During the 15th century, zamindars belonged to the nobility and formed the ruling class. Emperor Akbar granted them mansabs and their ancestral domains were treated as Jagirs.
A peasant’s life can be well associated with the atrocious 15th century Zamindari system which granted the lobby of powers to the Zamindars who seek pleasure in dominating the peasantry. The story of Bawa Jitto reminds of the exposition of oppressions faced by the peasants.
The folklore of revered Bawa Jitto in whose memory the ongoing Jhiri Mela is being organized annually since then is one such story which highlights the dominance of atrocious Zamindari system over the poor hardworking peasantry.
Bawa Jitto is a story of an honest farmer who sacrificed his life for the rights and justice of poor farmers making him a great Dogra legend. Baba Jitmal was born to Roop chandra and Janja on 1457 in Aghar Jitto (Dharkot),near Katra. He was a great devotee of Mata Vaishno Devi. Bawa Jitto had a daughter Bua Kouri who burnt herself along with her father. It is believed that he had the vision of the Goddess Vaishno Devi and Bua kouri was an incarnation of Vaishno devi born to Bawa Jitto.
Different folklores are associated with Bawa Jitto regarding the cause of his sacrifice for the welfare of peasants. In one of the stories Bawa Jitto by dint of his hardwork and sincere efforts turned a piece of barren land to fertile which later seized through unfair means by a Zamindar, Mehta Veer Singh.
The Zamindar signed an agreement with Bawa Jitto and gave him a piece of land for cultivation. According to the agreement, Bawa Jitto was supposed to give one fourth of his crop’s produce to Mehta Veer Singh. Bawa Jitto worked hard and as a result of his efforts, he got a very good yield. As per conditions, Bawa Jitto was supposed to give one fourth of his crop produce to Mehta. When the share was divided between the two Bawa Jitoo was left only with one fourth of his crop and three fourth was taken by the Zamindar forcibly. This led to his misery as he was left with very less yield. Frustrated and depressed Bawa Jitto sacrificed himself on a heap of grains.
After his death, the wrath of Bawa Jitto was faced by the villagers as those who consumed his product came under Bawa Jitto’s debt. Thus to seek forgiveness the villagers and their descendants have been attending the annual fair to repent for partaking the blood strained grains and for their decendents who did not came forward to support Bawa Jitto.
The Samadhi of Bawa Jitto is situated in the vicinity of Jhiri area of Shamachak. Every year, the fair is held to pay tribute to father and her seven year old daughter Bua Kouri. People from all over state come to Jammu during the time of Jhiri Mela to pay homage to Bawa Jitto and his holy soul. The fair also provides livelihood to a number of traders and stall owners.
The week long fair witnesses exuberance, devotion and cheerful atmosphere around. The story of Bawa Jito is also portrayed though stage performances by different theatre groups during the week long fair.