For a six-km bullock cart ride from Ratlam to a Jain temple in Bibrod village, people pay up to Rs 6,000, which is more than the air fare between Indore and Delhi. Lest you are tempted to become a bullock cart driver, let us make it clear.
This unique event takes place once a year on Amavasya (new moon night) in Poush month when hundreds of devotees belonging to Jain community visit the temple of Swami Rishabhdev in Bibrod.
They believe that if they travel by a bullock cart, it will bring prosperity to the community and take away all their problems.
On January 9, about 30,000 to 40,000 from Ratlam and western Madhya Pradesh visited the temple during the annual one-day religious event, between 5am to 9pm.
“Even though, I have my own vehicle, our family members visit the temple in bullock carts as it will fulfil all our wishes and purpose to visit temple,” said Ritesh Mehta, who hired a bullock cart spending Rs 3,000. Along with Mehta, seven other members of his family also visited the temple.
“As thousands of devotees from Ratlam and its neighbouring districts visit the temple, we booked a cart in months advance,” Mehta said.
Social worker Mahendra Gadiya from Ratlam said the demand for carts increases that day as a few number of bullock carts are available in the area.
“Most of the devotees book their carts in advance as per their requirements. Small families of two to three members can book a small chakra bullock cart for Rs 2,000 and a big family can book a big cart for up to Rs 5,000 to 8,000,” Gadiya said.
He said they don’t mind spending high for a short distance since the matter is associated with their belief.
“Also, it is a good earning opportunity for bullock cart owners, who mostly are farmers,” Gadiya said.
On a single day, a bullock cart owner can earn around Rs 8,000 to 12,000, depending upon the number of trips he makes.
“As one trip is about 12 kilometres (to and fro) and we never go for the third trip as we don’t want to hurt our animals (bullocks) for money,” said Kamal Gawali, 35, a farmer.
He said about 500 to 550 bullock cart owners are plying in the town and neighbouring areas.
“How could we miss this opportunity? Not only Jain people but also we have a deep faith in Swami Rishabhdev as only because of them we could able to earn some good money. It helps us get good food for the family and pay school fees of our children,” Gawali said.