Continuous dry weather spell in the state has made the farmers turn to local deities for rain and snow. It has been a while since the state received rain. Snow has been alluding ever since December. The continuing dry spell has made the apple farmers in Kotgarh worry about the prospects of the crop this year. With day temperature hovering around 20 degrees in the lower and middle belt, required chilling hours have not been met for the apple orchards in these areas.
Absence of snow and rain has made the farmers stop new plantation this year. Amar Singh Bhalaik, a farmer from Kotgarh area (Shimla district), says, “I have bought 200 new apple plants and 100 pear plants this year, but have postponed plantation as the plants would die due to dry spell.”
“There is no provision of artificial irrigation in the area, which would have taken care of the plants in this troubled winters,” he rued.
In such a scenario, farmers are thronging the local deities of the area and the news from that front is also not encouraging. Every village in the hills has its own deity, who takes care of the well being of the villagers through out the year. It is believed, on the first day of the month of ‘Magh’ these deities leave for Swarg and give an account of their areas to the higher God. They come back on the 15th day of ‘Magh’ and give a prediction about the well being of the area for the impending year. This year, the predictions have not been good. Just three snowfalls and scant rainfall has been predicted. The average crop this year too would be very less. While last year, the crop predicted was 13 biswa in a bigha, this year it is 5 biswa in a bigha.
Meanwhile, weather sites have been predicting major snow and rains this week. Weather Underground and Yahoo! Weather have predicted snow and shower for this week. Previously, the weather sites had predicted snow and showers around 11th and 26th January, however, that never happened.
Raghav Bhalaik, another farmer from the area who relies on the weather sites for planning work in the orchards is disappointed with the failure of predictions on these sites. “While modern education makes us use the technology to the best, but this year, repeated failure of the weather site predictions has made working in the orchards impossible,” he says.
He sprayed Blytox after pruning the apple trees hoping that rain and snow would shower their blessings as predicted by the weather sites. “No rainfall occurred and now I have to do other spray of Tree Spray Oil (TSO) else it will be too late,” he complains.
On being probed about the deities’ predictions, he just had a smile on his face.
The author recalls a funny incident of around 10 years back, when some villagers had gone to the Nag Devta temple at the famous Tanni-Jubbar lake near Narkanda, in Shimla district, asking for rains. It was a bright sunny day and a puja was performed there. Some tourists from the plains were also visiting the lake and curiously asked what was happening. Upon being told, that the people have come to pray to the god for rains, they simply laughed at the ‘strange’ ways of the hill folks. Nag Devta had consented for rains and by the time the prasad was prepared, heavy rains started which lasted for almost six hours. The same group of tourists was seen thronging the temple and praying reverently.
It is a curious mix of beliefs and technology in the hills. While there is no possible explanation for the above mentioned incidents but as per belief deities do have a control on the ‘way of life’ here in the villages. It is a strange phenomenon this winters. While the elderly are busy performing pujas and pleasing the gods, the younger ones can be seeing checking the latest weather predictions. There seems to be no relief, neither at the technology front nor from the ‘skies’.