When I looked back on my blog post from Pola 2014, I remembered how tempted I was to buy one of the very cute wooden bulls on wheels (for children) being sold in the market. This year was my baby’s first Pola so, even though he is too small to play Pola or understand the festival, we bought Rohan his first wooden bull.
Pola is a two-day Maharashtrian festival which thanks the hard-working bulls who plough the fields. The farmers in India still rely heavily on bull-power and Pola the bull’s day off. Bulls play a vital role in the production of the food we, and very soon baby, eat. I have seen them myself, in pairs, ploughing the field and pulling wooden carts, every time we drive out of the city and into rural Maharashtra.
On the first day of Pola (big Pola), bullocks are given a bath, decorated by the farmers and worshiped. On the second day of Pola (little Pola) the children decorate and race their wooden bulls on wheels. My husband has really fond childhood memories of this festival and I was really looking forward to seeing him celebrate Pola with our son. Sadly, he has to go away for work during Pola.
On the evening of Big Pola, my mother-in-law, Sammy, Rohan and I went to the market to pick up Rohan’s first wooden bull. The market was buzzing with tiny excited people and tiny wooden bulls for sale. We chose a very small wooden bull for our very small baby.
Driving home, dusk falling, we were lucky enough to see a pair real bulls dressed horn to hoof in colourful decorations. They were standing in front of a woman in a green saree, she held a large silver tray with a little flame, performing a Pola ritual.
Can you tell that someone is teething?
On the second day of Pola, we were out and about and came across a Pola competition. Twenty or so children were dressed up in their finest traditional Indian clothes, dragging their bulls behind them. The wooden bulls decorated with garlands, strings of shells and all sorts of shiny things. One little boy was upset that one of the wheels had fallen off of his bull, another asked us for some cash.
My friend brought her son around in the evening to show us the bull he has masterfully decorated, and Rohan showed them his. Both boys received 100 rupees. Rohan enjoyed looking at the bright colours of his first wooden bull (something for this sentimental mummy to keep forever).
How could you celebrate Pola with your kids?
I see this festival as a lovely opportunity for children to learn about agriculture as well as having a lot of fun. I have thought about how Rohan can get the most out of this festival in the future, and maybe you want to celebrate it with your children next year. Here are some of the ways you could celebrate Pola:
- Pola celebrates the hard-working bulls who plough the fields with crops that feed us. Discuss with your children how the food where you live produced compared to other places in the world.
- Visit a farm and see how crops are planted and harvested.
- If you live outside of Maharashtra, markets selling wooden bulls won’t pop up just before Pola like they do here. Pull along wooden toys are available online (US, UK, India). Or you could be really creative and make one with your child and decorate it together!
- Alternatively, draw and decorate bulls on paper.
- Gather a group of your child’s friends together and have a three-legged races (where two children have their leg tied to the other, creating three legs). Bullocks plough the fields in pairs.
- Pola, for children, is similar to Halloween in the sense they dress up and go door to door, showing off their decorated bulls (costumes) in exchange for treats.
- Have a Pola party where you can have a bull decorating competition with prizes!