Very happy Pongal wishes to my Tamil friends; Makar Sankranti to the ones in North and Lohri to the one in the North west! Ankita Chobey in her article [i]in Mumbai mirror describes this as: “It is January and for Indians it is the time of the year when we mark the beginning of the season’s end – that is time to bid winter a farewell. This is also the time of the year when winter harvest festival is celebrated. Across the lengths of our country, this festival is celebrated in various ways. While some call it Makar Sankranti, some call it Pongal and some name it Lohri”. Though these celebrations are done across India in different names and different legends are associated with it two things are quite common: Mark of the end of a season and harvest festivals.
Since it is a harvest festival think along with festivities and Pujas it is also important to spend time thinking about the well being of the ones who are involved in the whole work of agriculture and harvesting them. The plight of farmers are getting worse in India which is an agrarian country with 70% of people depend on agriculture. Times of India article[ii] reported that over 12000 farmers commit suicide every year since 2013. The figures are alarming. I stay here in Uttar Pradesh where I constantly listen to issues where the farm lands are taken by land mafias for constructing flats. An article[iii] in BBC notes, “Half of its people work in farms, but farming contributes only 15% to India’s GDP. Put simply, farms employ a lot of people but produce too little”.
All of us get excited when we get fresh crops, see greenery and celebrate festivals. But mundane realities remains the same. I wonder if our economic model has done any serious favour for uplifting the poor. Rich is getting richer and the poor is getting poorer. Today as we celebrate harvest festival, can we seriously think about the ones till in the field? Think about what possible can be done for them?
As I conclude I would like to give a glimpse of some of the Agrarian themes in the Bible. Though Christians are not known to celebrate Biblical festivals, Bible mentions about atleast three harvest festivals: the Feast of Weeks (Lev. 23:15-22, Num. 28:26-31, Deut. 16:9-12) which celebrates the early harvest and the final harvest called the Feast of Booths, Shelters, or Tabernacles; (Lev. 23:33-44, Num. 29:12-39, Deut. 16:13-16). There is also a festival which was called festival of Firstfruits which also has to do with harvest (Lev. 23:9-14, see also Exod. 23:18 and 34:26). As I finish I quote few Bible portions:
“And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full.” Deuteronomy 11:13-15
“You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth” Psalm 104:14
May the God as per His promise protect our land, give good yield, take care of the farmers and take away the ailments of farmers who got affected by Okhi and other calamities. May He change our heart to be good to be farmers and the land.