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Halloween overshadowing "Tesu-Jhanjhi" An Indian Traditional Festival

New Delhi: Gone are the days, when urchins(group of young children) used to decorate their tesu-jhanjhi and roam around the neighbourhood humming songs and asking for goodies or donations.

However, till today, in a bid to keep the age old tradition alive, small children of the Vraja croon the tesu-jhanjhi song or geet:

Tesu-Jhanjhi gaye bazaar, wahan se laaye aam ka achar;

mera tesu yahin adha, Khane ko mange dahi bada….

(Tesu and Jhanjhi went to the bazaar, where they bought mango pickle,

My Tesu will stand here and he wants dahi bada to eat…)

Despite the tradition dying a slow death, Brajwasi children, through their songs, are keeping afloat a ritual that has been endangered by foreign cultural intrusion.

With the influx of western culture into the Indian society and Halloween getting popularized, the “Tesu-Jhanjhi” culture is gradually disappearing. Indian children staying glued to television and aping the western culture has further eclipsed the celebration.

Expressing nostalgia about tesu, Dhananjay Gautam, a Brajwasi , noted, “It is a lost culture which needs to be preserved.”

“The tradition of the tesu-jhanjhi is inspired by a story from Hindu epic Mahabharata”

What is the “Tesu”?

Tesu is a small toy made of sticks and clay head made by the small boys. The girls in turn have a small perforated clay pot with a lit earthen lamp inside it. They visit houses in their neighbourhood on the eve of the Navaratri and recite the traditional children’s song. Elated with the efforts they get rewarded with gifts and money.

On the day of Dusserra the children blindfold the Tesu-Jhanjhi and immerse them in a water body.

History of “Tesu

Tesu” has its origin embedded in the Mahabharata. Bhima’s grandson Barbarik chopped off his own head before the Mahabharata war at the request of Krishna. But he expressed his desire to witness the battle. Fulfilling his desire, Krishna placed Barbarik’s head atop a mountain overlooking the battlefield.

After vanquishing the Kauravas, the Pandavas argued on who made the greatest contribution in the war. Krishna came to the rescue and suggested that Barbarik’s head should judge the matter. Barbarik declared that Krishna with his strategy and his presence played the most crucial role in the battle. Pleased with Barbarik, Krishna blessed him that children would worship him in the Kaliyuga in the form of tesu. The tesu thus resembles the head of Barbarik and the jhanjhi resembles his body.

Hollywood vs Tesu

Fierce marketing by Hollywood has made Halloween popular in India. With metropolis in India celebrating Halloween, an age old tradition that has roots in our cultural history is getting sidelined. It is evident that the smart-phone generation is clearly turning a blind eye to our very own rituals. Halloween and “Tesu” are celebrated nearly at the same time. It is only because of marketing that Halloween elbowed out the latter.

It’s time for the the Indian youth to dig deep into the culture and start celebrating their own traditional festivals instead of Indianizing western festivals.


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