Kathmandu: The festival of lights is among us and many of us will have engaged in such activities as drawing rangoli, celebrating animals, playing with firecrackers, playing cards, bhai tika and singing deusi bhailo. All of these activities, some outlawed, have their own significance but for the musically or artistically oriented, none of the activities is as anticipated as deusi bhailo, a culture wherein a band of friends entertains people by visiting their houses, singing songs and performing dances, and receive delicacies and money in return from the house owner.
“Deusi and bhailo culture dates back to the time of lord Krishna,” says Hari Ram Joshi, author and cultural expert. “Deusi bhailo is the celebration of victory against lord Indra—the god of rain.”
People used to rely on god for everything in the prehistoric times, but lord Krishna asked everyone to change themselves and start believing in their own hard work and struggles rather than asking everything with god, Joshi explains.
“The general people accepted what lord Krishna said and stopped worshipping Indra,” he said. “This made Indra angry and he destroyed all the crops and fields of the people. Later, the people revolted and stood together and lifted up the mountain and challenged Indra. The unity of people made Indra give up.”
To enjoy their victory, people gathered and danced and sang. Later the culture was known as deusi and bhailo.
Over time, this culture has undergone various changes. Dilli Sharma, for instance, has a totally different experience of playing deusi and bhailo than her daughter. Sharma is 55 and his daughter is in her 20s.
“It was like an unspoken rule that all of the deusi and bhailo groups used to wear traditional attire. We used to dance only to traditional deusi and bhailo and other folk songs. But times have changed and so has this culture”
“When we were young we used to travel to different parts of our villages with our friends for three continuous days to play Deusi and Bhailo,” Sharma says. “It was like an unspoken rule that all of the deusi and bhailo groups used to wear traditional attire. We used to dance only to traditional deusi and bhailo and other folk songs. But times have changed and so has this culture.”
Joshi blames the western influence behind the changing patterns in deusi and bhailo.
“With the passing of time we have learnt various cultural elements from the west and now those elements are clearly seen in our culture such as deusi and bhailo,” said Joshi. Joshi does not consider the current way of playing deusi and bhailo right because they do not do not reflect our culture.
“There is a great influence of western culture in our society, and it is impossible to be away from it,” said Joshi. “As a result, in the coming days deusi and bhailo will witness more changes and in those changes we can see more western sides than now.”
Sharma is witness to this evolution, or degeneration as Joshi says, of the deusi bhailo culture. “The way my daughter and her friends play Deusi and Bhailo is totally different,” Sharma says. “Now only a few members in Deusi and Bahilo wear traditional customs and another thing that makes their Deusi and Bhailo different from ours is they play modern songs including Bollywood numbers.”
The story by Prasun Sangroula, originally published on November 4, 2021, has been republished.