Mushtaq A Hurra
VILLAGES are the factories which provide the rest of the country with cereals, pulses, vegetables and fruits. Villages are always the hub of agricultural and horticultural activities. They produce our favourite foods, fruits and vegetables. Thus, they play an important role in the progress and prosperity of our country. And paddy cultivation is an important agricultural activity in our country as well as in our valley. Interestingly, rice is the staple food of our country and the valley. These days, Kashmir valley is abuzz with paddy transplantation season. Our Villages are exhibiting a lot of hustle and bustle of men , women and children, in and around the paddy fields. And it must be so, because Haakh Te Batte ( Greens and Grains ) is synonymous to our self-reliance and affluence.
Local and non-local labourers are seen working in the paddy fields, in full swing. Power Tillers and tractors are producing high decibel sounds in the open fields, tilling the land for paddy sapling transplantation. Farmers are busy in preparing the land for sapling transplantation. Unlike yesteryears, farmers are seen leveling the land with hoes, spades and wooden rakes. The season is not lesser than a festivity in our part of globe. It is believed to be the season of blessings and auspiciousness. Thej Kaad( A group of people pulling out the saplings from the seedbed and transplanting it into the open prepared fields ) is organised to transplant the paddy saplings into the open prepared fields on a single day. The sight of Kaad mesmerizes the onlookers. It is an example of unity and togetherness. It would instill the spirit of brotherhood, mutual help and compassion in the villagers. It may be one of the reasons that villagers are comparatively kind and generous.
Some ten to fifteen years earlier, preparation of paddy land would start with the sowing of paddy seeds in seedbeds. There were no tractors and power tillers, then. Ox driven ploughs were used by farmers and agriculturists. The ploughs were mostly made up of wood, but, some progressive agriculturalists had bought steel ploughs. Oxen were well fed before the onset of the season, to make them work properly. Bran, linseed oil-cakes and green fodder was served to the oxen. The oxen were trained and tamed by the agriculturists. They were commanded with some typical cautions by the men incharge of these ploughs and oxen. A long but thin and rigid stick, preferably from a mulberry tree was used by the ploughmen to command the oxen. Paddy fields would often resonate with the cautions of ploughmen during the whole day. At noon, the ploughmen would take meals. Two or three bundles of hay were served to the oxen. The land was tilled multiple times, leaving it soft and gel-like. Before any kind of tilling, cowdung and other manures were added to the soil in abundance, to increase its fertility. Chemical fertilizers were rarely used. The season would almost last for two and half months which included weeding ( Nende ). It would preferably start after the one month of transplantation.
After preparing the land fully, neighbors and relatives were invited to Kaad ( A special gathering of men and women to transplant the saplings, knotted in small bundles ). They would report early in the morning at the paddy farms. These men and women would never work silently. Special chorus songs were sung by these transplanters. A naat or dua was sung in the beginning of the day. Special supplications were recited for the safety and better yield of the crop. Sometimes, the owner of the farm land was ridiculed for being harsh to the workers or for inadequate or substandard cuisines. Tasty cuisines, preferably non-veg, were prepared at homes, and served at the fields and farms to these transplanters. Women would take the meals on their heads, in big wicker baskets. The meals served at the farms, were no less than a treat. It was almost a picnic like scenario. In the evening, songs of gratitude or complaints were sung by the transplanters.
It was followed by weeding, with a break of almost one month. Weeding was done manually. Unlike today, there used to be no chemical weedicides then. Agriculturists and farmers would start their first weeding after 25 to 30 days of transplantation. It was followed by a second round of weeding, and in some cases, the third round of weeding was also carried out to help the paddy plants grow healthier. In August, when the crop would reach to panicle stage, the farmer would prepare a special meal called Baale Batte. Fish cuisine with rice was served to children at the paddy farms . A share of it was left for the rats, with the hope to get a bumper crop. And now, the tradition is no more in practice.
Now, we have progressed and prospered. Industrial revolution has vanished our ox driven ploughs. I vividly remember that my father would look for a strong wooden plank, preferably from a mulberry tree, for the base of the plough, in which the sharp iron blade was fitted. Some men from Kupwara district would sell the shaft poles and handles of the plough prior to the start of the spring, in our area. Beams which were mounted on the oxen, were designed by the local carpenters. Now, even those oxen are nowhere seen in our villages though we still rare cows. Chemical fertilizers are added in abundance to our paddy lands which have degraded the quality of our soil. If the excessive usage of chemical fertilizers is not checked or at least minimised, the mother earth will refuse to produce the yield for us. Scientists believe that immoderate chemical fertilizers will leave the soil barren. No doubt, chemical weedicides check the growth of obnoxious weeds to a greater extent but these chemicals have invited other woes to us. The usage of chemical fertilizers and weedicides have drastically reduced the production of fish and other useful flora in our wetlands.
Leaving everything to machines and chemicals, we have become susceptible to different life style diseases and ailments. Our fathers and forefathers would spend most of their time in farming related activities. Thus, they were healthy, joyous and contented. They would hardly visit a hospital because their life styles were active . Now, we have become dependent on non-local labourers for our every necessity. It has become a double edged sword for us. It drains us economically, and makes us vulnerable to deadly diseases. Our young men and women are suffering from diabeties, hypertension, cardiac ailments, obesity and other lifestyle diseases Here, I don’t want my fellow people to abandon the technology but we should at least take part in our farming. It is not a matter of humiliation rather a matter of pride to be called farmers. It is our culture and heritage as well. Those nations and societies which neglect and ignore their culture and heritage, end up with no identification and existence. Thej Kaad and other related activities are part of our ancestral legacy, so, we should take every necessary step to preserve and safeguard it for our coming generations. Let us protect Kashmir and Kashmiriyat.
- The writer is a teacher and a columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]
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