Music is not only food for the soul but also an important tool for soul searching, or so they say. A recent study on the folk songs from the Mewat region of Haryana, reveals interesting facts on Hindu-Muslim solidarity inherent in the culture of the region for several years.
Folk songs celebrated the coming together of Muslims and Hindus to fight invaders, suggests a study by Dr. G.D. Gulati in the context of Mewat region (spread over parts of Haryana, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh). Dr. Gulati has worked on medieval Indian history and has combined folklore with other evidence in the understanding of Mewat region and its people in a disciplined way in his latest book titled Mewat - Folklore, Memory, History.
Folk songs are peppered with history such as how Hasan Khan Mewati joined hands with Rana Sanga in the battle of Khanua and fought very bravely till the last. Again, during the 1857 uprising against the British for independence, folklore celebrates how people of various communities fought with unity.
Teachings of sufis and saints like Lal Das, Charan Das, Sahjo Bai, Allah Baksh, Shah Chokha and others are preserved in the folk songs. These teachings have a strong context of communal harmony as these saints attracted both Hindus and Muslims.
Folklore provides important linkages to understand the thinking process of communities over several generations.
Folklore has been defined in the Standard Dictionary of Folklore as the “beliefs, customs, myths, legends, songs, tales and ritualistic ceremonies of the common people of any society.” Dr. Gulati's work focuses on examining the role of folklore in building communal harmony and the teaching of saints who are respected alike by members of various religious communities.
However, some times folklore also reflects prejudices and biases of some sections, and so their use in present times whether for scholarly work or communication should be made with caution. Dr. Gulati says, “A meaningful approach to the folk traditions of any region, society or community must be made against its historical background and need to be verified through the indexes and reference works which form the scientific tools of historians.”