During one of my recent visits to Ahmedabad, Gujarat, I came across a rain myth. As mentioned earlier during the myths of Rain (See articles dated June, 7, 9 & 10, 2011) there are a number of general and local myths associated with rain. They could be the causes of rain or myths related to the need to rain. Sometimes they are also associated with causes of no-rain. This one is associated with no-rain.
This is a myth which is called the myth of Baba Dhokal. Sultan Ahmed Shah, who established the city of Ahmedabad, needed four Ahmed’s (meaning holy souls) and twelve saints to be a part of the ceremony to establish the city. Baba Dhokal, better known as Hazrat Sheikh Mahmud Chishty, who was a renowned Sufi saint of the times was chosen to preside over the ceremony. The myth is regarding him.
It is said that soon after the establishment of the city, the city did not receive rains. So people went to him and requested to do something to get the rains. On their request, he started chanting 'Baba Dhokal, varsad mokal' (Baba Dhokal, send rain), and according to the myth, the city received rains soon after. People were so pleased with his efforts that they made dhokla’s (a steamed food item, very commonly found in Gujarati cuisine) and distributed amongst the poor and needy. It is said that even today, when people fear a drought-like situation, they throng to his burial and chant 'Baba Dhokal, varsad mokal' and also distribute dhokla’s to all.
This is a small and localized myth associated with a person whose burial can be found in the city of Ahmedabad (in the Madhvpura area). He was no god and no imaginary character but a person who was living till about 600 years ago (the city was established in the year 1411). This is a case in point of the strength and importance of myths in our country and the universality and occasional secularity of the same.
(Why has the name Baba Dhokal been associated with the Sufi saint and its association with dhokla’s is unknown.)