Farming community in Himachal Pradesh is having an unbelievably bad run with weather. The villagers, particularly the fruit growers, are turning towards the local deities to protect the apple crop from hailstorm.
Repeated hailstorms have pounded orchards in major apple-growing areas of the state. Hailstorm has damaged apple crop in most of the areas including Rohru, Kotkhai, Jubbal, Kotgarh, Rampur, Kholighat, Baghi, Ratnari, Tikkar and Matiana in Shimla. A few areas in Mandi and Kullu districts have also received hailstorm in the past one month.
Anticipating more hailstorms in the coming days, the farmers have turned towards local deities to save themselves from the “wrath of weather gods”.
The villagers are holding prayers, making offerings to appease the deities that are highly revered in the villages. Almost every village in Shimla, Kullu, Chamba, Sirmaur, Kinnaur and Mandi districts have at least one temple dedicated to a local deity.
Rajinder Kumar, a native of Bhajhain village in Rohru subdivision, told Hindustan Times that his village was hit by hailstorm that added to the anxiety of the people. “We have sought intervention of the local deity Mangradu,” said Rajinder Kumar. “Actually there is a belief that if adolescent girls go on fast to appease the deity, the latter then answers their prayers,” he said.
Theresidents of Mandalgarh valley in Rohru also worshipped their principal deity, Bondra. The villagers performed what they call ‘Tikkar Puja’.
“The villagers go up in high hills and make different kinds of offerings to the deity, seeking protection from the hailstorm that has damaged apple crops in the area,” said Bhagat Singh Thakur, head of Bondra Devta Temple Committee.
“Villagers throng temples daily seeking protection of the crops,” said Thakur, who himself is a progressive apple grower in the area.
The villagers are all the more worried since the weather forecast predicts more hailstorms in the coming days.
Shimla meteorological centre director Manmohan Singh attributed hailstorms to the fresh western disturbance. “Fresh western disturbance is expected from May 17 onwards and in the next 24 hours, thunderstorm and heavy rain is expected in mid-altitude areas,” he said.
In some areas, people have covered apple trees with anti-hail nets. While the elderly are performing pujas to appease the gods, the younger ones can be seeing checking the latest weather predictions on the their mobile phones. There seems to be no relief, neither at the technology front nor from the skies.
This year, the horticulture sector has suffered losses estimated at Rs 25 crore, including `10 crore caused by hailstorms. Apple alone contributes around 4% to the state’s economy.