The love story of Odho Jam and Hothal Padamani, is one of the most popular ones in Kachchh and even in parts of Saurashtra, where it must have travelled like folk tales do. In the many versions, spread across times zones and geographies, we get different accounts of their ancestry. Odho is either the brave leader of a tribe, or a Kshatriya warrior from Kiyor, and Hothal is a brave woman leading a tribe; in many versions she often appears as a celestial being living on earth as the result of a curse.

Odho Jam is in exile, after having rejected the sexual advances of Minavati, his sister-in-law. He is staying with a maternal relative, Visaldev of Pirana Patan, whose camels have been raided by Bambhaniya, the chief of Nagar-Samoi in Sindh. Odho decides to bring them back.

Hothal Padamani, belonging to a pastoral tribe, has her own scores to settle with the Bambhaniya of Sindh. He had ravaged her father’s kingdom and stole his cattle too. She had promised her dying father to avenge him. When she meets Odho Jam, she is out on her mission, dressed as a male warrior, called “Hotho” in some versions, and “Ekkalmal” in others. Odho Jam takes her to be a brave young soldier. United in their purpose, Odho Jam and Hothal form an immediate friendship, fight Bambhaniya’s men together, and return with the camels.

On returning from Nagar-Samoi, they part ways, Odho leaves for Pirana Patan and Hotho for mount Kanara. After a few days Odha Jam, unable to forget Hotho, decides to go in search of his friend. He spots the brave soldier’s male attire and his horse near a lake, and then he discovers the truth about Hothal’s identity when he sees her bathing in the water.

Stricken by love, Odho wants to marry her. Hothal, also in love, agrees on one condition: she will be with Odho Jam only and as long as he keeps her identity a secret. They get married and have two brave boys. Years later in the company of friends all drunken, as some versions say, or in a public meeting explaining the exceptional brave personality of his young children, according to another version, Odho reveals Hothal’s identity. She leaves him.

The song presented here in the voice of Jhuma Vagher from Bhadresar, begins at this moment in Odho Jam’s life, encapsulating the moment of separation. Odho Jam is miserable and in tears. Such grief, such tears that even the Hajasar lake overflows. Hothal Padamani is being coaxed to return with promises of luxury and hospitality.

Listen to the folk song sung by Juma Vagher from Bhadresar

કચ્છી

ચકાસર જી પાર મથે ઢોલીડા ધ્રૂસકે (2)
એ ફુલડેં ફોરૂં છડેયોં ઓઢાજામ હાજાસર હૂબકે (2)
ઉતારા ડેસૂ ઓરડા પદમણી (2)
એ ડેસૂ તને મેડીએના મોલ......ઓઢાજામ.
ચકાસર જી પાર મથે ઢોલીડા ધ્રૂસકે
ફુલડેં ફોરૂં છડેયોં ઓઢાજામ હાજાસર હૂબકે
ભોજન ડેસૂ લાડવા પદમણી (2)
એ ડેસૂ તને સીરો,સકર,સેવ.....ઓઢાજામ.
હાજાસર જી પાર મથે ઢોલીડા ધ્રૂસકે
ફુલડેં ફોરૂં છડેયોં ઓઢાજામ હાજાસર હૂબકે
નાવણ ડેસૂ કુંઢીયું પદમણી (2)
એ ડેસૂ તને નદીએના નીર..... ઓઢાજામ
હાજાસર જી પાર મથે ઢોલીડા ધ્રૂસકે
ફુલડેં ફોરૂં છડયોં ઓઢાજામ હાજાસર હૂબકે
ડાતણ ડેસૂ ડાડમી પદમણી (2)
ડેસૂ તને કણીયેલ કામ..... ઓઢાજામ
હાજાસર જી પાર મથે ઢોલીડા ધ્રૂસકે (2)
ફુલડેં ફોરૂં છડ્યોં ઓઢાજામ હાજાસર હૂબકે.

English

At the shores of Chakasar lake drummers mourn,
they weep (2)
Flowers have deserted their smells so sweet,
and the lake wells up like Odho Jam's grief. (2)
We’ll give you spacious rooms to stay, Padamani (2)
We'll give you palaces with many storeys steep,
Hajasar lake wells up like Odho Jam’s grief
At the shores of Hajasar lake drummers mourn,
they weep.
Flowers have deserted their smells so sweet,
and Hajasar lake wells up like Odho Jam's grief
We'll feed you laddus for a meal, Padamani (2)
We'll give you sheero, sakar, and sev...
At the shores of Hajasar lake drummers mourn,
they weep.
Flowers have deserted their smells so sweet,
and Hajasar lake overflows like Odho Jam's grief
We'll give you a little pond to bathe in, Padamani (2)
We'll give you the waters of the rivers...
At the shores of Hajasar lake drummers mourn,
they weep.
Flowers have deserted their smells so sweet,
and Hajasar lake well up like Odho Jam's grief
We'll give you a pomegranate stem to clean your teeth (2)
We'll give you a stem as soft as oleander.
At the shores of Hajasar lake drummers mourn,
they weep (2)
The flowers have deserted their smells sweet,
and the lake overflows like Odho Jam's grief.

PHOTO • Priyanka Borar

Type of song: Traditional folk song

Cluster: Songs of love and longing

Song: 10

Title of the song: Chakasaji paar mthe dholida dhruske

Composer: Deval Mehta

Singer: Juma Vagher from Bhadresar village of Mundra taluka

Instruments used: drum, harmonium, banjo

Recording year: 2012, KMVS studio

English translation: Pratishtha Pandya

These songs, 341 recorded by a community-run radio Soorvani, have come to PARI through the Kutch Mahila Vikas Sangathan (KMVS). For more of these songs visit this page: Songs of the Rann: archive of Kutchi folk songs

A special thanks to Preeti Soni, Aruna Dholakia, secretary, KMVS, Amad Sameja, project coordinator KMVS for their support and to Bhartiben Gor for her invaluable help.

Text : Pratishtha Pandya

Pratishtha Pandya is a Senior Editor at PARI where she leads PARI's creative writing section. She is also a member of the PARIBhasha team and translates and edits stories in Gujarati. Pratishtha is a published poet working in Gujarati and English.

Other stories by Pratishtha Pandya
Illustration : Priyanka Borar

Priyanka Borar is a new media artist experimenting with technology to discover new forms of meaning and expression. She likes to design experiences for learning and play. As much as she enjoys juggling with interactive media she feels at home with the traditional pen and paper.

Other stories by Priyanka Borar