Mohras Of Devta

Kullu Devata: Mohra

A Kullu devata, as we see prominently in the melas, fairs, and on other special occasions, decked with a number of attractive mohras (known as face or bust) of a metal on a wooden framework and decorated with silken clothes and decorative ornaments, moving with a large retinue of attendants and followers, is a unique cultural creation of the Kullu folk. A devata frantically moving and frisking amid the crowd accompanied by the rapid beatings of the drums and bands of musical instruments appears to be driven by the force of its own internal energy. This attracts the attention of every viewer.  Sometimes such a scene even creates fear among some spectators. A moving devata appears to be acting like a living being.

A devata can walk, run, take long journeys, go on pilgrimage and go for ritual bathing to holy places riding on the shoulders of two men. He can become happy, be angry, sad and sulky. A devata can also slumber and wake up. A devata can answer questions of his devotees, decide disputes, issue judgments and make forecasts, all through a gur, a priest speaking on his behalf. He also bestows boons and blessings upon the visitors.

A devata may go for meeting with a similar other figure, with whom he may be related as: brother, sister, or any other kin or may be his guru, teacher. When two devatas meet they seem attempting to hug each other. They dance together, walk and sit together. A devata can go as a guest for feast on invitation of a devotee, can be a host for another devata and accept offerings and sacrifices. He does most of the acts that a human being can do. The difference is that his life is perpetual. Thus a rath decked fully is virtually a living being.

Adornment of a rath like with chhatri or parasol, an ornament of the pheta (slanting) rath, and ornaments and the appearance of the mohras like the moustaches, ear-ring and nose-ring distinguish between a devata and a devi. Necklaces are common to both. Their heads are decorated with diadems.

After the figure of the rath of a devata the next most attractive article for a viewer in a rath is the array of mohras. A Mohra represents not only the face but the whole body of the devata. In the mohra abides the soul of the devata.

Physically a mohra may display the face, neck and chest with nipples or breasts. They wear a necklace or necklaces and sometimes garland of a serpent or serpents. Male figures are shown often with moustaches. Female faces wear earrings or pendants in the ear,  or nosering. Diadems on their heads exhibit their royal personage. In one case we see a diadem with skulls and palms, showing his sectarian leaning.

In a rath every mohra is taken as a living object. Again in the whole set of the mohras one mohra is considered as the chief in which is enshrined the shakti, power, or the soul of the devata or devi.

When the devata is in dress and is on the march, it draws its power from this mohra. This generally may be made of bell metal.

This mohra may be displayed prominently on the rath among the other mohras or it may be kept concealed. About its use there are different practices with different devatas. Some devatas emphasise that the mohra must be decked in the rath along with the others. It may be displayed prominently, but generally it is kept concealed, wrapped in a cloth. In the case of the pheta rath it may be kept in the lap of the rath. Some others don’t deck on the rath but keep it in the temple. There also it is kept concealed, in some cases it is kept underground in a pit.

Since the inception of the process of its manufacture, a mohra has to undergo stage after stage of rituals of purification and in the last has to be consecrated with a grand celebration. As such it has been transformed into a very sacred object and a spirit has been kindled in it. The mohra thus has to be handled always with this fact in mind and everybody cannot touch it. It is an object of deep veneration and worship.

The Term Mohra: Physically a mohra measures between 20cms and 30cms in height and 12cms to 20 cms in width. It is made of cast metal or by embossing on the sheets of gold, silver, brass or copper. But we see the copper has been used very rarely.

The mohras principally exhibit the face. The older mohras, however, tend to represent larger part of body than this.  Therefore it may not be inappropriate to designate them as bust. Even one of the historical mohras may be seen provided with two miniature legs. The modern samples, however, are slightly brief. They appear to be focusing more on face.

The term mohra is translated as bust, torso, face or mask. Postel et al. after considering carefully suggests that the use of the local term mohra is more appropriate. Mohra is not made to be worn on the face nor can it be worn so. The mohras of all types are made of metal and are smaller in size.  They have to be sanctified after they are manufactured.

The mask intended to be worn on the face in Hindi and Pahari is known as mukhauta. In Kullu mukhauta are made of wood and and they are worn by the actors during the annual festival of Phagli. They are hollow on the backside, light in weight and slightly larger than the human face  so as to be able to wear by the actors. They are not so sacred. They are not consecrated after they are manufactured. Here mohra is more a religious symbol and the mukhauta is a folk theatrical object. There is quite a difference between a mohra and mukhauta.

The most valuable among all the mohras of a devata is not that of gold or silver but that of ashtdhatu (mixture of eight metals). In the modern times this metal not found in use. Even the newly born devatas have no article ashtdhatu, not even their main mohra.

Birth of a devata and discovery of the first Mohra: Most of the devatas have legend about their birth or origin. In the stories of some devatas it is related how it began its life from the time when a mohra was discovered by someone of the village or so miraculously. A few examples may be given as under:

Adi Brahma of Khokhan: It is told that once a widow was weeding the crop in her field. She had a daughter of six months old whom she left under the shade of a tree. After some time she came and sat near her child keeping her spade aside. The child, as she was playing held the spade in her hand, struck it on the earth. At this time the lady saw a mohra of ashtdhatu covered under the earth. The woman brought it home and started worshipping. Then the deity was established as Adi Brahma in the village. Similar is the story of Ayaadu Nag of Dehuri village, Kothi Boonga.

Surajpal: It is told that in the village of Bada Bhuin, Bhuntar, teh. Kullu, once some children of the village went to jungle for grazing their cattle. In the jungle they found a mohra. They brought it home. In the village a person had a spirit possessed and he disclosed that he was Surajpal and had come for the welfare of the people. The people thereafter constructed a temple in the village and established him there.

Manufacture of a Mohra: Mohras are made all of metals of ashdhatu, gold, silver, copper, and brass. The mohras of ashtdhatu are cast. Mohras of the other metals are prepared by embossing sheets. The manufacturers belong to the professional caste of sunar or thathar, those who work on precious metals like gold, etc., but at places they may be doing the work in all metals including iron. They are all hereditary. The task of manufacturing of the mohras begins with the performance of certain rites. The newly constructed faces are to be consecrated usually with a grand ceremony accompanied by a sacrifice.

Mohras are stores of rich historical data and are objects of art. Some of them are provided with inscriptions with lot of information. In the construction of the new mohras some old worn out mohras are melted and used for reconstruction. Iignorance and negligence on the part of some quarters have led to the loss of a lot of valuable historical and artistic data. They are pure of a soul of the which is inhabited in one or may be more, known upto four.

Occurrence: Geographically mohra is found uniformly all over the district of Kullu. In Himachal Pradesh presently it is found in practice in the districts of Mandi, Shimla, Sirmaur and Kinnaur. Historically it occurred in Chamba also. There is single evidence of its occurrence in Lahul also, a cultural extension from Kullu.

Historicity: The earliest mohra found in Kullu is dated 1025 C.E.. The mohra was seen brought out from the bhandar during the Bhunda festival in Nirmand held after the gap of every twelve years. But it was not used in the rath. Then we find a mohra containing an inscription which is dated 1501 C.E. with the name of Raja Sidh Pal (1500-1530) in the rath of Vishnu at Sajla, near Naggar. It may be presumed from this that rath existed at the moment of donation of this mohra. Thereafter some mohras bearing the names of some other rajas are also found. At Khokhan we find mohras dated 1742 and 1747 C.E. bearing the name of Raja Tedhi Singh (1742-1767). There are numerous mohras bearing inscriptions yet to be explored.

The types of mohras: Devatas have different kinds of rathas which have varying capacity to carry mohras. Among others type of the rath appears to be one of the strong factors in deciding the number of mohras a rath is to be decked with. Below are given the types of rath and the number of mohras they carry in practice.

Serial No. Name of devata and village Type of rath Bell metal Gold Silver Brass Total
1. Arji Pal, V. Naargi, Kothi Maharaja . Khada  1 7 8
2. Chhmaahu Nag, V. Badagran 64(Paulghi), Teh. Banjar. Khada 5 7 12
3. Aayarhu Nag, Dehuri, Kothi Boonga. Khada 8 8
4. Aayarhu Mahavir, Shohool, Kothi Boonga Khada 8 8
5. Asha Puri, Dhalyara. Khada 1 7 8
6. Karath Nag, Kandi, The. Banjar, Khada 1 7 8
7. Gauhri Deo, Baagan, Kothi Maharaja Khada 8 8
8. Kali Narayan, Jonga, Kothi Maharaja Khada 1 7 8
9. Kaila Vir, Kamand, Kothi Maharaja khada 8 8
10. Khodu Mahadev, Trehan, Koth Kotkandi. Khada 8 8
11. Gautam Rishi, Manihar, Kothi Kotkandi. Khada 1 7 1 9
12. Gautam Rishi, Ved Vyas and Kanchan Nag. V. Gaushal, Kothi Manali. Pheta 6 6
13. Gauhri Dev, vi. Janaahal, Kothi Khokhan. Pheta 4 10 14
14. Gauhri deo, V. Damcheen, Kothi Hurang. Pheta 1 15 16
15. Kali Nag, Karal, Kothi Mandalgarh Pheta 1 11 12
16. Bijli Mahadev, V. Mathaanh, Pheta 4 3 17 24
17. Arji Pal, Zhokarhi, Hurang. pheta 1 11 2 14
18. Chamunda, v. Nashala, Kothi Naggar. Pheta 2 16 18
19. Chotru Nag, V. Shodha, Kothi Raghupur. Pheta 2 11 13
20. Juaanhu Mahadeva, Juaanhi, Kothi Kais. Pheta 4 27 31
21. Kaali Odhi, Village Shim near Dwara. Pheta. 1 11 12, earlier it had 8.
22. Kalia Nag, Shirad Pheta 1.main mohra 11 12
23. Jamlu, Oodsu. Kothi Kotkandi, Khada 2 8 10
24. Darvasa rishi, Paalgi, Kothi Bhalahan. Khada 6 1 4 11
25. Toondi  Vir, V. Dalaasni Khada 1 8 9 (three in front)
26. Dev Gauhri, V. Vari Tuni, Kothi Kais. Karadu. 2 5 7
27. Gauhri deo, Dhalpur, Kullu. Karadu 11 (metal unknown)
28. Talaiti, Kharahl,Teh. Kullu Karadu No mohra
29. Chambhu, V. Kasholi, Kothi Deel Paalkinumaa form of karadu 1 5 6
30. Narayan, V. Pulga, Teh. Kullu. Karadu 1 (metal unknown)

The above table shows that except a few all the devatas possess mohra of bell metal and in many cases it forms the main mohra of the deity.

The number of mohras can be increased. In the case of the devata of Shim earlier it had eight mohras later on the mohras were increased from eight to twelve.

A karadu can have no mohra, or may have one mohra and in once case we see eleven.

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