Friday, June 12, 2009

A Doli – Palanquin Carriers’ Occupation in Pilgrim Center Palitana – A Study

“ A Doli – Palanquin Carriers’ Occupation in Pilgrim Center Palitana – A Study ”
- Dr. Mehboob Desai [*]

1. Introduction
There are vast opportunities of occupations in tourism industry. Our attention usually directed to occupations like boarding and lodging, transport or food which are directly or indirectly connected with such matters. But there are many other occupations connected with tourism, which are associated with human labour and a large number of people earn their livelihood through these occupations. With the rising awareness in the field of ecotourism and responsible tourism – researchers, writers or experts will now turn to these avenues of tourism employment with focus on manual labour, of which the occupation of ‘Doli’ (Palanquin) carriers will deserve a special attention.
In Gujarat places of pilgrimage situated on hills are particularly important. In order to reach there, monks, saints, old people, invalid persons and women use Dolis (palanquin). Doli occupation has grown at places of Pilgrimage like Girnar, Palitana, Taranga, etc.
This occupation can also be found in Taragadh situated near the shrine of Khwaja Sahib at Ajmer. In spite of such prevalence of the Doli (palanquin) carriers, tourism planners are yet to scientifically study this occupation, profile of the manual labourers engaged in this occupation and the issues of their health, income, etc. I have therefore ventured to highlight the issues and scope of this occupation through this paper.
2. Places of Pilgrimage on Shetrunjaya Hills at Palitana
This is a famous place of pilgrimage for Jains in the whole of world. Many pilgrims from within the country and abroad come for the pilgrimage every year. On the Shetrunjaya hill, at the height of 591 meters from sea level, there are beautiful and artistic 863 marble temples in this place of pilgrimage of these temples, some of them have been constructed in the 11th Century. All the temples on the hill have been divided into nine ‘toonk’. ‘Toonk’ means the top of the hill. Nine temples are as follows –
1. Dada Shri Adeshwar Bhagwan’s Toonk.
2. Motisha’s Toonk.
3. Balabhai’s Toonk.
4. Premchand Modi’s Toonk.
5. Hemabhai’s Toonk.
6. Ujambhai’s Toonk.
7. Sakarvashi’s Toonk.
8. Chhipacashi’s Toonk.
9. Choumukhiji’s Toonk.
In addition, there is a water reservoir with ornate steps, known as ‘Surya Kunda’ on the Shetrunjaya hill. Its water is absolutely clean and is considered cure-all. Jains believe this water reservoir is sacred and consider bathing in this reservoir a holy act.
Very near Adishwardada’s temple there is a shrine of Muslims’ ‘Angarpir’ (a Muslim saint). To reach this place the path has been prepared by carving the hill. Totally six fairs are held in this place of pilgrimage on the following days, namely, the full moon day of the Hindu month ‘Kartika’, the eighth day of the first half of ‘Falguna’, the 13th day of the first half of ‘Falguna’, the full moon day of the first half of ‘Chaitra’, the sixth day of the second half of ‘Vaishakha’, and the fourteenth day of the thousands of pilgrims come here and Shetrunjaya hill is teeming with human sea.
3. The Occupation of Doli (palanquin) Carriers at Palitana
Thousands of tourists come from India and abroad to visit the place of Jain pilgrimage situated on the Shetrunjaya hill. Among these tourists a number of monks and woman are unable to climb hills. Such tourists perform pilgrimage by sitting in Doli (stretchers). As a result, the Doli (Stretcher) occupation has grown at the foot of the Shetrunjaya hill. About two thousand people earn their livelihood through this occupation. The occupation is hereditary. During the religious festivals of Jain, which is four times in a year, there is sharp increase in it. During the remaining eight months, there is decline in this occupation. The Doli (Stretcher) occupation is connected with human labour. Like other occupations, it also gets competitive at times. Some of the important features of this occupation are given below.
3.1 Types of Doli
A stretcher consists of two types, one with a chair. Only one person can sit in it. It is lifted by four persons. The other stretcher is single which can be lifted by two men only. A female worker is retained with a palanquin to carry luggage. She accompanies the palanquin in proximity. Wages to this female assistant are also to be paid by the pilgrims.
3.2 Cast and Educational Classification of Doli workers
Labourers who work as stretcher-workers mainly belong to four castes of society : Shepherds, ‘Devi pujaks’, Sindhi (Muslim) and Koli. Among these 75% come from ‘Devi pujak’ community. Next to follow is Koli community whereas between the remaining two, they are scattered.
Doli workers have received education mostly up to Primary and Secondary levels. Because of increasing unemployment and competition, one worker who has received education up to collegiate level even has joined this occupation.
3.3 Age and Health of Doli workers
This occupation is directly associated with physical labour. As a result, it appears at the first sight that only capable and young persons can join this occupation. Average age of males connected with Doli
Occupation ranges from 15 to 40. Some times a male even above 50 years old is found doing the job of Doli carrying, amount of such workers is negligible.
As this occupation is connected with physical labour, Doli workers suffer specifically from certain diseases, such as –
1. Shoulder pain and clotting of blood on shoulders.
2. Waist pain.
3. Joints pain.
4. Trouble of respiration (i.e. breathing trouble).
Among male Doli carriers usually above diseases are found some times, a Doli carrier becomes the victim of heart-attack on the hill itself. Except such singular incident, Doli carrying worker is not reported to have experienced any trouble on the hill.
Among the Doli carriers, amount of addiction has been particularly found. Among them 99% have been found having addictions of tea, tobacco, ‘mawa’ (a powdered mixture of tobacco, liquid calcium and flakes of betel nut) and wine. Their health, therefore, deteriorates and quickly turns away from this occupation.
3.4 Income of Doli workers
Income of Doli workers is not fixed. They earn money during the period of four months of pilgrimage. They live on the same income for the remaining eight months. Rates of stretcher hire are fixed by Shri Palitana Doli Kamdar (Stretcher Workers) union. Accordingly,
1. For a distance of about one mile and a half Rs. 700/-
2. For four miles and a half…… Rs. 1000/-
3. For one hundred and fifty miles Rs. 2000/-
Rate of covering pilgrimage in a Doli for all places of pilgrimage at the extent of Rs. 25,000/-.
After setting the contract with a customer, every Doli worker has compulsorily to get a receipt of Rs. 5/- issued from the office of Palitana Stretcher-Workers union. That Rs. 5/- go (credited) to the union funds. Although the rates as above have been fixed, a Doli worker can raise or reduce the rate according to the times and circumstances. During the days of pilgrimage, rates go up ten times higher.
3.5 Shri Palitana Doli Kamdar Union
Shri Palitana Doli Kamdar Union was officially established on 1st of January, 1987. Its stone-inscription exists in the union office even today. Before the establishment of the union, the firm of Kalyanji Anandji was conducting the work of Doli workers. But after 1981, separated there of and Doli workers have formed their own union. At present, Shri Palitana Doli Kamdar Union made several rules for the convenience of Doli workers and the pilgrims. They are as follows–
1. At the time of fixing contract Doli worker must make all clarifications.
2. After fixing the contract, if the Doli worker fails to abide by the contract, complaint about it can be lodged to the union.
3. Unnecessary discussion should not take place with a Doli carrier.
4. If the contract does not include the ‘Ghantipag’ or nine toonk, the palanquin will go up to Rampol only.
5. Twenty five percent extra charges will have to be paid for all the nine toonk.
6. A stretcher should not be hired half way.
7. If clarification about sitting a child over and above one person has not been made with a stretcher-carrier, one-half additional charge will have to be paid.
8. A female luggage carrier can be given luggage restricted to only the person sitting in the Doli.
9. After fixing the contract is a pilgrim does not abide by it he/she will have to pay one-half of the charges to the union.
10. After fixing the contract, if a Doli worker fails to abide by it, the union office should be informed about it. Arrangements will be made to supply Doli at the same rate.
11. The receipt should be obtained before hand for hiring a stretcher and it should be kept with the person concerned.
4. Future Prospects of Doli Occupation and Suggestions.
Aim of this research-article is neither just to give information about Doli occupation, nor to criticize this occupation. It aims rather at to make such human labour centered occupation as much natural and modern as possible. It also aims at making the socio - economic status of its workers rich and healthy by removing its drawbacks.
As long as the rulers do not make arrangements to reach the places of pilgrimage and tours situated on hills except going on foot, Doli occupation will keep alive. This occupation is active at places like Girnar, Taranga, and Palitana or out side Gujarat in Rajasthan at Taragadh situated in Ajmer. So, instead of criticizing let us find out its drawbacks. Efforts are necessary to help the workers associated directly with human labour to maintain their dignity and get more income with less strain in their work. A few suggestions have been given for it.
4.1 Modernization of manual Doli is essential. It can be done in two ways: on the part of pilgrim’s facilities can be arranged. Next such construction and research of Doli should be undertaken by which a Doli carrier can cover long distance with less strain. This will also help a Doli worker to keep healthy and remain active for years.
4.2 Vigilance is necessary about the health of a Doli worker. Programme of relieving Doli workers of the addictions, run by voluntary organizations in society or by the government should be framed keeping in view the Doli workers, and their implementation should be done particularly in their class.
4.3 Doli workers union should receive official recognition. If Shri Palitana Doli Kamdar Union gets official recognition, awareness can be cultivated about workers wedges, health and number of other issues.
4.4 Instant medical aid is inevitable for Doli workers. In case a Doli carrier’s health goes wrong instantaneously on the perk, or at the foot, and received some injury, the Jain community should keep First Aid Box at the foot of the hill or at camps.
4.5 Followers of Jainism believing minutely in the principle of non-violence should ponder over the incident of performing pilgrimage by physically carrying man to man, and that too, at the places of Jain-religion. Manual rickshaws of Kolkata were abolished because of the humanitarian approach only. Similarly, tourism experts should seriously consider about a better and easier alternative for the Doli occupation.
5. Conclusion
A number of such occupations of tourism may be unknown or unfamiliar to the experts but for the Doli occupation which has struck our eyes, we seriously think something about it, and shall sincerely make efforts to stop human labour exploitation, I can take satisfaction about the complete fulfillment of this paper.

All the information Collected from:
1) Shri Laljibhai, President, Palitana Doli Kamdar Union.
2) Shri Pankaj Sureshbhai Parmar, Doli Worker.
3) Shri Amitbhai Gordhandas Solanki, Doli Worker.
4) Shri Mustakbhai, Doli Worker.

* Prof. & Head, Department of History, Bhavnagar University, Bhavnagar

* Director, Gandhian Studies Center , Bhavnager University ,

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