A Village in Maharashtra - Gram Sanskruti Udyan, Pune

#1 May 10th, 2018, 13:08
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The village life is something that attracts the tourists. It is something that they have never experienced back home, a novelty. But with the rush towards urbanization, even many of the locals, especially the children have really not witnessed much of rural lifestyle and the beauty of the good old days seems to be in real danger of getting lost.
Gram Sanskruti Udyan, Someshwarwadi, Pashan, Pune - is an effort by Pune Municipal Corporation to showcase a typical village setting and I believe that they have succeeded in achieving it beyond expectations. The only glitch or fault I can find there is that all the information is displayed in the local language, in marathi and this would hamper the understanding of foreign tourists and tourists from other states as well. Well, at times the 'localfirst' concept is implemented to rigidly!

So here we go, I shall put up one or two aspects of the village at a time and I plan to cover the entire village in hopefully a month's time!

As you enter the place the first thing that you shall encounter is the ticket counter.

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As you wait over there you will see a wall surrounding the village, giving the feel of a fortified enclosure. The lawn in front is occupied by locals in the evenings, especially weekends. Children play about, the elephants in the background make for good photo shoots.

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You enter through a gate, similar to an old walled village.

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The first thing that you see is a mural on the wall. It displays the occasion of Vat Savitri Pournima.

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Vat Savitri Pournima is celebrated as a festival in honour of Savitri, who was able to get the life of her husband back from Lord Yama, the God of Death, through her dedication towards her husband. This festival is allowed only for married women, children and widows are prohibited. A thread is tied to the banyan tree (Vad) offering prayers for long life of their husbands. The women fast for the day as well. (A typical patriarchal society! )
If you were to actually see this, you will notice the laughter, the songs and the traditional clothes and jewellery that the women wear. The enthusiasm you witness does make you feel involved in what you see.

More in-depth details of the festival here.

A bigger crop of the photo.

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#2 May 11th, 2018, 11:51
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As you start your tour through the village, the first thing that you see on the right is - Lord Shankar's vehicle - the Nandi Bail/ Nandi.

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Do remember that we are talking about the village of the old days, when the distractions of the modern life were few and people used to be more connected with each other, despite having less communication gadgets. When the belief on god was still strong.

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The Nandi Bail would enter the village, all decked up in colourful peices of cloth, loads of trinklets and the horns would be decorated as well. He would be accompanied by a couple of masters who would ensure that the 'communication' between the villagers and bull was clear.
The Nandi Bail would be worshipped by the women and then the main program would start - fortune telling. The women would ask questions, which would be further communicated to the bull by the masters and then the bull would either nod his head to give a affirmative reply or shake it to deny. It used to be great fun, with people asking about queries about marriage, children passing exams, husbands getting jobs and more.. The villagers would join in either whooping with joy for an affirmative or laughing aloud for the 'no's.

A video link for the same in a semi urban setting here.

This tradition did give rise to a very funny nursery rhyme, wherein the children would ask the bull to predict the holidays for the school due to bad weather and more..

The description at the village park is in marathi, which lyrically describes the attire of the bull, the sounds made by the trinklets and the fortune telling tradition.

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Note - this is from the rural maharashtrian setting and hence marathi is the predominant language. I do have a english script of the nursery rhyme, but not a translation.
#3 May 12th, 2018, 11:53
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Nag Panchami

On the fifth day of the lunar cycle in the hindu month of 'Shravan' - the festival of Nagpanchami is celebrated. This festival has got references from before the era of Mahabharata.

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Snakes, rather specifically the cobra, is worshipped on this occasion. Often women used to go to the snake hole's and worship the snakes there. But that was fraught with danger, lest a snake decide to come out and check on the commotion. So came the famous snake charmers. They would capture the snakes from the forest, take care of them, feed them and then make it perform. They used to be skilled in their work and usually not harm the snakes apart from taking them away from their natural habitat. On Naga Panchami, they would get the snakes to the villages in the flat baskets and the women would get a chance to worship the snakes safely.

However, in recent years the snakes would be defanged and their mouth sutured up, leading to a complete ban in keeping the snakes away from their natural habitat. In many places, from time even before this ban was enforced, stone idols of snakes, including 5 headed ones, were worshipped.

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Translation - 'After the heavy rains of 'Ashadh' (a hindu calender month prior to Shravan), Shravan comes bringing along the hide and seek of Sun and rain. Naga Panchami is celebrated in Shravan. In Indian mythology, snake is a form of god. Snake is also considered as the farmer's friend as it kills the rodents and protects the crops. Snake worship is the unique feature of Naga Panchami. On this day the snakes is offered special sweet products and milk and worshipped from the heart. Along with this henna is put on hands and new bangles are worn and then start the games of 'fugadi' and swings are tied on the tree branches to spend time with the green and pleasant nature. Environmental protection is a theme practiced'

You can see girls playing fugadi to the right of the women. The culture in ancient times used to take care of physical and mental wellbeing. Games as this one would ensure a thorough physical workout in an environment filled with joy and laughter and also ensure interactions amongst each other and take care of the mind as well.

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#4 May 12th, 2018, 23:00
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Land that shakes and bakes.
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Fantastic and gave a chuckle to my spouse. Now they need to set up a guesthouse and maybe a cafe or two..
#5 May 13th, 2018, 00:02
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Originally Posted by edwardseco View Post Fantastic and gave a chuckle to my spouse. Now they need to set up a guesthouse and maybe a cafe or two..
Actually they have put up so much - you do need a place to take breaks, if not stay!

But there is no place to eat or even sit properly and if you really want to explore the place thoroughly, it will take more than a couple of hours.
It would take atleast a month for me to put up everything at the pace of one item a day! But I am looking forward to do that..
#6 May 13th, 2018, 22:36
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An ancient village doctor - A vaidya

A showcase of a rural village showing a modern doctor would have been a let down. So we have a rather older times doctor - a vaidya on display here.

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So what does a vaidya do? (translation)
- Vaidya has been a part of Indian culture since a long time. (The first surgery is often credited to Sushruta - also known as the father of Indian surgery in 6th Century BC)
- After the initial history, use of natural products was the key to the treatment.
- The vaidya, who used the knowledge of Ayurveda and traditional herbal medicines and apply knowledge gained over the generations, was a important part of the rural community.

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#7 May 15th, 2018, 14:01
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A double feature post today -

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Puja - is usually a part of the daily routine in many homes of rural India and also if some places in the urban parts. However if a bigger puja were to be performed for special occasions, then 'guruji' would be invited and he would come prepared with various prayers and shlokas which would elaborate on the significance of the occasion and carry out the rituals in the prescribed manner.

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Usually the head of the family would sit for the puja with his better half - the house shown seems to show the elder son and his wife performing the puja as directed by the guruji, mother, younger brother and children are standing. Relatives also come in for such programs and are shown seated by the side.

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And yes, the rural electrification program is also displayed in the evenings.

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The next part shown is the village square or part of the village outside the homes. Children playing marbles, women filling water from the water handpump - washing activities going on simultaneously.

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You can see grandparents and men in general watching the game and just being present around - so they would know what is happening in general and manage to keep an eye on the children as well. A village was often a place where children were raised by the community and not just by parents. You can see a young girl taking care of a younger sibling, when parents are busy with their work.
#8 May 16th, 2018, 13:48
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And how will a village be without the presence of an astrologer.
Astrology is a science that has existed for centuries. Lot of study and research on various planet positions and the apparent implications have been documented.
Similarly palmistry is also something that has been present since ages.
Often both these fields have been labelled as unscientific, rather harshly I would say. But I think the problem occurs because of the way people approach these subjects - they are purely probability based. But if the predictions are not taken as such, there are bound to be disappointments when things don't turn out the way one visualised it.
So what is the exact role that a fortune teller play in today's society?

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Translation - Finding the auspicious date and time, knowing what may be store in one's future, matching horoscopes (traditional ones - based on exact time and location at birth) for the purpose of approving marital matches, trying to find solutions to difficulties in business, personal life - all this is done based on astrology and numerology since ancient times. An astrologer who does this work has been a part of a village's culture for a long time. Even today their are lot of people who do not undertake any major work or function without the counsel of their astrologer.

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Note the smile that is often seen on faces of people that visit astrologers - they usually come back happy, having found a solution or a way to approach the task at hand.

Astrology, numerology and palmistry are still used widely - both in rural and urban cultures. Many people would pledge that their good fortune have been due to the blessings and directions of their astrologer. Often people challenge others to meet their 'gurus' and check them out to confirm their authenticity and also to benefit from their vision.
I am not going further into the debate.
#9 May 17th, 2018, 12:23
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A important part of the 'fashion designing' industry of a village is the goldsmith. Craftsmanship is an integral part of the a goldsmith's arsenal and this skill is usually handed down in a family through generations.

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Gold and women are bound together pretty strongly. The eyes lit up when they enter a jeweller's shop and they often narrow down while appraising an ornament worn by someone else.
The traditional goldsmith had a coal furnace where the gold would be heated up, melted and then put back in shapes desired. A small blowing pipe is used to give shape and design to the ornaments.

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More inside knowledge in the work of a goldsmith is welcome.
#10 May 18th, 2018, 12:54
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The money lender

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Sahukar/ savkaar - the money lender. A money lender was an important constituent of the village - he would play the role of the banker, the needy used to mortgage their things during their difficult times and borrow money from the money lender. He would be a important support for many people..

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However, the money lender has never been noted to be benevolent in his intentions to help people. During the difficult times he would help people though but he would extract his flesh of pound for that help too. Only the most desperate folks would land at the door of a money lender and often regret going there later. The money lender would often accumulate land, bonded labour or even worse in the bargain as repaying his loan would not be easy..
#11 May 19th, 2018, 12:33
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Vani - grocer - Right from the smallest article like a matchbox to various grains, millets, pulses and other necessary household articles, the grocer is the main supplier of the village. He usually has a pleasant smile on his face while dealing with his customers and in times of needs, material is picked up on credit as well.

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This fellow is somewhat different than the regular village folks. He is known as 'Vasudev'.

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Vasudev - Wearing a long colourful tunic, a traditional lower, known as dhoti, a nice conical hat made up of peacock feathers, carrying small musical instruments in his hands comes Vasudeva in the early mornings to wake up the village. In a loud voice, he would sing the songs of the saints, play his instruments and dance in a traditional way - going round and round in circles, causing the tunic to billow up. 'Ram's servant Vasudeva has come to your door' - now get up, take god's name and get to work is his usual calling. Villagers give him offerings by means of food or money. Most of the work of the saints has been propagated to the masses by these Vasudevs.

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Usually seen in rural settings, but these Vasudevs are also seen in the cities. Invariably they come in the morning hours, sing the abhangs (work of the saints) and are invited in homes for a cup of tea or some breakfast. The Vasudevs are supposed to be very knowledgeable and even clairvoyant. I was witness to a visit of two Vasudevs to our home - they impressed my mother by telling her details of her maternal side and also gave her a brief idea of what the future may keep in store for her.

The roads in the village are good, without any potholes!
Children and teachers on a school trip - at the end of the lane!

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#12 May 20th, 2018, 14:25
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A village's USP is the contact that people (and children) have with each other, they are connected and concerned about their neighbours and others.
There are multiple such occasions where they get to interact with each others.

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There are four different festivals that are depicted in this part of the village. Tulsi puja, Ganeshfestival, Dahi Handi and Lavani (nirguni).

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Tulsi, or the Holy Basil has a very important and sacred spot in Indian culture. Tulsi is supposed to be a form of Goddess Laxmi. There are mythological stories attached to the plant. Tulsi vivah is supposed to symbolise the wedding of a avtaar of Lord Vishnu (Shaaligram) and the avtaar of goddess Laxmi (Vrinda).
Tulsi is worshipped by women for the long lives of their husbands ()
and also plays a role in correcting issues according to Vaastu shastra. Scientifically, this is the tree with the highest oxygen release and hence spending time early in the morning around it helps keep the lady of the house fresh throughout the day.

Lord Ganesha - the god of wisdom. Mythology and children folklore is filled with stories of this god. His head was cut off by Lord Shiva (his father), replaced by an elephant's head and then to settle the anguish of a mother (goddess Parvati), was given the boon that he would be prayed to first on any auspicious occasion.
This festival was given special importance by Bal Gangadhar Tilak during the freedom struggle, as a mean to get people together.
Today the festival is held for variable periods, most of the households install the idol for 1 or 3 days, in Goa it is done for 5 days in pandals and in Maharashtra, especially Pune and Mumbai - 10 days is the time period for Ganesh Festival. Its popularity is still the same, though the religious fervour is replaced by commercial interests at times.

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Dahi Handi - the festival celebrating the birth of Lord Krishna by replicating his mischievous act of stealing butter from the earthen pots and breaking the pots in the process. Multistoreyed human pyramids are erected and the pot is broken. Water is sprayed through spouts in an attempt to make the attempt more difficult.

Lavani - a popular dance and music form is often performed on occasions of festivals and other functions.
There are various types of lavani - the more better known one is the Sringari lavani (sensual), but the more often performed on festive occasions is the Nirguni lavani (philosophical).
More details here.

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Even if festivals are celebrated on fixed times of the year, gods are worshipped in temples through out the year.

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Translation - A temple in the village is a fixed spot for women to meet. They take out some time from their daily chores and come to the temple for worship. This time is then spent chatting with others.
#13 May 21st, 2018, 12:35
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Gaonkatta - The village square.
Translation - Every village has a village square. Right from the elders of the village to the youth and even children make use of this village square to chat with each other, rest for a while - the favourite haunt of almost the entire village.

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Do note the attire - The white cap, the lower known as dhoti. Usually when it is hot a cotton vest is all that is worn - similar to a t shirt (blue colour - worn by the old man without cap)

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Often the village square would be the place where any entertainment programs would take place. This person - known as a madari, would have either a black sloth bear for performance, with a ring in the nose to control the bear or a couple of monkeys who would follow a script. However as you can see, the madari here is alone - as it is now banned to keep wild animals in captivity and make them perform.
#14 May 23rd, 2018, 13:20
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The ultimate creation of the Maharastrian culture - the Pandharpur Wari. A 22 day long festival, starts from Dehu and Alandi with two palkhis (palanquin) carrying the footwear of the saints Tukaram and Dnyaneshwar, respectively. The meet in Pune and then continue till Pundharpur - a distance of 250 km, covered in 22 days. Number of participants - almost 5 lakhs!! Some complete the entire distance, some part of it..

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Translation - Palkhi is the best invention of Maharshtra's culture. Warkaris who have come from all over the state start from Dehu and Alandi to proceed towards Pandharpur. Continously reciting Vithala's name the warkari's proceed in a very disciplined manner and the sight is one to behold, the colourful procession is famous all across the globe. After covering this 250 km on foot, the warkari is blessed by the sight of Pandurang at Pandharpur. This wari teaches and inculcates the feelings equality, humanity and brotherhood - there is no one special or superior to the other in this wari! There are many dindis (groups of warkaris who have come from different places) are driven just by the passion of love towards vithala and while returning back, the warkaris are filled by gratitude just by paying their homage to Vithala'.

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The warkaris are a sight to behold when they are singing and dancing in the rain, on their way to their beloved deity. Musical instruments like veenas, mridungas, dholkis and chiplis are all in motion along with the cries of 'Dyanba Tukaram Dyanba Tukaram', 'Jai Hari Vithala' and multiple other abhangs that are voiced in full fervour. Fugadi, a local dance form is also performed liberally and the locals in the towns and cities that the wari is passing through try to keep the warkaris as comfortable as they can by proving water, refreshments and even shelter if required. Big rangoli's are created on the roads to welcome the wari.
One has to witness this to understand the scale and grandeur of the wari.

Images from google here.
#15 Nov 3rd, 2018, 12:52
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Lull before the storm - a rather prolonged one!
So let's get back on track -

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Oil production often used to be done in the village itself. Usually farmers would get the produce from their farms and get oil extracted here, paying for the services only.

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Telacha Ghana - (Oil producing facility) Crushing seeds to extract oil would be done at this facility called as 'telacha ghana'. This would be a bull driven facility where in oil would be extracted from groundnut, coconut, safflower (kardai), flax seed (jawas), almond, etc. The complete assembly would be of wood. The taste of this oil is supposed to be different.

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You can see the small wooden bat that the lady has, used to make sure that the seeds are shifted back to the centre of the mortar to be crushed properly by the pestle. The bull is made to work regularly with the help of the whip.

This activity of a bull going round and round in a circle gave rise to the hindi saying - kolhu ka bail - someone who puts in efforts day and night!

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