An Introduction to Chogadia Ginans

By Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali

The word gadi means "time", corresponding with the Koranic term, sa’a. During the Ancient times in India, day and night were measured in gadi instead of hours or minutes. According to the Holy Koran: "They are indeed in loss who give lie to the meeting with God until when the hour (al-sa’a) comes upon them all of a sudden." (6:31) Here, the hour (al-sa’a) stands for the gadi (moment) of death, which is also depicted in the following lines of a ginan:-

Sayan’ji mor’e dar lago ek din’ko
Din’ko re gadi pal’ko

"O Beloved! I am afraid of a day, and also the hour and moment of that day."

From this gadi, the time showing device evolved into what is known as a watch, a portable mechanical timepiece. In the Indian language, a watch is also called gadi or gadiyal.

The gadi is equal to 22.30 minutes, while the word cho means "four." There are many like words beginning with "cho" (four), such as chokhunn (four corners), chokhu’nt (all around), chogath (four knotted), chogatho (fourfold), chogannu (four times), chogam (four directions), chogdarm (all sides), chogan (all around), etc. Similarly, "chogadiyu’n" means "four gadis." The beating of four drums at every fourth gadi also means chogadia. It clearly suggests that the term chogadiyu’n or chogadia embodies a dual significance: on one hand, it means four gadis; on the other hand, it means four drums.

The lunar calendars, which survive even today, were in use in India, known as the Vikram. It is commonly called Samvat, an abbreviation of Samvatsara. Panchang is the Sanskrit name given to the traditional Indian standard time keeping viz. a calendar is the principal instrument for astrologers to compute astrological calculations. The festivals and ceremonies were regulated according to the lunar day (tithi). A Hindu lunar month consists of 30 lunar days and begins on the day of the full moon or the new moon. A fortnight ending with the full moon (purnimanta) is known as the "bright fortnight" and that ending with the new moon (amanta) is called the "dark fortnight". On the other hand, the Hijrah year of the Muslims, though strictly lunar, has its months adjusted to the course of the moon by means of a cycle of 30 years, containing 19 common years of 354 days, and 11 intercalary years of 355 days. The cycle therefore contains 10,631 days and amounts to 29 Julian years and 39 days. Each year is divided into 12 months containing alternately 30 and 29 days with the exception of the last month of the intercalary years, which invariably contains 30 days. The intercalary years are the 2nd, 5th, 7th, 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st 24th, 26th and 29th of the cycle. No month, however, can contain less than 29 days or more than 30 days. The following are the names of the Hindu and the Muslim months respectively.

Hindu Months
1. Vaisakha
2. Jaistha
3. Asarha
4. Sravana
5. Bhadra
6. Asvina
7. Karttika
8. Agrahayana
9. Pausa
10. Magha
11. Phalguna
12. Chaitra

Muslim Months
1. Muharram
2. Safar
3. Rabi-ul-Awwal
4. Rabi-us-Sani
5. Jumada-ul-Awwal
6. Jumada-us-Sani
7. Rajab
8. Shaban
9. Ramzan
10. Shawwal
11. Zul Qada
12. Zul Hijja

For the division of the day and night into hours, they divided the whole of the day and night in time zones of 8 pahors or pahars (Persian: pas), each pahor being equal to 3 hours of modern time.

The Holy Koran also divides a day (yaum) into eight parts (atrafun, sig. taraf). God says: "And glorify your Lord by the praising of Him before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and during hours of the night do also glorify (Him) and during parts of the day, that you may be well pleased." (20:130) In Arabic and Hebrew, the plural is counted from three, not two, as is common in other languages. Thus, the word "atrafun nahar" and a’anaul lail in the above verse stand for three parts each in a day and night. The combination of both these words denotes six parts. Besides, the word "tulu’i shams" and "gurub’i shams" in the above verse mean one part at dawn and another at dusk. In sum, the atrafun nahar, a’anaul lail, tulu’i shams and gurub’i shams refer to eight parts (pahors) of a day (yaum), each part consisting of three hours (a’an).

Each pahor is divided into 8 gadis, and a gadi is divided into 60 pals. A pal is divided into 30 kshans. The following table will make it easier to understand:

00. 01 second :
00. 75 second :
22. 30 seconds :
22. 30 minutes :
03. 00 hours :
24. 00 hours :

1 kala
1 kshan
1 pal
1 gadi
1 pahor
8 pahors

Under this computation, the term "chogadiyu’n" represents a duration of 90 minutes. Clepsydras were regulated to measure the time and ghadiyal or gong to announce the hour to the people in principal towns.

Generally, a day is also divided into 8 parts (not that of pahor), each part contains 1 hour and 30 minutes. The first part starting with the sunrise on that day, and last part ending on sunset on that day approximately for the day times. Similarly, there are 8 parts starting with sunset of current day and ending at sunrise next day.

There are seven types of time periods of which four are considered auspicious, such as amrit (nectar), shubh (luckiest), labh (benefit) and char or chanchal (unstable) and three are inauspicious, viz. rog (disease), kaal (death) and udvegh (fear). These seven kinds of time periods are also known as chogadiyu’n in the Indian society, or the seven moments in a day. These good and bad moments were associated with each day, such as Monday (amrit), Tuesday (udvegh), Wednesday (rog), Thursday (shubh), Friday (labh), Saturday (kaal) and Sunday (char). The auspicious and inauspicious moments were computed in daytime, while all morning hours in a week were considered propitious. The astrologers further claim that works which are undertaken during auspicious moments generally have a positive result and those undertaken during inauspicious moments have a negative result.

The Indians were firm in their conviction that everything in their mundane existence was determined and controlled by the moment of the planets and stars. The stars were not all those which were visible to the naked eye, only 27 or 28, i.e. those which were in the stages of the moon. Horoscopes were widely used to read the omens. It is said that parents asked the astrologers to determine fateful hours for their sons or daughters during the tilaka or magni, that is, betrothal ceremony or a formal recognition when the parties agreed to the wedding of the two children, the future bride and bridegroom. A grand mandapa (a tree-trunk studded with valuable stones and covered with green twigs, surrounded by pillars of sandal-wood and covered with a roof, from which globes of tale were hung, and a scarlet cloth was spread on the floor. Probably a platform was raised under this structure) was constructed in the house of the bride. Wedding wreaths of flowers or festoons of mango leaves were hung before the door. The parents would draw a square on the ground in front of the door, known as door worship (duar puja). The square was also equally divided into 12 parts, indicative of the lunar months. The drummers would sit at the four corners of the square and play the drums at the time propounded by the astrologers. The beat of drums was known as the chogadia. The moment was considered so propitious in the society that the people would start their new business, shift from old to new houses, proceed on travel, preparing and taking medicines, sowing seeds, planting trees, taking and giving loans, etc. on that hour.

The special songs being chanted at the time of chogadiyu’n became known as "chogadia" in the Indian culture.

In ancient time, during the proclamation of the new kingdom, the singers and poets were invited to sing songs to announce the new kingdom of the regions under his sway. From the palace or temple, a trumpet was blown at an interval of four gadis during the day to glorify the new kingdom. The first sound was blown at dawn and the last at dusk. The singing of the songs or blowing of the trumpet was also called the chogadia. Sometimes, the winding shell or horn, known as the shankh in Hindi, surah in Arabic or sped muhra in Persian was blown on the hilltop for this purpose.

The ancient kings built their palaces far from their kingdom. In order to make it known to their subjects that they were the rulers and their kingdom existed, they arranged blowing of the trumpets at dawn and dusk from the palaces. It exercised a media to announce that the kings were alive. Sometimes, the drums (mrdangam) with ankle bells (gejai) were beaten at four corners of the palace, known as char naqara or char dhol.

In religious context, the broadcast of similar significance after every four gadis twice a day as reaffirmation of Spiritual Kingdom of the Imam on earth, seems to have sprang as the paramount importance and absolute necessity in the Indian Ismailis.

What measures had been taken to make the followers in India know from time to time that their Imam of the Time physically resided in Iran? The Pirs or Hujjats played intermediary role in this context, who regularly mentioned the names of the Imams, which is clearly sounded in the ginans. After the death of Pir Tajddin in 1467, the office of the Pir vested in "Pir Pandiyat-e-Jawanmardi", a book of the farmans of Imam Mustansir billah (1463-1475), which was a silent Pir, not a speaking one. The "Satvenni’ji Vel" (compiled between 1516 and 1520) by Sayed Nur Muhammad Shah (d. 1534) played a vital role, which contains the names of 38 Imams. Henceforward, the vakils or Imam’s representative were the next intermediators through which the followers could know the Imam of the Time and recited his name in their daily prayers to update the genealogical list of the Imams. The vakils were not regular to visit every village and their mission was confined to a particular region. It also appears that the poor means of communication was responsible for having no regular coordination among the Indian vakils. Nonetheless, there was a general trend that in the absence of the name of the Imam of the Time, the Ismailis would recite the word "Nur Shah" (Lord of the Light) in their daily prayers and the ginans.

For further illustration, we will quote a few lines of "Eji, savant chaud’so ne bavan, an’e ashad’nu re ma’s"- a ginan of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin as under:-

11) Islam Shah arrived and enthroned in Kahek during the month of Ramzan on 1452 Samvat (or 1396 A.D.)

12) Abuzar Ali drew his descent from this lineage and rose as an Imam. He came in the village of Vircha and graced the throne of Imamate.

13) Zulfikar Ali descended and ascended as an Imam. It must be called the descent of Abuzar Ali, the progeny of Hussain.

14) The Lord arrived in Vircha on the 22nd day of the month of Falgoon, 1572 Samvat (or 1516 A.D.)

15) On that day the Imam arrived and settled down in that place. He, the Nur Shah acceded the throne, and that as an Imam after arrival.

Imam Islam Shah (1370-1423) was followed by Muhammad bin Islam Shah (1423-1463), Mustansir billah (1463-1475), Abdus Salam (1475-1493), Gharib Mirza (1493-1496), Abuzar Ali (1496-1509), Murad Mirza (1509-1514), Zulfikar Ali (1514-1516), Nuruddin Ali (1516-1550), Khalilullah Ali (1550-1585), Nizar (1585-1826) and so forth.

The general picture which emerges from these accounts is that the scribe had updated the above ginan, but did not know the names of the Imams after Imam Islam Shah, and wrote the name of Imam Abuzar Ali, who was known to him, omitting the names of Muhammad bin Islam Shah, Mustansir billah, Abdus Salam and Gharib Mirza. He then mentioned the name of Imam Zulfikar Ali, omitting the name of Murad Mirza. Lastly, it also infers that he did not know the name of the Imam of his own period, whom he referred to as the Nur Shah (Lord of the Light). It is a sharp evidence to judge that there was no explicit media to know the names of the Imam exactly in time. The most obvious inference from this account reveals that till the time of Imam Nuruddin, the average Ismailis in India were known with the names of the Imams. Then, the name of Imam Khalilullah (1550-1585) was introduced by Pir Dadu (1474-1596) in India. Then, the name of Imam Nizar (1585-1628) spread through a ginan by Sayed Abdul Nabi. But the periods of Imam Sayed Ali (1628-1660), Imam Hasan Ali (1660-1694) and Imam Kassim Ali (1694-1730) were such that the Ismailis continued their religious practices, keeping a faith in minds that an Imam on every age resided on earth. On this juncture, not possible to determine conclusively, the climate was benign and that the term "chogadia" for specific ginans acquired a religious significance for the Ismailis.

There was a major complexity involved in the process as the beat of drum or blow of horn was never recommended in the community. Needless to write that when any vakil or Imam’s representative would come from Iran, he was greeted in the villages, but no beating of drums or blowing of winding shell was ever operated upon his arrival. The general practice of drumming was therefore not assumed, but counteracted by an appropriate rite, i.e. the recitation of the chogadia ginans.

It is also said that the followers were foretold that the Imam would arrive on the soil of India, and as such the beat of drums was reserved for the fateful occasion of the Imam’s arrival, and not on any other occasion. Thus, the words dhol, dhadhama, tambal and nagara for small and big drums have been applied in the extant chogadia ginans as under:-

a) "The dol will be beaten upon the arrival of Aga Mahdi, the Lord. The dhol and dhadama will swing with the Lord’s flags."

b) "The tambal and nagara will be played when the Lord shall arrive from the west."

c) "The majestic Lord will mount a chariot. Ali as the Sultan of India will come. The armies in a little distance will pour down with the beat of tambal and flags."

The nature of the extant materials afford very little rope to one who grapples with this subject, thus we have no textual evidence to elucidate who devised the practice of the chogadia? It is most likely that the older religious specialists within the community seem to have made the selection at their liberty between 1628 and 1730. In fact, the chogadia ginans had slowly developed through a natural process of social growth of the community and integrated into Islamic life in Ismailism.

Later on, Sayed Fateh Ali Shah introduced through his ginans the names of Imam Abul Hasan Ali (1730-1792), and Imam Khalilullah Ali (1792-1817) who resided in Shahr-i-Babak in Iran. Nevertheless, the recitation of chogadia ginan mingled with the tradition of the ginans.

In view of the accessible information, we have discussed that the word chogadia embodied a dual meaning, viz. four auspicious hours and four drums. When Imam Hasan Ali Shah made his gracious footing on the Indian soil, the Ismailis came to realize that they enjoyed every auspicious hour. In other words, the Imam’s presence became barkat for them, which froze the old concept of auspicious hour in specific time in gradual process. Besides, the use of the drums on Imam’s arrival paved a way to the birth of the Ismaili Band in 1926 at Bombay, and the famous words of Pir Sadruddin gushed out on every lip that, "Sami Rajo a’av’e jangi dhol vagad’e" (The bigger drum will be beaten upon the arrival of the Imam). In sum, the arrival of the Imam virtually accomplished the very purpose of the chogadia in a natural process. Despite the fact that its real substance has been accomplished, its practice is still alive. Does it mean that the chogadia ginans eclipsed or faded the significance?

In the present age, the media is faster than past, even then the old culture of chogadia has been retained. Why? For illustration, the watch or timepiece device had not been invented in Holy Prophet’s period, and there was no explicit method to measure the timing for the prayer. Bukhari (10:1,2) tells us that when the Muslims came to Medina, they used to have a time appointed for prayer, at which they all gathered together. A consultation was held at which suggestions for ringing a bell or blowing a horn were rejected. It was finally proposed to appoint a man who should call out for prayer, at which the Holy Prophet ordered Bilal to call out for prayers in the words of adhan (call to prayer) as we now see it. In the present age, the watch is a landmark device to calculate accurate hour, minute and second; nevertheless, the practice of adhan has been retained. With the invention of a clock, the scales turned however in favour of the Arab tradition. In the same manner, the recitation of the chogadia is prevalent in the community.

The chogadia ginans are rich in symbolism drawn from the spiritual and cultural milieu of the India subcontinent. It played a vital role in its early stage. It had grown a strong feeling of brotherhood and a measure of harmony in the community. It reflects an old cultural image of the Indian Ismailis.

While inspecting the manuscripts of the ginans, it appears that the scribes gave headings to few special ginans, such as the ginans of abadu (9), jugesar (52), a’arati (2), gatpat in sitting posture (5), gatpat in standing posture (17), subu sadik (16), talika mubarak (2), akhirat (6), ruhaniat (4), venti (6), chogadia (28), and one each recited during Eid-i Millad, Navroz and Salgirah, etc.

It is learnt from the old manuscripts that the chogadia ginans of Sind were not recited in other places, and it equally occurred in Gujrat and Kutchh. It seems fairly certain that Mukhi Laljibhai Devraj (1842-1930), the Father of Ismaili Journalism in India, established the first Sindhi Printing Press at Palkhi Mola, Bombay on June 27, 1903. He laboured to collect old manuscripts in India for printing purpose. In his formative exploration, he unearthed 21 ginans under the heading of chogadia. He sorted out and got them printed. Soon afterwards, another 7 chogadia were unearthed, reaching the figure of 28 chogadia, which is now at our disposal. In other words, 11 chogadia ginans in Gujrat, 8 in Kutchh, 5 in Sind and 4 in Kathiawar were discovered and printed. At any rate, it is evident that the tradition of chogadia ginans never penetrated in Punjab, where it was borrowed most possibly in much later period.

Chogadia Ginans & Timings:

Recitation twice a week:-

a) sunrise...... 45 minutes
Monday........night....after sunset........45 minutes

b) sunrise...... 45 minutes
Friday........night.....after sunset.........45 minutes

Recitation daily in a week:- (morning)

Detail of the Chogadia Ginans:

23 chogadia ginans for morning.
04 chogadia ginans for evening.
01 chogadia ginan for evening & morning.

In sum, the following 23 chogadia belong to Pir Sadruddin:-

1.Jug’men phir’e shah’ji muneri
2. Aashaji sacho tu’n alakh nirinjan
3. Jirebhai namo te shah nur’ke
4. Jirebhai qaim aya shahji’u
5. Bhai tini vire’en jiun umedu’n
6. Sri’e sarandhar aasha tribhovar
7. Ashasji tri tri lok dhar Ali hek vado sami
8. A’ai’n kario moman man dhirar’re
9. sirevo sirevo momano, Ali hek vado sami
10. Pindat te je eh kisi ghar na jata
11. Divada batti mahe’n jiyu’n ten samarann
12. Jenn’e gati’e shah’kh’e khad’e umayo
13. Hanspuri nagari mahe’n mandavo rachayo
14. Tariye’n tu’n taranhar khudavand
15. Eji tuhi’n gur tuhi’n nar tuhi’n abhi asha
16. Khela var’nu shah moro rath chadash’e
17. Dhul dhul god’e sacho sami rajo chadash’e
18. Eji dhul dhul god’e Ali chadash’e shah
19. Ho jiyo jirebhai jisar’e gur’ku’n
20. Ho jiyo jirebhai moro man hasti hasti
21. Yara anant kirodi’e vadhai’un
22. Eh jiyo aayo aayo hans’e jo var raja
23. Gat lokaji’e umayo

There are following 3 chogadia to the credit of Pir Hasan Kabiruddin:-

1. Kalpat jalpat maya eh mohi
2. Moman man em jan’jeji
3. Nar pachham’thi chadengo

Pir Saheb al-Din’s one chogadia is Pahelo pahelo naam’ji eh khudaji’ko lej’e and one by Pir Tajddi, i.e., Jirebhai dahi gur’ke vacha.

Summary :

23 chogadia by Pir Sadruddin
03 chogadia by Pir Hasan Kabiruddin
01 chogadia by Pir Saheb al-Din
01 chogadia by Pir Tajddin

It is also a significant that the recitation of chogadia at evening is followed by the tasbih. In some places, the Mukhi recites the tasbih, but in others the reciter himself/herself recites the tasbih. Thus, the evening chogadia has remained very distinct, while the tendency of the morning chogadia is being melted away as if it were insignificant.