22 March, 2008
Mute Animals at Mela Ground
I had heard so much about the Nalwar mela that I could not contain my excitement when I got a chance to actually see the mela on 22 March, 2008. It was a news to me that there are three Nalwar melas i.e. Nalwar Bilaspur, Nalwar Bhangrotu and Nalwar Sundernagar. Among all these three Nalwar Melas the one at Sundernagar is the most famous one. It was a treat to my eyes to watch hilly bullocks all decorated in red ribbons and other fineries, heading for the mela. No, they were not going there out of their own sweet will but their owners literally dragged them to the mela ground. They were to be sold! I felt sorry for them as their wish had no value for the owners. Many of these young pairs of bullock, it must have been their first visit to a town and many of them might have seen and experienced the vehicular traffic for the first time in their young life as fear was writ large on some of the countenances, if I could read the expressions well.
Eager to collect as much information as I could from the bystanders, I interacted with many a people and collected a lot of interesting information. There were many breeds of bullocks as Punjab, J & K, U.P. and the local area farmers actively participate in the fair. I saw a number of pairs of bullocks that had red ribbons tied on their foreheads and some even had a red tikka mark as well. I could see the love and care that was showered on these mute animals by the persons who had reared them, especially the women accompanying the pair were more compassionate towards the stubborn animals!
With camera in hands I wanted to click a few pictures that would capture the true expressions on the countenances of the bullocks but when some bullocks came running towards us, I literally forgot about everything else and ran to same myself from some injury. The bullocks were not comfortable for being led to the mela ground as it was something that was happening for the first time in their life. Like human beings, they too seemed to resist change in all forms. I saw a pair that was so adamant that the owners had to pull the bullock with such a strength that their was bleeding from the nostril of one of the animals. I felt so sorry for the animals. My accompanist told me that there are veterinary doctors camping at the mela ground to provide all possible medical aid to the animals. I was a bit relieved t0 learn of this angle of the management. Talking to the vets made me appreciate the hard work that goes behind the scene to make such melas possible. The Animal Husbandry department vaccinates all animals at the Mela against Foot and Mouth disease that some of them might have contacted through the long and arduous journeys that they have to undertake to reach this place. The department has made this service available to the bullocks free of cost so that the owners may not shy away from getting their bullocks vaccinated. Every owner has to get his bullocks registered at the Veterinary stall and get a certificate. I was all praise for the stalwarts of the department who were providing such a service when I just ran for my life when a pair of uncontrolled bullocks charged towards me!
Another interesting fact that came to my notice was that the manual for of ploughing was still the feasible and practical way of farming in some areas of the hilly state as the terraced fields could be ploughed with the help of bullocks only. But the sad part of the story was that the rearing of male calf was on a decline and the number of bullocks had declined considerably. Someone chipped in another startling information that some persons leave their incurable animals at the Mela ground as they find no reason to feed a useless animal. I was at a loss of words as how could someone do this to a mute and suffering animal but then have we not become so progressive that carrying a dead weight is the last thing that we would do.
Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal, Chief Minister inaugurated the week long State Level Nalwari Fair of Sundernagar in district Mandi by nailing the stake at Nagaun Khad and worshipping a pair of oxen, symbol of hilly agriculture. He said that the cattle fair were directly linked with the agro-economy since trading of oxen had been taking place during such fairs and every farmer visits the mela to buy best pair for ploughing their fields. He said that the significance of domestic animals was still of utmost importance with the hilly farmers where scientific farming was not practical. He emphasized the need to rear best species of the domestic animals to carry their agricultural activities more effectively besides adopting the modern scientific modes of farming.
I wish that the Chief Minister initiates some plans so that the farmers are encouraged to take care of the male animal rearing in the right spirit and the symbolic worshipping of the pair of oxen turns into the real worshipping of the oxen in the everyday life of hilly areas.