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Nursery Rhymes and Doggerel
(Editor, Compiler, Author and Translator Dr. PADMA SUDHI)
Cradle songs, game songs, nursery rhymes, and other doggerel verses are common all over India. Cradle songs induce babies to sleep. They are sung or recited in a musical tune by mothers or nurses while putting children to sleep. Such songs serve a practical purpose and are composed orally by the elderly women of the family. Sometimes they have a touch of poetic excellence. A cradle song of Gujarat is as follows:
The swing is so dear to my son,
I give it toys to play with,
Sleep, my baby sleep!
My little son is so wise,
It bathes sitting in a tub,
Sleep, my baby sleep.

An illustration from Madhya Pradesh can also be cited here
Who would beat you baby?
Swing swing in your cradle.
I am going for water
I will give you scented oil.
Swing Swing in you cardle.
What widow's eye has caught you
That you cry so much?
Swing Swing in your cradle.

In this group also come the game songs of children. Little boys and girls recite game songs in the excitement of games. That is why they are more rhythmic than lyrical themselves, and as a matter of fact, they are inseparable parts of games. Songs vary according to the character of the games, indoor and outdoor. There are mixed games of little boys and girls which have characters of their own. When the boys grow older they for, separate groups, and the characters of their games also change. The games of small girls are naturally indoor and less vigorous, but those of boys are otherwise. In game songs, the emphasis is laid only on rhythm and not on any formulated thought or idea. They are nonsense verses in the real sense of the term. A game song from Upper Assam is cited below. The game concerned is known as question - and - answer game. It is indoor in character and played by children of both sexes together during their early years:
O crane, who has taken away your hand?
The mango, when I tried to pick it.
Where is that mango?
It fell into the wood.
What became of the wood?
The fire consumed it.
Where are the ashes?
The washer man carried them away.

Similar game songs are also current in Bengal, Orissa, and Andhra Pradesh. With the introduction of Western games, the traditional ones are being forgotten and the songs based on them are also becoming obsolete. In most of the tribal societies of India there are no organized children's games and hence game songs are seldom met with there. There are certain game songs, specially those of little girls, which are not just non-sense verses; they sometimes express the deepest feeling of domestic and personal life. In the following game song from the Punjab, a little girl is thinking of her future marriage and of its natural consequences:
O pipal of my birthplace
Your shade is cool;
Water in you pond is dirty;
The leaf - powder from its surface I set aside,
Lacchi and Banto went to husbands.
Whom shall I tell my story?
Without fire my bones are roasted.
On my spinning wheel I cannot make yarn,
I wish I could go back to father-in-law's
And confine myself within the house.

Yet another type of doggerel verse can be commonly heard in the ceremonial worship performed by elderly women. The verse are not inspired by any intense spiritual feeling, being merely ritual songs and sometimes also magical in character. They are recited by the womenfolk only. In a ceremonial worship by the women of Bengal, the following prayer is offered to the popular goddess known as Senjuti:
Give me a palanquin to come and go,
Give me a golden mirror to see my face,
Let the palanquin to my father's house,
Come to my father-in-law's house.
On the way let the palanquin
Drink honey and clarified butter.

There is a class of doggerel verse which can be characterized as magical. They have a little or no literary merit and are sometimes no more than mere jugglery of obsolete words. They are re cited by the exorcists to cure cases of snake-bite, to induce rainfall during a drought, to protect the ripe paddy in the fields from hailstorm, and for various other practical purposes. The following magical verse meant for the treatment of a case of snake-bite collected from the Santhal parganas in Bihar is an example:
Hunkā says gaḍgaḍā, kalke says ashes,
The preceptor looks at the water of hunka,
And says, thou art now free of poison.
O the poison of Netai, the washerwoman,
O the poison of Kālakūta,
Go off by the way of the wound,
At the grace of Mother manasā.
They are nonsense verse in the real sense of the term. By such nonsense utterance the mystic character of the incantations is believed to be retained intact.
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