As rural hinterlands celebrate Tanha Pola today, it would perhaps be in a precarious state of mind. Pola is a rustic festival bestowing gratitude to hardy bullocks that assist farmers in accomplishing their tilling and other farm-related occupations. It is enjoyed fervently in Vidarbha and other parts of Maharashtra. These meek beasts of burden play a crucial role and the day is earmarked since times immemorial to venerate their silent role in the well-being of rural lives. The faltering monsoon situation however lends an air of uncertainty to the festivities.
Pithori Amavasya (new moon) in Shravana month sees farmers celebrating the festival with much enthusiasm and gaiety as they deck up their partners in toil. They pay homage to their bullocks for their enduring support in their cultivation efforts. Pola day begins with bulls being bathed, decorated with ornaments and shawls, horns painted and necks adorned with garlands, festoons and beads. And they are lovingly fed with special offerings made for the occasion.
Given a day to rest from their weary workload, the evening sees them being paraded in a procession. Farmers celebrate along the way accompanied by music and dancing. The event starts with an aging bullock leading ahead with a wooden frame (makhar) tied on its horns to break a string of mango leaves stretched between two posts. Once this is done all other decorated bulls join in the procession around the village.
Although the past week has seen a smattering of showers but there is still no rain as such worth the mention. The prolonged dry spell in and around Nagpur is a cause for worry, as rural hopes appear downcast, fearing crop loss. If a good spell of rain is not in the offing in the next fortnight and beyond the situation will have to be reviewed for suitable measures to save the fate of crops trying to come up in our parts.
For sure the rainfall in the districts of Vidarbha has been poor, compared to last year’s average. As per the agriculture department’s report, crops in many districts had begun to wilt while many appeared to be under threat of pest attacks. However the intermittent rains of the past week have revived the hopes of farmers. Even so the prediction is that productivity may likely be hit by 40%. Naturally in this state of affairs Tanha Pola celebrations are likely to be affected.
Ostensibly, the past two days have brought about a revival of the monsoon and despite the stress on crops due to dry spells; signs of traditional festivities is showing up in rural market places. The customary decorative items are on display and there’s a hustle and bustle in village bazaars. Women are preparing for the traditional meals, men are contemplating about tasks to be done and children are excited. Most especially for the ‘Chota Pola’ that follows the next day, when they will run around with wooden bullock replicas on wheels that will keep them amused endlessly.
Nonetheless today Bail Pola is certainly seeing bullocks being revered and farmers celebrating everywhere, despite uncertainty about the rains. As evening draws closer celebrations are marked with decorated bulls in sparkling ornaments ready to be paraded. Even the usual rope harness on them gets un-tethered today, while cows too are made part of the ritual festivities. Rural families prepare delicious traditional food and visit friends and relatives. The elderly explain the traditions and history behind Pola celebrations and feel happy that traditions are being kept alive. Rains or no rains harried peasants will not let the day go by un-celebrated.