Till recently, I had not heard of this festival called Bail Pola. When I came to know what the festival is about and why it is celebrated, I realised how ignorant and unaware I was! I was on my way to our farm at Varasgaon about 40kms from Pune. A beautiful, untouched and secluded hamlet in the hills of Sahayadri Mountains where time just flies looking at the serene landscape. Most of the people in this area are famers and celebrate a lot of local festivals. I will write about this place a little later but for now, I want to tell you more about this small celebration amongst farmers called Bail Pola.
Now “bail” in Marathi means a bull and this festival is celebrated to thank the animal for all the works it is made to do on the farms. It is celebrated in the month of Shravan on a new moon day, a month that has all its days auspicious according to the Hindu religion. Though farmers use mechanical equipments for farming, in many remote places of India bullocks are still used. This is the very festive occasion for the farmers to pay their respect towards their bullocks. My curiosity sparked when I noticed a lot of farmers walking their bulls so smeared with colours, draped with colourful shawls and so lavishly decorated with frills and flowers, balloons that we waited to ask what was actually going on. A local farmer explained that they were heading towards a nearby village to flaunt his robust bull where many others would participate. The village was also supposed to have a fair and some procession to celebrate this festival. He also said that they spent the entire morning to wash the bull and paint them with turmeric and decorate them. Since I am an animal lover, I was so thrilled to see these people rejoicing over an animal that was such an important part of their lives.
Just the very same day, we, volunteers of Blue Cross Society, Pune (animal welfare organisation) met to discuss our next agenda. My cousin, Kanchan who is also one of the volunteers, narrated a repulsive spectacle that she saw on her way to the meeting. She saw the same thing that I did, the bulls being decorated and painted but along with that, she saw something spiteful done to the bulls on the day that is celebrated for them. She passed through some area in the city where there was a bullock race which is solely entertaining for the people but unquestionably not for the animal. To add to the ordeal of the bulls, people burst fire-crackers almost a foot away from them, causing trauma and panic to the animal. She said that the animals were scared and tetchy which aggravated their masters. After she’s finished, I thought why amuse ourselves with something for an animal when it causes more trauma and suffering to it and to top it all, on its account! The same day that started with so much curiosity, fun and love for the animal, ended up with sympathy and helplessness. We being volunteers of an animal welfare organisation couldn’t do much but we certainly decided amongst ourselves that not only should we spread awareness towards cruelty done to animals but we should also inculcate these values in the younger generation to help us stop these practices.