The Seed Festival- Beejotsav

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We have just celebrated the earth day with much fanfare in all parts of the world. In most places, the idea of conserving nature and protecting Mother Earth is celebrated once in a year and people disperse after taking pledges and making vows. Many forget about them even before they reach their homes and until the next year, nothing ever happens. If you are the type following the news in the papers and media, you will agree with what I am saying. Of course, there are many people who really get inspired and try and do something in this direction. Even a small step counts.

But deep within the country, there are so many indigenous people like the Adivasis of Khondh in Odisha or the women of the Khasi tribe in Meghalaya who are silently renewing their relationship with mother earth not because it is earth day or something but because it is their way of life, something women from these communities have been doing for thousands of years. The Khondh community celebrates the seed festival or Bijun Parab just before the arrival of the first rains. The women collect different varieties of seeds throughout the year and store them safely from insects, beasts or any such intrusion by mixing neem paste or using natural fertilizers like lining the basket with cow dung. During the annual seed festival, they bring out the varieties of seeds they have saved into the open outside their homes and place them in the village square. The entire community participates in rejoicing during the festival with men beating the drums, women singing songs and children dancing and playing. Those who were unfortunate and have lost their seeds need not worry; the seeds will be shared by all the women. What a wonderful spirit of community sharing and caring.

And they wait, till the signs of rain. Then off they go to scatter the seeds in the patch of lands and soon the land gives them a rich reward and thus the cycle continues.

The Khasi tribe which is matrilinear also does something like this. Women preserve seeds of all varieties for they need wholesome meals which should include cereals, vegetables, fruits even medicinal plants. The knowledge that these women possess is amazing. They pass it on to generations along with the deep reverence for the mountains, rivers and forests. They are untouched by the guile of the outsiders and have made their lives simple and closer to the elements.

That is true earth day. Every day is a celebration. How I wish we can learn from our cultures and respect the earth and her resources with gratitude. The Beejotsav teaches us just this.