Sada chidiyan da chamba – Our temporary nest of birds

Sada chidiyan da chamba (Our temporary nest of birds) is a project that aims to explore the female narrative of Panjabi wedding folk songs. This project has been supported by the Creative Black Country Open Access Seed Award and is co-produced by Birmingham City University’s Professor Rajinder Dudrah as part of his research project Slanguages with Creative Multilingualism.

What unites Panjabis across the world is the language itself along with its traditional folk songs. Panjabi wedding folk songs are one element of the different types of Panjabi folk songs. Other folk songs include heroic ballads such as “Dulla Bhatti” and “Sucha Soorma”, while some have romantic themes, for example Jugni, Kafian, Jindua and many others.

I chose Sada chidiyan da chamba as a title for my project as it is a Panjabi folk song that is associated with the sadness of a woman as she leaves her parents’ home. But I wanted to explore the feelings of women – including both happiness and sadness – and how they express their emotions.

Sada chidiyan da chamba ve babla
Asan ud jana, asan ud jana

This was our temporary nest of birds oh father,
Tomorrow I will fly, I will fly

Heer – Waris Shah

While reading Waris Shah’s “Heer”, a long poem in verse about a Panjabi female, I was reminded that Heer is a character that frequently comes up in Panjabi folk songs, and music more widely. Heer is the central character of this tale but her story is told by a man. How would this tale differ if it was told by a woman? If Waris Shah had a sister that wrote “Heer” instead – how would it be told? All these questions arose in my mind which led me to think: where are the stories written by women? Where are the missing Panjabi female poets? At that point, the wedding boliyaans came to mind – these are songs that have been passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth/orally …

The first person I asked about weddings and wedding folk songs was my mother (pictured above on her wedding day). Talking about her wedding and wedding folk songs, she said “Marriage – I didn’t actually know what that term means but all I knew was that I wanted to fly away – I wanted to be free just like the chidiyan, which is why ‘chidiyan da chamba’ is my favourite wedding folk song.”

Balbir Kaur

Phulkari literally means flower work — the colourful traditional embroidery work phulkari, represents a living tradition that can be traced back hundreds of years and it continues to this day. The origin comes from Panjab. It is spun from the charkha (spinning wheel) and the embroidery is often patterned on shawls, kurtis, salwars, suit jackets jackets and chunnis. Interestingly the first time phulkari was mentioned was in the epic tale of Heer written by Waris Shah around the mid 1700. It is used across Panjabi weddings.

I recall talking to Nani Ji and she mentioned to me she had a very simple wedding, no photos were taken. She remembered that she wore a red salwar suit had her pierced her nose and had put a paranda in her hair.

“I’ve always dreamt of having a perfect Indian wedding and being that traditional bride…what I envisioned is what came true for me…” – Raman

Sada Chidiyan Da Chamba

“The time I spent with my extended family during the build up to our wedding was very special. I think that is what helped me the most in getting through the nervous jitters and overwhelming emotions of leaving home. Although, every time I looked at Mom and Dad, I could feel a lump in my throat as I tried to contain my tears. I still get the same feeling every time I have to come back from my parent’s home. I have not watched my doli back after receiving my wedding DVD’s, but I have to say it was my favorite moment of the entire wedding. I saw the love my family had for me, pouring through their long held back tears. What was more beautiful, is how they all came together to support one another. This would be the first time I’d ever leave my parents house. I’ve always stayed closed to home for education or work, so I never felt the distance. From the moment I sat in the car on our doli, I knew that although the physical distance would increase, the love and communication would be stronger than ever. The initial pain of departing will always be there, but what our parents always want, is for us to be happy. Being able to communicate to my parents that I am truly happy today, is what makes them smile. Knowing that my happiness, is their happiness gives me a sense of responsibility to remain happy with my new family, whilst making sure my parents are happy too.” – Amarjit Kaur

modern version of chitta kukkad
traditional chitta kukkad

Chitta Kukkad is a Panjabi folk song in the form of a tappa that is about the separation of brothers and their sisters after she gets married.

While many girls and women dream of getting married from a young age for many it is not something that they dream about as they have different dreams.

Sada chira da chamba.
One moment you feel the pain of moving homes.
To going into another family.
Another moment you are questioning why.
Why are girls subjected to move houses. Why is it the girl that is the burden. Why is that the girl holds the houses izzat. Why is it important for a girl to get married. Why can’t we let a girl breathe and fly high, so high away from those who try to tie her down, those who try to bring her back on to earth and make her follow the huddle of sheep. Why can’t a girl fly and fly high away. I wonder if these femal punjabi singers Ever thought about writing and singing about girls independence, a girl dreams. Why are the songs centered around love and marriage. Is a girl just worth this? Can’t a girl break the norms and set herself free from the chains of society. Can’t a girl dance to a song talking about her dreams? I’m not really looking for an answer but I’m looking for us all to question the norms of society. They need updating. Fast.
– Jappy

Work is in progress and will be updated as the project progresses.