Upon seeing the youngsters themselves intoxicated and lost in the smoke and alcohol in the marriage ceremony, Shashi Raturi used to be disheartened and disgusted equaled. She could not bear the immodest references made about women in most of the Punjabi songs played in wedding functions. They were the most popular numbers and had got to the heads of the entire Uttarakhand young population. The songs portrayed women as objects of lust and made offensive statements about them. These vulgar songs brought pleasure and were played everywhere in cultural functions and family events. Young and old alike danced on them and felt no shame for supporting the disgrace to ladies which included those of their family too. Nobody felt offended by such lyrics even the elders. Maybe they did but did not have a choice other than conforming to the scenario. Shashi Raturi could not see this happen in front of her and sit idol. So she decided to do something and started the Swaragini Group with Prabha Juyal. Prabha Juyal is a social activist and a successful businesswoman.
Seeing youngsters from their home state forget their rich Uttarakhand culture and getting addicted to such a vicious cycle, Shashi and Prabha decided to take the step. The vision of the Swaragini Group was to reincarnate the rich legacy of Pahari cultures and values. Today the Swaragini Group is motivating and supporting the young females of Uttarakhand to keep the traditional dance and folk songs alive.
Shashi and her husband are working for the welfare of Uttarakhand on their own without any assistance from the administrative sector for a long time. Their NGO "Mahila Nav Jagran Samiti" has rescued many woman and children and is currently helping all of them to lead a successful life of dignity. Along with Tehri, the entire Uttarakhand hails Shashi for her unending efforts since such a young age.
Sushila, Pramila and Rekha are active members of the Swaragini Group. They have been working with Shashi from the time before the Swaragini Group was established. The other members Prabha Juyal, Ranju, Manju and Shanti met Shashi when she came to Dehradun. And this is how the Swaragini Group spread its followers and members.
The Swaragini Group has received immense recognition. The members of the Swaragini Group have participated in many competitive fests organized by the Government and have received awards and prizes at the Jhumailo and Uttarakhand Youth festival. They also have started the ritualistic folk music singing in weddings and other events to revive the long lost practice.
Another initiative of the Swaragini Group is to prevent people from favoring and indulging in cocktail parties and mindless expenditure at wedding functions and other social gatherings. The ladies of Uttarakhand are a witness to the fact that the state never had the obscene rituals of dowry and filthy expenditures in weddings. Rather this state was one of the few in the entire country which promoted simplicity and peacefulness in wedding functions.
However eventually people who got influenced by the neighboring regions. And started such practices and this led to dowry and mega budget weddings become a trend. Anything done by a group of society burdens the others less privileged to meet their standards to get their daughters married. Now in place of the murmur of folk music, there is cheering of beer and alcohol glasses and the dancers have been substituted by the vulgar songs. Shashi says that as our kids and the growing generation gets to see only such obscenity, it is bound to happen that soon our culture and history will be doomed.
The young section of the society has not even got a glimpse of their roots and they are being pushed in this ugly scenario. This is the reason for the increasing rate and threat of crime against women and children, in Uttarakhand which used to be the safest state in India.
None of the members of the Swaragini Group are trained dancers or practicing singers. But the fire and zeal for the love of their motherland fill them with the vigour to keep their roots alive. They are working die hard to revive and reestablish their home land's art and culture.
During their conversation with the HimalayanBuzz team, the Swaragini Group member Shanti said that " In the name of folk music, cheap 'Furki band' and 'Chakna Band' songs are played. The entire song has lyrics which disgrace women and girls. The backdrop is ugly already to add on to the visuals being shown. Ranju said 'The clothing and setting of the dance and screenplay are a hypocrisy portrayed under the name of Uttarakhand's traditions.'
Every Sunday the Swaragini Group organizes a session to teach the girls of the local community, the local dance and music forms. Other activities include telling them about the kind of utensils, weapons and other housewares that were used in ancient times. All this is done to inculcate a sense of pride in them about the rich heritage of their homeland. So that they grow up to become true patriots who would take the mission of Swaragini Group ahead.
Every member of the Swaragini Group is putting in nerve-wracking efforts for their culture. They manage their own workload and continue to work for their homeland. People from not only Uttarakhand but places across the country recognize their efforts. Manju told us that they receive requests from people of other regions to come and sing for the wedding and functions and it's a matter of pride for them. Now they don't have to go to ask people to join in their mission, young females themselves approach the Swaragini Group to become a part of it.
From the trinket to the travel expenses, every single expenditure is funded by the members of the Swaragini Group themselves. They finance themselves by working hard for this motive apart from their life's own inhibitions. The entire Swaragini team dreams of the day when their efforts will fruit and their beloved culture will be world known.
Indeed will the day come solely due to their pious motives and diligently done work.