Belpola: Worshiping Oxen
Updated: Sep 27, 2020
In Belpola (also spelled as Bailpola), or 'The Pola Festival', Dangi people come together to celebrate and worship oxen for their service. Most of Dang's tribe people earn through farming and agriculture, spending long hours in the field accompanied and assisted by their bulls and oxen. Oxen are bulls which are castrated in order to makes it easy to control them. The oxen help them plough the fields, and are often whipped by the farmers. Belpola is a chance for the tribespeople to apologise to their cattle, and marks the beginning of the oxen's period of rest, which begins after the sowing process and lasts until the harvest.
On the day of Belpola, farmers fast in honor of the oxen. The oxen are bathed before they are adorned with accessories, and painted by the farmers. A special market is held for the occasion, where the tribespeople buy new bells, collars, garlands, and paint for their cattle.
Photos from the market place, which sells everything from garlands to paint to figurines of the cattle.
The oxen are all brought together and hand-painted for the festival by the men of village. They imprint them with hand-prints as a gesture of ownership, and reconciliation, and color their horns.
In the evening, they are bought to the Hanuman temple and worshipped by the tribespeople, before returning home. At home, the oxen are fed Puran Poli (a sweet roti, made from gram flour and jaggery) by the women of the house. The family only eats once the oxen have had their fill.
Tribesmen also touch the oxen's feet to take blessings. The processions of Belpola are testament of the tribesmen's love and respect for their cattle.
Bhairavi Modi's depictions of Belpola