs contain diminutives to reflect humbleness and love. In Sindhi, there are two types of the diminutives…appreciating and depreciating. The song contains appreciating diminutives as (ڀئيئو، ٻهنلڙي، باڀلڙي، تيلهوڙي، چوٽلڙو، توڏڙلي،)

In this way, the song offers a good thought expressing humbleness, care, love and nostalgia for native village. It also shows a strong relationship between a sister and a brother.


The Thar-based writer is a senior educationist and author of several books including folklore of Thar Desert. He writes regularly for Sindh Courier and various newspaper.  


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