Post-monsoon celebrations

This photo essay captures the range of activities post-monsoon in rural areas of Maharashtra including the celebration of the Vatapoornima festival.
Ready to plough his fields Ready to plough his fields

June signals the start of the monsoons in many parts of India. Pune and its surrounding areas in Maharashtra have witnessed heavy showers since the first week of June. The rains let up for a weeks time during which I visited a few places on the outskirts of Pune city.

The villages of Malkhed, Thoptewadi, Kharmari, Khamgaon and Mogarwadi are situated in the Maval taluka of Pune district. The word Maval originates from the Marathi word Mavalati, which means the direction in which the sun sets [1]. These villages are in the vicinity of the Khadakwasla dam behind the Sinhagad fort, which is of great historical importance. Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the founder of the great Maratha Empire, lived in this fort. His army, called the 'Mavale' was made up of the local farmers [1].

Farmers still form a big part of this region with farming activities taking centre stage. The short break in the monsoon has created a flurry of activity in the villages. Farmers have started harvesting rice and groundnut crops for the season. Rice fields abound in the lower area because of plentiful water from the dam backwaters as well as the streams coming down the mountains, while groundnut is harvested in the top mountains. 

The seasonal stream that originates from the top of the mountains is now full. It flows down passing through villages and ends in the backwaters of the dam below. Farmers take their cattle to the full streams for a dip and to the lush greenery to graze before taking them to the fields. Women gather near the streams to chat while they go about their daily household chores. Everyone seems happy.

But this joy is shortlived. Come summer, the situation is very different. Streams dry up, as does the green grass. The villages on the top of the mountains face severe water shortage. Villagers have to walk down the hills or have to depend on alternative sources of water to meet their daily needs. They have no advantage of being located in the vicinity of the dam since this water is diverted to meet the needs of the urban dwellers in Pune city.

Villages such as these have a lot to pick up from the traditional rainwater harvesting methods that have been used in earlier times in the old forts such as Sinhagad located in their vicinity. Farmers in Kharmari village have constructed small bandharas on the stream, but that does not help much when the stream dries. Mogarwadi, which is the topmost village on the hill, has already constructed a talaab for rainwater harvesting.

Construction of more such structures could go a long way in solving the immediate and day-to-day water needs of the villagers in summer. At the same time, this also emphasises the relevance of the current debates on the issue of the rights of the rural farmers to water from the dams, which is often diverted to meet the needs of growing cities.

 

The Maval taluka villages are located in the vicinity of the Khadakwasla dam and the Sinhagad fort.

 

 

The Khadakwasla dam near Pune after the heavy showers.


The velvety green mountains serve as a catchment area for the dam.

 Lush green rice fields lie near the backwaters of the Khadakwasla dam.

 

"I love my piece of land and will keep working on it till I die. I don't know what will happen after that, my children are educated and want to go to the city. They are not interested in farming", says a farmer.


"It is a good omen that you have come here, please eat some of these groundnuts that we are sowing. It will reap a good harvest if a guest tastes it first", say these women.

 

A woman constructing bunds to restrict the flow of water

 

Cattle set off to graze in the lush green surroundings. There isn't much grass in the summer months.

 

The cattle laze around in the waters of the full stream.


Normally empty during the summer months, this well is full of water after the showers.

 

 


The villages on the hills face acute water shortage in summer. This  talaab constructed by the villagers of Mogarwadi on top of a hill harvests and stores rainwater.

 

Women celebrating the festival of Vatapoornima in Mogarwadi. They hold fasts and perform poojas for the longetivity of the breadwinners of their families - the farmers working far away in the fields.

Festivals in Indian agrarian societies often involve trees and rivers. They encourage respect and reverence for nature.Women tie threads on the huge bark of the ficus trees and pray for the long life of their husbands during Vatapoornima.


These lush green surroundings are short-lived. Acute water scarcity during summer months and the lack of access to water from the dam, which is diverted to Pune city, leads to drought-like conditions in summer. Adoption of rainwater harvesting techniques on the hill tops can go a long way in taking care of the water needs of the villages during summer


References

1. Maval. Downloaded from the site  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maval on the 23rd July 2013

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