The Fortune of Water

My father was the middle sibling of nine siblings, born into a small farming village called Sampad. The village lies 22 kilometers southwest of the nearest town, Himatnagar and about 70 kilometers northeast from the nearest and largest city of Gujarat, Ahmedabad. Growing up, my father often told me my ancestors chose the land our village is on because of the abundant Sabarmati River which once flowed next to our village. Today, in our village, the river still flows in after the rainfall during the monsoon season, but is dry the rest of the year. The Sabarmati River is one of the major west flowing rivers of India, running from the Aravalli mountain range in the Udaipur District of Rajasthan and meets the Gulf of Cambay, a bay bordering Gujarat on the Arabian Sea coast of India. 

Much like the nearest city of Ahmedabad, Sampad and the surrounding villages were established on the banks of the Sabarmati River. In Hindu scripture, the Bhagavata Purana, Rishi (Sage) Dadhichi was the son of sage Atharvan and Chiti. His father, Atharvan is said to be the author of Atharaveda, one of the four Vedas. The ancient story tells us Rishi Dadhichi sacrificed his life and his bones for the kind of Dieties and Bhagwan Vishnu to defeat the demon Vritrasura. From his bones, a spear was created to defeat the demon. 

Indra once killed a rishi called Vishwarupa. News of this murder reached Vishwarupa’s father, Tvastha, who performed a yagna, invoked an asura called Vritra, and ordered him to annihilate Indra’s armies. The only weapon with which Vritra could be killed was one made of the bones of Dadhichi, a hermit whose bones had been energized by tapasya. On India’s request to sage Dadhichi abandoned his body and let the devas fashion a weapon with his bones with which Indra killed Vritra. - Indian Mythology, Devdutt Pattanik

From his life, Rishi Dhadhichi symbolizes sacrifice and it is said one of the sites of his ashram was along the Sabarmati River, very close to the present day Sabarmati Ashram, established by Mahatma Gandhi. His ashram was created between the jail and the crematorium along the banks of the Sabarmati River on the site which is where Rishi Dadhichi’s ashram was based. Gandhi believed there was no better place to serve as the basis for his independence movement, making Ahmedabad the center of the Indian independence movement. 

The Sabarmati River legend is that Shiva brought the Goddess Ganga to Gujarat, which created the Sabarmati River (also known as Bhogwa). With rich soil and water close by, this is where our ancestors had established our homes and land to farm. During my summers back to India, I often wondered how our ancestors had come to the land we are in now. Some family members told me our ancestors had walked from Patan, which in present day, is a city in northeastern Gujarat. Others told me we came from the north and settled as servants for a King who was ruling the land at the time. Slowly, as servants, we began accumulating land. Last names during the time were given based on your profession. Patel, from the surname Patidar, literally meaning piece of land. 

The town of Himatnagar was founded by King Ahmed Shah I. He named Ahmednagar (home of Ahmed) after himself, which renamed Himatnagar after prince Himmat Singh by Is Pratap Singh, the Maharaja or kind of Idar. It is during the 1400’s, during the time King Ahmed established Ahmednagar, that it is believed my ancestors came to settle on the land we now call Sampad. 

Much of our history has been lost through time, but stories are still preseved as they are passed down from generation to generation. The history of my father and mother’s lineage had once been recorded by Barots, who were known as the historians of the community. Like Brahmins (include what the system of the Brahmins had looked like and what slowly began to happen) in the community, who traditionally passed down spiritual knowledge, the Barot’s role was to move from home to home, village to village, maintaining track of the lineage of one’s family. Through time, they sustained themselves, much like the Brahmins, from payment of grains and other currencies as they went home to home. During a certain period in the last 100 years, it is believed the Barots stopped coming to our villages. In the mid 1900’s when family members began traveling to local towns and cities to work as servants or factory workers, villagers stopped contributing to Barots. The story goes that the Barots were so fed up with not being valued and paid, they threw all of my family’s books down a well. 

Throughout my father’s childhood, in times of drought, relatives from neighboring villages or goat herders passed through Sampad. Relatives came from neighboring villages like Saibapur and Derol. The relatives from these villages were nestled in the middle of large valleys where water would go down, but never come back up. It became hot and they were unable to provide water to their buffalo. They used this opportunity to walk or come with their buffalo carts, also called ghadoos. Family used the dry season, or the summer, as a time to visit relatives in neighboring villages. They ate and slept in the homes of the relatives and when the winter came, they went back to their homes and tended to their lands. 

Relatives weren’t the only ones to come through or to the village. Herders or nomads from  the state of Rajasthan, north of Gujarat, came through the village. They crossed the Sabarmati River and continued on through to the southwest where it wasn’t as dry and they could find water for the herds. After 4 or 5 months, they would go back to their villages in Rajasthan. 

As the herders from Rajasthan passed through Sampad, they were given grass to feed their cattle. Sometimes the villagers would trade with them. The herders would stay in the farm for 2 nights, tend to it, and their cattle would leave their excrements as fertilizer to help nourish the crops. In exchange, the farmers would give the herders grain and grass to feed their herds.