Bail Pola – A Festival to Show Gratitude to Hard-Working Bulls


Author – Vishal Gudlani

Have you ever seen yellow-coloured bulls decorated with ornaments? What’ll be your first thought if you saw such a bull?

Have you heard of a festival that is celebrated by decorating and worshipping bulls?

I guess the answer will be ‘no’ because the festival of Bail Pola is not as famous as holi or Diwali, both of which are celebrated across the country. Bail Pola is observed only in the rural areas of certain states like Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra. Even then, it is a very important part of the unique and vast Indian culture.

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Bail pola is a carnival for farmers to offer their deepest gratitude to bullocks which drive their ploughs so that farmers can sow seeds and earn a living. It is a day when bullocks are worshipped for the rigorous hard work they do in the field, to initiate the seed sowing process and satisfy human hunger.

Having been born and brought up in an urban city with no knowledge of the farming profession, I hardly knew about this festival in my childhood days.  But I still remember an incident from back then. It was the day after a Bail Pola celebration. I had accompanied my mom to the temple. In the vicinity of temple was an open land with grass. There, I saw two bulls, coloured yellow and wearing ornaments. Being a young boy, I was amazed upon seeing them and started imagining all kinds of reasons for the same.

The first reason I thought of was rangpanchami. On rangpanchami, we throw water and colour on each other. So I imagined that even the bulls had celebrated their rangpanchami and so were coloured. But again I thought how can four-legged animals throw colour at each other? And so, this reason was rejected.

Looking at the ornaments worn by the bulls, another thought came up – marriage. For marriage ceremonies, turmeric is applied on couples and they wear ornaments. In the same way, turmeric must have been applied on the bulls and ornaments worn as yesterday could have been their marriage. But then I thought – who has the time to conduct rituals and marry bulls? So I discarded that thought too.

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Soon, another thought flashed through my mind. I remembered the time when my friend fell into a manhole and all his clothes became black from the dirty manhole. So I thought even these bulls must have fallen into a pool of yellow-coloured substance. But how can both the bulls fall in the same pool? And how come only half their body was coloured?

Irritated by so many questions, I asked my mom, “Why are these bulls coloured?”

She replied, “Yesterday was Bail Pola and people decorate and worship bulls and so they are coloured.”

Her answer brought out another query, ‘Why and who worships bulls?’ My mom was getting late for some important work and so she ignored my question. But this unanswered query remained dormant in my mind.

Last year, on the day of Bail Pola, a few of my seniors were wishing one of their batch mates a happy birthday. Even I thought it was his birthday and wished him. Later a senior told me that they were teasing that guy, calling him a bull for his bulky body and because it was bull’s day they were greeting him. This incident roused my dormant query and I asked one of my batch mates who comes from a village, “Do you know about Bail Pola festival?”

Since she replied in the affirmative, I became inquisitive and asked her to tell me everything she knew about it.

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She told me that it is celebrated by farmers in the villages of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh. It is observed on full moon day, in the month of sharavana, according to the Hindu calendar. It is celebrated to offer gratitude to bulls and worship them for all the hard field-work they do.

The bulls are taken to a river or water reservoir and given a nice bath. They are then coloured, decorated, studded with ornaments, shawls and garlands. Then they are worshipped and fed good food. Poranpoli and five other vegetables are given as a meal for the day. Most importantly they are given complete rest for the entire day. In the evening, there is a procession in the village with music and dancing.

After hearing this, I felt stupid about all the reasons my small brain had made up for coloured bulls, back in my childhood. Now that I know the reason for the festival, I feel it is important to offer gratitude not only on a single day but every day which also means proper care and good diet for the bulls. Because of them, farmers feed us and we are healthy. So here is a shout-out to the bulls and Happy Bail Pola.

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