Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sawalis - The Sehri Awakers of India

How would you like if instead of your alarm clock or mobile, a nice religious song woke you up from sleep for Sehri?

This is a unique tradition in some parts of India - 'Sawalis' as they are called (perhaps because they always have a 'Sawaal' or request) go around town in the middle of the night, singing songs on Ramadan to wake up the faithful for Sehri. They usually have some basic music instrument (such as a Daf or even a set of large tongs) to accompany their songs.

I remember, as a child, lying awake waiting for them to come in their unique way. Nowadays, with mobile alarms (or screaming microphones) replacing their need, the subtleties, finesse and spirit is lost. How can a microphone compare to a person who awakens you in the middle of the night with a melodious 'Kya Khuda ne Rahmat Laaya, Ramzaan Mubarak Aaya' (What a blessing God has bestowed, Ramadan Mubarak has arrived!) or Utho Momino, Chamka Sitara.. Aaya Ramzan Pyaara hamaara (Wake up, O momins, the stars are shining.. Our beloved Ramadan is arriving).

What for me makes the whole thing commendable is the fact that these people are usually simple traditional muslims who do this as a duty and will come every night, no matter if Ramadan is in the summers, the torrid winter or in rains....their spirit is commendable - they truly live Ramadan!

However, over the years, their numbers have gone down - whereas there would be almost a dozen Sawalis earlier, nowadays there are hardly 1-2. In order to record this tradition, I took the opportunity to make short clips of their rendering.... (yes, in the middle of the night!) and loaded them on youtube (links below)

Hope you like them.. and as the last Ashra of Ramadan is on, lets hope all of us are able to maximise its benefits before the month is past.

PS: Apologies for the poor quality of video - it was an impromptu shoot on the roads of Calcutta, with a basic digital camera!


Destitute Rebel said...

Abrahim, amazing post as always. This is something new to hear and very interesting. All your posts are a good read. Keep them coming.

kaya said...

WOW! That was just awesome.
reminds me of back home when they come out at sehri banging on their thaalis with the baylann(rolling pin) or anything else and shouting, "JAAGO JAAGO".
Wah! DADA mazza aagiya!

Poo Poo Head said...

Are microphones allowed in India for mosqyes. Do they say Athan on microphones loud ?? Don't people of other religions object that why they are woked up so early? is it only in Muslims areas ?

Abrahim said...

@Poo, Yes, Azans are said out loud through microphones across the country in all areas. Being a secular country, this privilege is also available for other religions at the times of their pujas and other events.

A couple of years back, there was an order curbing use of microphones between 10 pm and 6 am, so in some states, Fajar Azan is not made through mic. But generally, yes.. we do hear the Azaan.

RIJJU said...

nice to see that old traditions are still alive in some places.

Shaykhspeara Sha'ira said...

abrahim I really loved this post. In syria when I lived there, a man would come out at fajr time every morning and play the Duff waking people up for fajr where we lived. Brings back a warm feeling.

Abrahim said...

Thanks for your comments.

Kaya, SS, Rijju, it sure shows that common traditions exist in all countries, making Islam a large brotherhood, really.

DR, thanks for your encouragement. It was great for you all to start this blog in the first place.