Fields of Festivities

People jump into harvest celebrations enthusiastically and relate to them
universally because they are secular in their origin, if not in their actual practice.

Nothing warms the soul as much as the image of a plentiful harvest. Lush fields of paddy, golden ears of wheat, green shoots of vegetables…it is earth at its most giving and generous. To acknowledge this bounty, human beings have historically celebrated harvest festivals across the globe. Whether it’s Thanksgiving in North America or Pongal in Southern India, the primary sentiments involved are gratitude and thankfulness. Since farming is largely subject to the vagaries of weather, the harvest is a time to thank Mother Nature for her gifts.
People jump into harvest celebrations enthusiastically and relate to them universally because they are secular in their origin, if not always in their practice. However, for farmers in India, these festivals have even greater significance as they are so closely tied to their daily work and lives.

There are common threads across the many regional celebrations in India. Certain themes and traditions crop up (no pun intended) in all of them. Harvest dishes are prepared with care to provide that important juxtaposition of ingredients and flavours. Root vegetables drawn directly from the earth often have a special place on the harvest table.

How is the harvest celebrated on the fields today? What is the rationale behind its traditions? And how relevant are they to our modern lives? We talked to people who are close to food – its production, preparation and analysis – to get some answers to these questions.

Huvinakola District,

Ugadi is special for us because it is a time to put the old year behind us and look ahead to the new one. A land pooja is done around this time and we all gather to thank the earth that gives us so much.

Vittal Laxman Vadiyar
Belgaum District,
Deepavali is one of the biggest festivals for us during the year and also a time for us to honor our daughters and sisters. However, Ugadi is a time when we get together to wash away the bitter and bring in the sweet. A time for a new beginning, a fresh start…

Harminder Singh
Sangrur District,
These days, the crop is no longer harvested on Baisakhi as it is not ripe then. Hence, it is no longer celebrated in the fields but at dargahs and peers (holy places).
At Baba Mast Ram, the villagers get together to celebrate Baisakhi. Farmers get the soil from the place and women buy bangles and enjoy the day. Indian sweets like jalebis and puras are served and people enjoy the fair together.

Abdur Rahman
Borpeta District,
We celebrate Bhogali Bihu. The family makes traditional sweets called Sungha Pitha from rice and celebrates throughout the week with music and traditional songs.

Sukhdev Vithal Gorade
Aurangabad District,
After putting all our work in order to get good results, we wait for the harvest to be rewarded. And what better way to celebrate than with a harvest festival? We also celebrate Diwali and Dussera in a big way as they also coincide with harvesting of a few crops. Pola is the most significant ritual for us. This involves decorating cows and bulls and doing a pooja for them. This is usually around October.

Shankar Narayan Paul
Jalna District,
The houses in the village are decorated with tall wood and sarees. The villagers gather at the village mandir (temple) and this is followed by a distribution of sweets. Padva is most important for us – it is like a new year celebration for farmers. This is the time of the year when we harvest and sell our produce and make some income.