The picture seems to be of an ideal rural resort-the best way to release oneself from the hustle and bustle of fast life...Actually,it is the entrance to one of the most backward districts of the country,Kalahandi of Orissa.
Yes,you guessed it right..Years ago,the then Prime Minister of India,Rajiv Gandhi flew to this place on hearing the news of one,Phanas Punji.This tribal woman sold her sister-in-law for Rs.25.The reason - money would bring food for the family,who would otherwise die out of hunger.It made it to the headlines then..
My visit to Kalahandi(literally meaning,'black pot') coincided with Dussehra.I thought it would be a hopeless holiday but a lot was in store.
The moment we entered Kalahandi district,we saw the beautiful hill in the picture.The river Tel was shimmering in golden sunlight.It was a sight which I cannot describe or behold.Ah!I said...
On reaching the main town,Bhawanipatna(meaning 'fort of Bhawani') I
made a beeline to the famous Manikeswari Temple.In it ,abodes the so-called most violent form of Maa Durga - the one pleased by blood -animal sacrifice being rampant there. On the eighth day of Navratri,mass animal sacrifice takes place on the public roads of the town.Even police is deployed, just like any other fair or festival.All streets turn red.The people do it themselves-no priest is required.The common man of that district is not sure of getting two square meals a day,but he too indulges in this 'appeasement'.All citizens,irrespective of rich or poor,eat mutton that day.A representative of the presiding deity of the town,Maa Manikeswari is taken in procession.On Her arrival the slaughter begins.Luckily for me,I did not witness any such gory sight.But all the while I kept wondering-why does such a practice continue in so seemingly an urbane town,the people being of so mild a disposition? I talked with the driver while returning to the rest house.He was a gentle guy but the moment I hinted at removal of the ritual of animal sacrifice,he grew impatient.He said,"We children feed our mother.In return,she ensures our safety.A few years back,a collector banned animal sacrifice during Dussehra.His wife fell sick the next day and had to be hospitalized in Cuttack(almost 500 kms from Kalahandi).Immediately,
the husband withdrew his orders,for the Mother appeared in his dream and ordered him to do so.His wife got well instantly.So,Maa will be upset if this is stopped".I fell silent.I had heard numerous stories on the wretched life of tribals in this belt.No roads,no electricity,no water,no rains,no medical facility in rural pockets.
In those uninhabitable conditions,whom could people call for when in distress?Only their Mother could save them.Somehow or the other,they have imbibed the spirit of 'give and take' with God too!No science or government helps them when they need it the most and so is the situation.
The life which seemed quite joyful suddenly looked dark on the other side of the fence.I couldn't help the situation.My dislike towards the propagators of animal sacrifice turned into pity for the helpless people , the suffering lot of humanity because there is no one to take care of their basic needs like food,clothes and shelter."Whom do I value more-the goats who can't speak or these people whose cries for help are unheard by the champions of modern civilization ?"-I asked myself.....
P.S:I have kept my viewpoint on this issue. I'm not in favour of animal sacrifice.I had an idea,if I write my travelling experiences to various such places in some of my subsequent posts,will my readers like it?I expect respones for this question too in the comments section.Thank you.