The Hari Putar Dialogues - 69
(PATNA, India (Reuters): July 28th 2009 - Farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plough parched fields naked in a bid to embarrass the weather gods to bring some badly needed monsoon rain, officials said on Thursday. Witnesses said the naked girls in Bihar state ploughed the fields and chanted ancient hymns after sunset to invoke the gods. They said elderly village women helped the girls drag the ploughs. "They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains," Upendra Kumar, a village council official, said from Bihar's remote Banke Bazaar town. "This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily." India this year suffered its worst start to the vital monsoon rains in eight decades, causing drought in some states.)
Putar: There is a report by the news agency Reuters today that farmers in an eastern Indian state have asked their unmarried daughters to plow their fields in a naked state.
Hari: Is this possible? Why would farmers ask their daughters and not their sons to plough the fields? And for the girls to be naked. It's unbelievable. What is the reason?
Putar: There are no rains in that State so far this year.
Hari: So how will this help bring about rain?
Putar: That is the traditional belief in that part of the country. The report quotes Upendra Kumar, a village council official, from Bihar's remote Banke Bazaar town as saying: "They (villagers) believe their acts would get the weather gods badly embarrassed, who in turn would ensure bumper crops by sending rains."
Hari: How long is this ploughing by naked unmarried women expected to continue?
Putar: Till the rains come. This is the most trusted social custom in the area. The villagers have vowed to continue to have the girls plough the fields till such time that the rains come.
Hari: I wonder how it came to be such a trusted social custom.
Putar: One year they must have done this exercise and the rains must have come and so the community developed a faith in the efficacy of this device.
Hari: But isn't the weather God supposed to know that absence of rain will affect the crop badly?
Putar: According to the villagers the weather God would know this but might not realize the full extent of the suffering of the people. When the naked girls go to plough the fields, he will realize how terrible the situation is. The other Gods will also question the weather God about what is happening? The weather God will then feel peer pressure to do something.
Hari: In a country like India where women are supposed to dress modestly, especially in the villages, it takes a great deal of desperation for farmers to expose their daughters in such a fashion.
Putar: Well, as the expression goes, desperate times call for desperate measures.
Hari: It's not an easy job to plough fields. And these young girls too must find it difficult.
Putar: They could certainly do with some help. However because the girls are not wearing anything, the men cannot be allowed to help. Apparently though elderly village women do help.
Hari: That should also embarrass the weather God. The sight of elderly women ploughing the fields. If you accept for a minute that there is a weather God, then you could think of other ways of persuading him surely.
Putar: What to do? Prayers have been made. And have thus far failed to yield results.
Hari: In certain other parts of the world a different strategy has been used. The Native Americans for instance used the rain dance to provoke rain and ensure harvest protection. The rain dance was more like a long distance communications strategy, wasn't it? The Gods would see the dance and realize the dire situation.
Putar: I'm not sure that it was only communication. The dance was possibly also meant to entertain the Gods. Both men and women wore elaborate costumes. The women wore jewels such as turquoise.
Hari: So was the idea perhaps was that the Gods would be pleased with the entertainment provided and then grant the gift of rain to demonstrate their pleasure?
Putar: Exactly. The Native Americans were suffering, but hid their suffering.
Hari: When you see such suffering you begin to wonder if there is a God.
Putar: Many writers and philosophers have wondered similarly. There are some years where the villagers suffer due to drought, but during other years they suffer because of floods. The crops are all destroyed and even their houses are swept away.
Hari: We human beings have more power to do something about floods than we have about drought.
Putar: And floods sometimes cause even greater havoc than droughts.
Hari: With modern technology it has now became possible to predict floods and take preventive action, but all too often little is done, and thousands of lives are lost. Thousands of lives can be saved if we strengthen riverbanks and have early warning systems and evacuation plans in place.
Putar: Tell, me something, Papaji.
Hari: Bol, Putar?
Putar: To convince the weather God to give rain, the Native Americans used the rain dance, and in some parts of Bihar, naked unmarried girls plough the fields.
Putar: Can similar remedies be used for floods?
Hari: Not really. There will be no place to stand and do a dance or plough a field, since the place itself will be flooded.
Putar: But some activities can take place alongside flood areas ' without affecting the relief effort, of course. If people from flood hit areas were to catch hold of the responsible politicians and leaders who haven't done enough to prevent the flood and force these leaders to dance naked in the rain surely that might make things better for the village in the future.
Hari: The threat of punishment is sometimes very effective.
Putar: Assuming the Gods were to see the spectacle of leaders ' including possibly some female politicians ' doing a naked rain dance, do you think they would be more embarrassed or more entertained?
Hari: I don't know, Putar.