Pola Celebrations: A Colourful Affair



In the long list of festivals that abound in India, Pola dedicated to farmers and bullocks is a bull worshipping festival celebrated by farmers mainly in the Indian states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh particularly in the Vidarbha region. On the day of Pola festival, in the Hindu month of Shravan that usually coincides in August, on Pithori Amavasya farmers worship their bulls, an important member of any farming community, and from the next day ploughing and sowing begins.

Though the bullock is getting driven out by the tractor, on a new moon day in the superstitious hinterlands, rituals dedicated to the cows and ox continue to mark the festival of Pola, which are an integral part of the agricultural chores. The exuberant tribals in Chhattisgarh love to celebrate life and this remains incomplete without the celebrations of the Pola festival which is a thanks giving and recognition to the cattle. Children play with well decorated idols of Nandi bull the vehicle of Lord Shiva made of clay.

In the pantheon of Hinduism, Nandi is the legendary mount of Shiva. It is a bull with white symbol of purity, whose four legs are the Truth, the Dharma, the Peace and Love.

More than just a vehicle, Nandi can be considered constant and inevitable companion of Shiva in all his movements so much so that in any temple dedicated to Shiva, in front of the main sanctuary, the presence of a sculpture of Nandi is one of the essential features. Just like Garuda, the great eagle vehicle of Vishnu, Nandi over the centuries has become increasingly important, until you enter the pantheon of Hindu gods like unto itself. In fact, there are in India many temples dedicated to him.

In the symbolism of the Hindu, the bull symbolizes both the strength and ignorance; the fact that Shiva uses the bull as a vehicle, is the idea that this divine figure removes ignorance and at the same time grant the strength of wisdom to his devotees. In addition, the bull is called Vrisha in Sanskrit. This word may also assume the meaning of Dharma or Righteousness so that, in symbolic terms, the depiction of a bull next to Shiva indicates that, wherever there is God, there are also uprightness, purity and justice.

An anecdote taken from the Purana says that once Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati were playing at dice. As in any game you have a judge who proclaim the winner, both Nandi chose for this particular task. However, as Nandi the vehicle of Shiva and his favorite, Shiva declared the winner even though he had lost the game.

Parvati, outraged by this behavior, threw a curse to the bull, condemning him to die from an incurable disease. Nandi then prostrated himself at the feet of Parvati, and he begged forgiveness, saying Mother, how could I show ingratitude to my master would not have been extremely humiliating for me to declare his defeat once I lied to keep up his honor, but it is just that, an offense so small, should be punished so great.

At these words Parvati forgave him, telling him to rectify his mistake should have offered his son Ganesha during the day of his birthday, Vinayaka Chaturthi what Nandi preferred. The food that he preferred was the green grass as indicated by the consort of Shiva. Nandi worshiped Ganesha by offering green grass and was thus spared from the incurable disease. His health was restored, and with the blessing of Parvati got the redemption from the sins.

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