16 December 2016

2016 Arunachala Karthigai Festival: Cattle Fair

Traditionally a Cattle Fair takes place during the Arunachala Karthigai Deepam Festival. Generally cows, horses and sheep are brought to the Fair Grounds (located off the NH 66 Chengam Road near the Arts College) a couple of days before Mahadeepam—this year Monday, 12 December, 2016. Because of the financial burden of the ongoing “monetisation” programme in India, it is estimated that this year the Cattle Fair was fifty percent down compared to previous years.

Below is a report of the Cattle Fair during the 2016 Karthigai Deepam Festival that appeared in local newspapers. As there are lots of interesting information, am reproducing the article in full.

“Twenty three people from Kallampuli village in Kadaiyanallur taluk of Tirunelveli district have come to Tiruvannamalai Karthigai Deepam Cattle Shandy to purchase a set of bullocks for their village temple.

Asked why they came all the way from Kadaiyanallur, travelling 470 km to buy a pair of bullocks, Ramar, one of the villagers, said: “We want to buy it from Tiruvannamalai Deepam, a sacred festival in a sacred place. Although we purchase the cattle a day earlier, we won’t untie the cattle until we have a glimpse of the Mahadeepam.”

Diraviyam, another person from the team, said: “We want to buy ‘Ottan Kalai’ that is more powerful than others. This breed is not available in our place. That is also one reason why we come this far.” He was referring to a breed called ‘Merkathi’ or ‘Osur’ in the local parlance. The shandy used to be famous for native breeds such as this.

Despite the sentiment and breed-specific significance attached to this shandy, business was poor this year. “Only about 40 to 50 per cent of heads of cattle came this year,” said Palani, a cattle trader from Arani who has been in the business for the last 40 years.

“Neither traders don’t have money to buy nor do our customers have money to buy from us. I myself purchased 13 bullocks from Andhra Pradesh to sell them in this shandy. Because of the goodwill I enjoy, considering the money crisis they sold them on credit to me. Every trader cannot get credit,” Mr. Palani added.

“Not only the number of heads of cattle, but species specific slump is also palpable here. ‘Osur’ and ‘Tiruvannamalai’ breeds have arrived in very low numbers. Because of depletion of local breeds, their prices go up,” says a writer and former agricultural journalist.

Even the low number of heads of cattle have very few takers. The sellers are even prepared to accept old notes of Rs. 500 or Rs. 1,000 for a portion of the price. “But still there are very few takers,” said a seller.

Apart from directly affecting the purchasing power of farmers, the demonetisation has hit the shandy in many ways. “No rains. Even the farmers who want to take up farming despite lack of water could not do so because they could not buy inputs for the cultivation and pay wages because of demonetisation. When there is no farming who will come to buy cattle, other than a few men looking for carts,” asks Murugan, a seller.

Although there is no palpable slump in the number of horses that came for sales, only very few are sold. Siva, a jockey from Tiruvannamalai, said on Sunday: “As far as I know, only four horses were sold from yesterday”. Several allied trades like horse hair pruning, bull horn sharpening, shops that sell ornaments, and accessories for cattle were dull.” 

Rows of stalls selling various bullock and horse related items

Plenty of food stalls throughout the girivalam roadway

Lots of colourful stalls on the side of the girivalam roadway

Even if one doesn't have a bullock, nice to check out the stalls

Lots of folk moving about after some wet and soggy days

Lots of very interesting ornaments made up with sea-shells

And lots of bells. Many cattle pass by my house and I can tell them apart just by listening to the sound of their bells

These two are happy looking bullocks

Very handsomely done up with lots of ornaments

A matched pair busy have a nice chomp down

Compared to previous years very small turnout of Bulocks

Both people and cattle just happy to bask in welcome sunshine

This bullock is not ill. Just enjoying the lovely sun after a couple of wet soggy days

Horses next to nicely painted carts

Many horses brought to the Cattle Fair this year

Hello you!!!

And Hello to you Mister Curious!

Just makes you want to adopt all of them. So nice.

[Photographs by Professor Hari Prasad]


Susan Davies said...

This must be one of the best functions of the whole of the Karthigai Deepam celebrations.

Meenakshi Ammal said...

Absolutely agree. The Cow Festival is a wonderful and colourful event. Hope some of those cows and horses end up in really good homes.