Varaaha Series by B S Ranganath

Human divide on the basis of race, caste, faith and economic disparity is a curse on our society. Modern ways of life have almost eradicated this evil in cities. But in rural areas, untouchability is yet giving its nasty sting.

Educated people in villages have a broader outlook about human relationship. But politics and modern transportation have compelled people to uphold the dying divide, besides using it as a weapon against one another.

My thought goes back to my village as it was eighty years ago. Bullock cart was the only means of transportation. One day a bicycle entered our village. All the children of our group assembled with waves of surprise within us to look at this vehicle. Its rider was a fat man. He left the bicycle leaning on a wall and entered the house of Krishnavadhani.

All of us rushed to examine the wonder vehicle. The wheels are one behind the other unlike the wheels of a bullock cart which face each other. The man does not fall down when the vehicle moves. The thin metal spokes won’t bend when the heavy individual rides the vehicle. It needs a wall to rest upon when it is not running.

I saw another mysterious giant vehicle on my way towards Hassan. I was walking with my father along a road broader than the track for bullock carts. I heard ‘poyn – poyn’ sound from behind. I turned back and saw a monster vehicle rushing towards us, producing certain noice as a result of friction between its wheels and the road. My father stretched out his right hand at it, and it stopped in front of us! I was in a complete daze at the magical power of my father’s right hand, which could stop a monster running wildly. My father took me inside the vehicle. I saw many people seated on benches in the vehicle. We reached Hassan fast, without walking.

In our group of kids, I explained my father’s super power that stopped a wild monster-like vehicle. The children laughed loudly and said, ‘That vehicle is called a motor. If you show your hand, the person who drives it will bring it to a halt. A motor does not need a bullock to pull it’.

Children went on and on detailing about motor cars and Tuk Tuk bicycles (motorbikes), owned by rich people.

Of course a motor did not need animals to pull it and moved faster than bullock carts. It also had benches for people to sit. But it did not give us the joy of the journey. None in the vehicle talked with others. They had to pay money for the journey.

I remembered my journey to a temple by a bullock cart. It was a ‘Savari Gadi’ (a cart meant for carrying passenges only). It was moving slowly behind another cart. These carts made their journey during nights. Each cart had a lit lantern dangling from its central beam. Many carts moved together, one behind the other.

The carts-man had the responsibility of delivering goods to the addressee intact. If it were a family in the cart, he had the responsibility to keep them happy. Usually these carts-men composed an impromptu song and sang it to the vibration of nature around. The touching words arranged rhythmically conveyed the best of thoughts. How I wish that our modern scholars who write to rouse the height of man’s thoughts had the ability of singing their views, as done by the illiterate villagers of the past! The unity, responsibility and the pleasure with which these carts-men worked made the night journey an unforgettable experience of joy.

Today an educated villager feels the need to work for the welfare of rural population. Politicians jump into villages by fast moving vehicles, confuse him, and vanish. Trucks and lorries replaced bullock carts to carry farm products to markets. Unscrupulous money makers know how to exploit this facility to their advantage. They even hoard farm products, cause scarcity, and sell them in black markets for high prices.

Producers and consumers are inter dependent. But greedy money makers play between them as middle-men and spoil the harmonious life of both rural and urban population.

The rich and the poor of those days enjoyed a fine blend of inter dependence and made village life enjoyable for everybody. I remember a grand celebration which has motivated honesty, sincerity, love and inter dependence among the rich, poor and people of various castes.

Honneru (Golden plough)

The custom of Honneru has its origin back to the days of Ramayana, or even earlier. King Janaka of Mithila took out a plough, the handle of which was made of gold, to turn over the soil of a field after the first showers of monsoon. It is only during the celebration of ‘Honneru’, king Janaka found baby Seetha in a box just beneath the surface of the field.

Artwork by Late T R Varaahamurthy, M.A.

After the first showers of monsoon on an auspicious day the village youths cleaned their ploughs, washed their bullock, bathed in the river, dressed themselves in new clothes and assembled with their plough and bullock in front of the temple of Basava (bull). The priest of bull temple was ready with the holy water and mango leaves to bless the farmers.

The youths moved in a line, one behind the other with their bullock and the plough, and stood in front of the priest (Poojari). The priest dipped mango leaves in holy water and sprinkled it on the bullock and the ploughman, with the blessings of Basava God. The farmer youths thereafter moved towards their field scratching the ground with their plough. After thoroughly ploughing their own land, they would search for a field which remained unploughed.

Small pieces of land which belonged to poor farmers who could not afford a plough and bullock, remained unploughed. The cheerful youths would joyfully turn over the soil of such fields with their plough. They were rewarded by the poor farmers with a shower of flowers or ‘Bilwa’ leaves on their heads.

A merchant, a barber, a washer man or a person of an upper caste who owned a large area, needed somebody to till their farm. They did not mind the caste of the person who handled their bullock and plough. The priest of the temple would bless the ploughman even if he were to be an untouchable. The celebration of Honneru (golden plough) made all the lands belonging to the people of the village ready for sowing of seeds.

Untouchable boys would take the cattle out to graze in the forest-like area close to the village. If there was nobody in a house to release the cows and bulls, the boys were asked to enter the cowshed from behind the house and take the cattle out. Untouchability was a custom but did not come in the way of inter dependence and mutual admiration.

In the school untouchable boys and girls did not mix with us. They huddled themselves and sat away from us. They did not join us in playground also. It seems they were warned by their parents against mingling with high caste children.

Efforts of great men like Buddha, Ramanuja, Basava, Gandhiji and Sahu Raj of Kolhapur enabled Indian society to get rid of the curse of untouchability. There are great personalities from the ‘dalit’ class who are rendering valuable service to society.

Politicians and vote mongers move from place to place in fast moving vehicles, and try to infuse the feeling of distrust and hatred among people, just for securing votes. This has hampered the relationship of trust in present day society.

Education and motivation to serve the country can promote the relationship of trust, and liberate the society from the clutches of human divide.