Sunday, 12 July, 2020
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OPINION

Rice Plantation



Dixya Poudel

Asar fifteenth (Asar Pandra) is known as National Rice Plantation Day in Nepal and called "ropai diwas" in Nepali. On this day, farmers plant rice seedlings with festivities and joviality. However, this year due to the coronavirus crisis, there were minimal festivities surrounding Asar 15th.
As an urban dweller, I have never participated in rice plantation ceremony but have witnessed the celebrations. Since Nepal is an agricultural country, rice production is an essential occupation for farmers. Rice is certainly the most important crop in Nepal and its production amounts to 50 per cent of the total agricultural production and area in the nation. Further it accounts to about one-fourth of GDP. And rice which is a major staple in Nepali cuisine is planted at the height of monsoon season i.e. in the month of Asar (June/July).
In villages across Nepal, farmers get together in their paddy fields during the rice plantation ceremony. Women commence planting rice seedlings whereas the men plough the fields to prepare them for plantation. The farmers sing folk songs known as Asare Geet to lift the spirit of people. Even non-farmers take part in the ceremony as audiences, sometimes even stepping in the muddy fields and playing with mud. A cuisine made up with a combination of beaten rice and yogurt is prepared and served as a traditional food during Asare Pandra. And the technological revolution in agriculture has progressed in Nepal as well. Previously, farmers depended upon an ox-driven plough to break up the hard soil but now they mostly use mechanical tools instead.
Rice is the key staple food item throughout the world. It is a cereal grain that is heavily consumed by human population, particularly in Asia and Africa. Rice is the seed belonging to the grass species Oryza sativa (Asian rice) and Oryza glaberrima (African rice). Due to the low labour costs, its production is ideal to many countries. Once the paddy fields have been planted with rice seedlings, they are ready to be harvested within four to five months. Farmers depend on the heavy rainfall during the monsoon season to irrigate their paddy fields since rice needs ample amounts of water for its growth. Thus, monsoon season is ideal for its plantation.
In Nepal, rice is a part of the daily life, taken as lunch and dinner. People bustle in their kitchens daily to prepare rice since for most Nepalis the day starts with rice and lentils. And it is a tradition in Nepal to feed rice to children once they are six-months old and this ceremony is known as "anna prashan." Likewise, during social and religious functions it is served along with other cuisines. This shows how deeply rice is embedded in Nepali culture and traditions.
Food is a source of life and thus is one of the basic necessities for survival. Importantly in Hindu religion, foods such as cereal grains (anna) are considered sacred and it is said that "anna is Brahma." Certainly, rice has always been an integral part in Nepali society. And rice plantation is a ceremony that celebrates the significance of the grain that continues to sustain our existence. 

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