Pola and Other Rituals with Animals

by - August 21, 2017

Pola is a bull worshipping festival celebrated by farmers in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, in the Vidarbha region. On the day of Pola festival on Pithori Amavasya in the month of Shravan that coincides in August, farmers worship their bulls, which are an integral part of the agricultural chores. From the next day plowing and sowing begins.

Though the bullock is replaced by the tractor, on the new moon day in the superstitious hinterlands, rituals dedicated to the cows and ox continue to mark the festival of Pola.

The exuberant tribals in Chhattisgarh love to celebrate life and this remains incomplete without the celebrations of the Pola festival. It is a thanksgiving festival to the cattle. Children play with well-decorated clay idols of Nandi bull the vehicle of Shiva.

The worship of the bull was common in the ancient world. Its source of knowledge comes from Egypt, and then it passed to the villages of Ancient Mesopotamia and Hellenistic Greece. From protohistoric times, the bull occupied an important place in the life of human beings. Both the nomadic and the sedentary people coexisted closely with this animal. People often depended on the bull for survival. Therefore they worshiped it. The bull was identified with virility and procreation in nature.

From the earliest times, the bull was lunar in Mesopotamia. Its horns represented the crescent moon. Horned bull skulls were found in a shrine of VIII millennium BC in Çatalhöyük in Eastern Anatolia. The sacred bull of the Hattians, whose elaborate standards were found in Alaca Höyük along with those of the sacred deer, survived in Hurrian and Hittite mythologies as Seri and Hurri.

Going back to the past, from 3000 BC to 2000 BC, we can distinguish two species of bulls in Egypt. The so-called iw was imported from Dongola to the south. It was fat with a low-hip, that is to say, short, with big horns and which was deliberately fattened for use as food or for sacrifice.

The other specimen was the native wild bull of the delta called ng. It was tall with big horns and that was captured by looming it. People used it in field tasks or to pull large stones. It was also hunted in the great royal hunts. This is our Apis and possibly also the other sacred bulls.

These uses were not categorical regarding the two species since both could be domesticated, both were used for worship in some cases, both were sacrificed, but only the IW served as food and only NG was used in hunting and only the Ng was a Apis.

The function of the Apis was that of intermediary between the god Ptah and its faithful, communicating between them by means of the oracle. Thus the bull was on the one hand the herald of the god, the informant of the events that happened on the earth and on the other, acted on behalf of that same god when giving a verdict in its function as an oracle. By its connection with Osiris, Apis fulfilled funerary functions. Inscriptions have been found in the Serapeum, where Apis is called the Life of Osiris.

Occasionally, Apis was in charge of bringing grain to the other world, relating it to the agrarian function. At other times it assumed the transport role for the same dead man. Paintings have been found representing the Apis carrying the deceased mummified towards the necropolis on their backs. As we know, the Egyptians used to paint various symbols and gods of which they hoped for help and protection in the trip to the other world.

The predominance of the bull is fully justified, since it was an animal that, in addition to its particular characteristics with connotations of fertility, was intimately related to different gods.

The bull is also found in jewelry, amulets and weapons. As unique examples are a pair of earrings in form of cornucopia from which leaves a head of Apis; Two or three amulets in green stone and lapis lazuli and a golden dagger, whose handle is covered with a head of Apis. There are also two very interesting sculptures found in Saqqara that show us one to Pharaoh Ramses II who ordered the construction of the Serapeum and the other to his son Jaemuaset who carried out the planning and construction of the necropolis. Both are represented near them to the bull Apis.

In Cyprus ritual bull masks made with real skulls were used. Terracotta figurines carrying bull masks and Neolithic stone altars with bull horns have been found on this island. In Egyptian mythology the Apis bull is considered the incarnation of Ptah and later of Osiris. Bulls were identified by the priests and housed in the temples. They were embalmed and buried.

Numerous monolithic burials were stored in the Serapeum of Saqqara, which was discovered by Auguste Mariette in 1851. Other venerated bulls were Mnevis or Merur, the incarnation of Atum - Ra, in Heliópolis; Bujis or Baj, the sacred bull of Montu in Hermontis; and the bull of the god Min, in Coptos. In Ancient Egypt, Ka was as much a religious concept of the life force, as the word that designated the bull.

In other cultures, Marduk is the bull of Utu and the mount of Shiva is Nandi. When the heroes of the new Indo-European culture came to the Aegean basin, they clashed with the ancient Holy Bull on many occasions, and always surpassed it, in the form of myths that have survived.

For the Greeks, the bull was related to the Cretan Bull. Theseus of Athens had to capture the ancient sacred bull of Marathon before facing the bull-man, the Minotaur. Ancient frescoes and Minoan ceramics represent rituals of Taurocatapsy, in which participants of both sexes jumped over the bulls by clinging to their horns.

Dionysus was another god of resurrection who was attached to the bull. In a hymn of worship from Olimpia, at a festival in honor of Hera, Dionysus was also invited to appear as a bull. He is often depicted with bull horns, and in Cyzicus he had a tauromorphic image, and also alludes to an archaic myth in which Dionysus is massacred as a calf and eaten by the Titans.

In the classical period of Greece, the bull and other animals identified with deities were separated. Agalma was a species of heraldic piece that signified their numinous presence. Alexander's famous horse was called Bucephalus, linking the self-proclaimed king with the mythical power of the bull.

The bull is one of the animals related to the late Roman syncretic and Hellenistic cult of Mitra, in which the death of the astral bull was central in the cult of the time. A suggestion relates the remnants of the Mithraic ritual to the survival or boom of bullfighting in Iberia and southern France. The Irish mythology includes important references to the bulls, as in the Tain Bo Cúailnge as well as the stories of the epic hero Cuchulainn, which were compiled in the book of brown cow in the seventh century.

The sacred bull survives in the constellation Taurus.

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  1. Good learning about this festival that celebrates Bulls, similar to Mattu pongal in Tamil Nadu! Nice legend relevant to festive