A very Happy New Year to all the readers...
This special post talks about how New Year was celebrated by some of the Royals of Hindustan, and later by common people when "Royalty ceased"....
New Year’s eve at Bombay House was a grand affair but the one at Old Pataudi House was no less memorable. It must have originally belonged to the Nawab but he left it when the new one was built in South Delhi. After that it was given on rent to mostly Christian families, who had earlier lived at Turkman Gate but moved into it as they found its location more suitable for attending Sunday service at St James’ Church in Kashmere Gate. Some, however, continued to go to the Turkman Gate Holy Trinity Church, built in 1904 after the site chosen near Ajmere Gate had to be abandoned after digging revealed that there was an underground reservoir there of Mughal days which supplied water to the Shahji lake that once covered what is now the Ramlila ground.
Christmas was a big celebration but New Year’s eve was no less spectacular. Naney Joseph had a large family with sons, grandsons and great-grandsons – all of whom were married and, together with their wives and kids, filled up many rooms in Pataudi House. The old man was 90 then but still active enough to take charge on festive occasions. His ancestors had been Tyagi Brahmins from Mewat who had migrated to Delhi in mid-19th Century and faced a tough time during the Revolt of 1857 as they were Christian converts. For this they were attacked by those who considered them stooges of the British, but though some perished, the rest managed to survive by declaring their allegiance to the Mughal emperor. Their dhoti-kurta dress and dehati lingo lent credibility to their claim that they had changed their religion but not customs, celebrating Diwali and Holi too, besides Christmas and the New Year.
When the British retook Delhi and Bahadur Shah Zafar was sent into exile in Rangoon, they repaid their debt of gratitude to the men who had spared their lives by proclaiming their innocence. After that the Tyagi Christians began to be regarded as friends, particularly by the inhabitants of Turkman Gate. In the changedcircumstances they were greatly sought after by those seeking favours from the new dispensation.
Now coming into their own, they celebrated Church festivities with greater fervour. At Christmas they sang bhajans of “Nanha Balak, Yesu” and at New Year’s “Naye-saal-ke-geet”. It was in the evening that the whole community congregated to bring the sun down with singing and dancing. There was typical rural “naach-gana” and also some ballroom dances learnt by the girls from English lady teachers.
New Year’s eve of 1947 became a glamorous event as it was the first time that it was being celebrated after Independence. Refugees from Punjab and Sindh did not quite understand what all the gaiety was about as they were not familiar with such celebrations but those were times when even old women danced at Pataudi House, which was gaily illuminated with diyas and bunting on Dec. 31. Andrew and his brother Philip, who were children then, used to talk about the post-Azadi Naya Saal. Bannu chachha, who had finished off half a bottle, decided that after the young people had enjoyed themselves, no woman would cook khana at home and stuff bought from the Jama Masjid dhabas could be eaten. The pulao-zarda arrived, along with tandoori rotis, korma and kababs. Some ate to their heart’s content while others were still on “liquid diet”. Their wives and mothers, following the old custom of eating after the males, passed the time singing to the beat of the dholak and the tunes of the harmonium. Perpetua Bua, Kali Mumani and Ganno Bhabhi clapped as they were too old to sing because of cracked voices, but Alloo Bua and Sanno Ba’s wife added to the fun by showing off their dance thumkas in imitation of the dancers of Chawri Bazar. Then William Sahib, line operator in a CP newspaper who had had one too many, took hold of the dholak and beckoning the others staged a qawwali until he swooned away midway and Keti Ba, taking off his turban, crowed like a cock to make the others realize that it was past midnight and the New Year had begun. Everybody then sang in unison, “Naya saal phir se aya hai, mubarak ho mubarak ho”, and the assembly broke up to sleep till dawn, when it was time to go to church but before that Chhinga Bhaiyya kissed his new bride and made her blush.
Names in the last paragraph are fictitious, only to tell that people of different faiths celebrated Christmas and New Year together with harmony, some not even knowing the meaning and "reason" of this celebration. ~~Such were the times..~~ :)
This article has been borrowed from the research of a chronicler.
I do not claim any credit for the post.