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Like most localized folklore, Bittu Bhaizee, a popular folk hero in the North Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, originated as a social and moral guardian, an inhibitor against bad-deeds. The tale originates in the Rohru region located to the north of Shimla, the state capital.
The legend tells of an enigma, a man who invariably inhabited every village, disguised as the faceless neighbour you would never pay attention to, the porter who would haul baskets full of apples into the waiting mule trains only never returning to collect his rightful wages, a vagabond known to loiter in the local orchards but never really seen by anyone. The role assigned to him is almost universally agreed now to be that of a “Watcher,” or an accountant of life’s good’s and evils and a creature some said did the work of the local village deity. He was later freed of these subservient limitations and became a somewhat independent entity. One who didn’t answer to anyone but existed all by himself as an integral part of the universal fabric of life, recording the behaviours of those around him and filling them into the giant mythological brass pots of good and evil at the end of each day.
Some credit the invention to a great storyteller who lived in the Pabbar river valley in the late 18th century, popularly known as “Shanthala Chacha” but these reports are mostly legends in themselves as no records indicating such a person have ever been found.
The legend is still alive and well today but has taken somewhat of a different twist. Today it is not uncommon to find people from this hilly state, especially in the Shimla district area, greeting each other with a rhetorical “Bittubhaizee ko zantay aap bhaizee?” (“Do you know Bittu Bhaizee my brother?”). The phrase has become a part of popular youth culture and is seeing a revival in the internet years as groups online are commemorating this folk hero, most notably on the social networking site Orkut, where a thriving Bittu Bhaizee community exists.
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