This Navratri, try something new. Grassroutes, an organisation promoting rural tourism, will plan a trip to a tribal village in Maharashtra to celebrate the Rice Harvest Festival. The two-day weekend trip will allow city dwellers to be part of the village’s Navratri celebrations including invoking the Mother Goddess to mark the beginning of the new harvest season and reactivate the vigour and fertility of the soil.
“Rice is our staple food, but we don’t know how it is harvested. We want to showcase the working of that process,” says Darren Lobo, Grassroutes, adding that the idea for this trip came from some people who had travelled to the village to transplant rice. “They wanted to harvest the rice they had grown; and it coincides with Navratri, which is why visitors will also get to be part of the local celebrations.”
The journey begins at Dadar station. After reaching Kasara by local train, visitors are taken to the location in jeeps. The village is made of three tribes — Hindu Mahadeo Koli, Khatkari and Warli. Upon reaching, visitors are shown their quarters — a tent, cottage or village home. They will also be introduced to the village family that they will share their meals with.
Next morning, the visitors will be shown how to harvest rice. Villagers will also demonstrate how it is dried and stored in pots of cow dung and hay. “Participants will be told stories about how they lost their local authentic rice to multinational companies and their patented seeds and more,” says Lobo.
The Rice Harvest Festival coincides with Navratri, which is when the idols of Goddess Durga, and the other local deities are worshiped with song and dance performances in the nights. The dances include Kala, which describes the jovial mood of Lord Krishna and the Lezim, a folk dance form wherein dancers carry a small musical instrument.
On the last day of Navratri, the idols are immersed in water and a huge dinner is organised where the village women cook. Grassroutes operates with a 60:40 ratio. Sixty per cent of the money earned is paid to the village, the residents of which are also employed as guides, housekeepers. The money is given to the village tourism committee who passes it on to the villagers.