Sunday, July 31, 2011

For thy grace & mercy, O rain god!


31 July 2011

For thy grace & mercy, O rain god!

Manoj Chaurasia
PATNA, 31 JULY: As Bihar faces drought for the third year in a row, women in rural areas have fallen back on an old time-tested ritual: they are ploughing fields, singing songs, and dancing at night to please the Rain God.

They believe the rituals will make the Rain God happy, and that he will then send showers for the parched and cracked fields, saving them from near starvation.According to reports, women in several villages in Buxur district are rigorously performing this old ritual in hope of rain.

Media reports say that groups of females go to plough the fields at night, dancing and singing all the way. Male members are strictly prohibited from entering the area while women are tilling the land. The female groups are being led by Rajvanshi Devi.

“We will continue our rituals until the rains lash our dry fields”, Rajvanshi Devi told local media. Another villager said, “The local farmers are quite upset as they anticipate yet another drought, and are therefore applying every trick to please Lord Indra (the Hindu Rain God)”. He said he was hopeful that the God would show mercy on the poor farmers and give good rains, which are essential for bumper crops.

Last year, farmers in another drought-hit Gaya District asked their unmarried daughters to plough the farmland naked as part of a similar ritual to embarrass the Rain God. The girls, assisted by elderly women, ploughed the fields after sunset yet this failed to move the deity.
July is the planting season for paddy crops, but the process has been hampered by the scarce rainfall.

The state economy is highly dependent on agriculture, and paddy is the main crop in Bihar.According to agricultural department statistics, the state received only 300 mm of rainfall between June and July. Normally, the state gets 400 mm. Paddy has been sown on only 5.89 lakh ha, significantly less than the target 35.50 lakh ha. Maize cultivation has also been badly hit.“

The erratic monsoon is badly delaying the planting of paddy seeding, which means a decreased yield”, said agriculture scientist Dr SS Singh. He has advised farmers to make alternative arrangement for paddy irrigation until the rains arrive.

Last year, all of Bihar's 38 districts suffered from drought according to the state government. In 2009, 26 districts were declared drought-affected, impacting 1.5 crore families across the state. The third consecutive drought this year is all set to break the backbone of farmers, leaving them starving.

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