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Rural India snapshots

November 3, 2008

On a recent trip to the country we visited some areas around the small town of Kamshet in western Maharashtra. Kamshet itself is about 110 km from Mumbai, 85 kilometers from Pune, and is near Khandala and Lonavala. Driving through the country-side was a treat even though the roads were not very good as the the area is very scenic. It wasn’t the absolute hinterland ofcourse.

While the scenery was picturesque, as always I found the people the most interesting. The area was dotted with tiny villages. Here are some snapshots of the people we saw along the way and they give us a good idea as to how they live.

The Maharashtra State Road Transportation buses were available even on the narrow country roads, but there were more private vans which operated as mini-buses. Motorbikes and cycles were frequently seen, but the most common means of transport was the bailgadi (cart drawn with bullocks). The bailgadi is useful for carrying large loads.

These people are very hardy and walk huge distances almost everyday.

The young woman in a blue saree below is performing a pooja at the sacred Vata or Vada tree (Banyan). Hindus consider the Vada tree as an immortal tree. Buddhists worship a tree from the same family (Fig) and Lord Buddha is said to have attained Nirvana under a Vata Vriksha pipal tree. In the month of May-June traditional Maharashtrian and Gujarati women worship this tree. They are supposed to fast for the entire day and perform a pooja to this tree (this day is called Vata Purnima), all for the sake of their their husband’s long life and prosperity. Some states in North India have a variant of this festival which takes places in October. It is called Karva Chauth but the way it is celebrated and the legends surrounding it are entirely different. Another difference is that Vata Purnima is not followed as religiously in Maharashtra as Karva Chauth is in the north of India.

Another thing I noticed was the number of little girls who worked. Most of the boys I saw were playing. I guess it was the holiday season, for the boys.

The villages were clean and so were the roads. Apparently, the houses all had toilets. The photograph below shows that some sort of campaign is on to keep the villages clean as we saw many such boards along the way. The wall painting below is an example. Loosely translated from Marathi it means that for good health one needs to keep cleanliness (first line) and that this is the message that that should be spread from door to door (second line).

This sign below made me smile. It says that the village that is free from people shitting, is a village where good health will spread. The word “Hagandari” is a new Marathi word that I learnt. I knew of the word “Hagne” which means shitting but not “Hagandari,” which has no direct translation in English but what it means is the public shitting habit ground.Β 

(All photographs are copyrighted to me.)

Related Reading: More posts on Photography
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Travel posts on this blog

37 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2008 9:39 am

    And she is back!! Yeyy!
    Well everytime I have seen villagers or labor class people, the girls always seem to work.
    Nice pics. How was ur diwali?

    I had a great Diwali Reema, thank you. – Nita.

  2. November 3, 2008 10:31 am

    @ Nita : Lovely photos and I just love the propaganda of the state. It is not as nice as China though where they always put laughing and happy people on big signboards. They also have smiling people on their money. I want to make a correction though. Buddha attained Nirvana under a Fig tree. What is normally called a “peeple” tree in Hindi.

    Thanks for the correction Odzer. I was confused because I had read that the fig tree was the one, and I think Banyan is a type of fig too. – Nita.

  3. November 3, 2008 10:32 am

    @ Nita : My previous comment has gone in to moderation. πŸ™‚

  4. November 3, 2008 11:26 am

    Hi nita,glad to see you back..Nice snaps..In fact,we needn’t go outside our ation for tours n all.We have much diversity within..Sadly,not any value it..hmm..

    Grrr my keybrd destroyd by my baby ..on screen kybrd sucks 😦

    maybe you can go for a christmas vacation Nimmy. I live from holiday to holiday! πŸ™‚ – Nita.

  5. November 3, 2008 11:38 am

    I have been to this place and also the caves near by(Bedse).

    Wonderful place it is.
    If I remember correctly junka bakar from some villager’s house and paid them πŸ™‚ (or was that some other nearby location)
    The food was heaven. πŸ™‚


    Nikhil, it is a wonderful place isn’t it. The scenery is breathtaking and one by one I am going to use the images for my headers. And the the junka bhakar sounds great! – Nita.

  6. November 3, 2008 12:01 pm

    No wonder you never heard *Hagandari* word before. It means an “open” place which is used by all for shitting. As far as I know, its generally near Water source like lake, river or “Odha”. In villages with no river, its generally some unused farm. Women have separate “Hagandari”.
    Damn, this is not good topic to discuss πŸ˜›

    Your photos reminded me of my “Mamache Gav” and my “Aajji” πŸ™‚

    You see only girls working because Nita took these photos at noon or lunchtime. Hover around a water source around 6am and you will see the men filling water with such big “handi”s that no city guy would dare to lift πŸ˜€
    And anyway they go to fields and factories for work.

    Suda, thanks for enlightening me on Hagandari! πŸ™‚ And by the way, I meant girl children. I am sure the men work hard. The boys play. I saw women working in the fields too. Mostly grown women. Little girls do the housework mostly. – Nita.

  7. Chirag permalink
    November 3, 2008 12:19 pm

    Hmmm…nice ones. Images do make us nostalgic, I am too going to my village dec 1st week πŸ™‚

    Chirag, I love the villages! I have spend a lot of time on my grandpa’s farm as a kid and therefore I guess I feel the nostalgia as well. – Nita.

  8. November 3, 2008 12:21 pm

    Welcome back Nita.. hope you had a great Diwali! πŸ™‚ The snap shots are as usual great and do give the urban crowd a glimpse into the rural India. Recently I saw a 6 year(approximately) girl carring two carbo of water (filled to the brim) in the hot sun and I looked at my own 6 year old who was nicely snoozing in the AC car… The difference was too stark. 😦

    Thanks Sakhi. And yeah, it was a wonderful Diwali. The hard life they lead there makes me feel guilty too. 😦 – Nita.

  9. November 3, 2008 3:28 pm


    Nice snaps and what you see there is Bharat – very different from India that we are so used to.

    Defecating in the open was de-riguer. However, over time as awareness of health increased and it was important that this be stopped. Women also were worst hit due to lack of privacy.

    Constructing public toilets was not a solution as no one took the responsibility of keeping them clean. The only alternative was to encourage each household to have their own toilet.

    The Government of Maharashtra and Central Ministry have initiated a programme to spread this message and those villages achieving 100% coverage along with some other criteria are eligible for the “Nirmal Gram” award.

    Many NGOs and groups have worked hard to propogate this.

    Some have extended this by encouraging “Shram-daan” by villagers and constructing rain water harvesting structures in the village water channels and “smokeless chullahs” in every kitchen.

    A quiet revolution whichis slowly changing the lives of people.

    Thanks Mavin. You have given a nice perspective as always. – Nita.

  10. November 3, 2008 4:51 pm

    I know you know NIta, it was for poking Reema. But you are right about one thing, in rural areas, girls 6-10 years old do lot more work than boys of same age, and thats why they grow up stronger than our sweet-slim city girls. You know where these stronger muscles help girls? I bet you do. πŸ™‚

    Suda, I never know whats going on in your mind! And I cannot guess the answer to your question, because it can’t be what I am thinking. πŸ™‚ – Nita.

  11. November 3, 2008 5:21 pm

    So that is where you have been πŸ™‚ What about education?

    Vishesh, for once I am flummoxed at your comment. – Nita.

  12. November 3, 2008 5:42 pm

    wow nice pics.. actually i love places like these .. After living in a city its always interesting to see the other part of out country .
    my ancestors temple which we call kula daivam i far in some village ..everytime i go there its looks new .. neat,green pollution free .. freindly people too

    Arvind, I love the countryside. And the people are so simple and sweet! And I agree very helpful too. I don’t know what the city does to people! – Nita.

  13. Joss permalink
    November 3, 2008 5:57 pm

    A belated shubh deepawali, Nita. It’s good to have you back. Thanks for the pictures. It’s great to have someone go travelling for us so we can all take a vicarious holiday. I couldn’t go away last week, for half-term holiday, because my son has injured his leg and is on crutches, so it was brilliant that you, and other blogger friends, went away for me.

    There was lots in the news last week though. Are you going to write about the moon mission, The White Tiger, or any of the great movies that came out last week? You have lots of catching up to do!I look forward to reading your opinions about it all.

    Thanks for your wishes Joss. And a movie review is coming up tomorrow! – Nita.

  14. November 3, 2008 7:00 pm

    hi, off topic, sorry,

    I think u should put the feed readers counter on the sidebar, its way more than 400 now, I think .. and adding that count helps you to increase it .. πŸ™‚

    Dinu, I have no idea how to do it! I get about 2000-3000 hits a day when I am posting regularly so I think my regular readers must be at least 2000 as I am sure that not all of them visit everyday. And I also must be having some email subscriptions. – Nita.

  15. November 3, 2008 8:37 pm

    Hmm…lol,i was asking,if they had a school and if kids went to it πŸ™‚ You have posted pics of kids working,so maybe,they don’t study?

    Vishesh, they do study. I have travelled in rural maharashtra (even deeper into the country) and most of the kids study, both the girls and boys. In fact that first wall painting is on the wall of a school. But you see, the girls have to study as well as do housework. – Nita.

  16. November 3, 2008 9:26 pm

    Great photos Nita, and welcome back, refreshed, of course. πŸ™‚
    What a huge contrast of women’s and girls’ daily lives in villages from the lives of women and girls in small towns in Canada your pictures show. i am not sure how families on farms here manage the lives of their girls, but surely they don’t have to carry and fetch heavy loads. walk long distances and manage householder tasks by hand. it is a different world you show – one where people actually make good lives by dint of co-operative labour. Much to learn from and think about, for someone living in the privileged West. G

    Thanks G. I guess the poverty here is what makes the lives of these people very stark. And yes their life is very hard, but at the same time they are happy people. Everywhere I went I saw smiling faces. I guess these folks get happiness from simple things in life. – Nita.

  17. November 3, 2008 9:44 pm

    I had been to lonavala once. It was very beautiful. We went cycling from the station to the water falls and we loved it. This one reminds me of the same sight that we had seen on the way. Very beautiful and peaceful. You must have enjoyed a lot!

    Yes it is always very refreshing to go into the country. – Nita.

  18. November 3, 2008 11:39 pm

    Seems like these were good villagers. Back home on a trip to Thekkady we stopped at a village to take photographs. we saw a pile of jackfruits and thought it would make a good background and took some snaps.
    Then an unfriendly villager came over and asked for MONEY ! πŸ˜€ apparently he thought we were from some other state as we had a friend from Pune and we were conversing in english.

    We shooed him away using all the swearing words we know in our mother tongue πŸ˜€

    Good to have u back.

    Xylene, you always get into these kind of adventures! πŸ™‚ – Nita.

  19. November 3, 2008 11:57 pm

    I really like how you frame your photographs. The second one is my favorite.

    Thanks OG. – Nita.

  20. November 4, 2008 12:49 am

    wop! Nita is back with a bang……….its a very interesting post. and the background is very picturesque too…..were you on an assignment?
    if that was the case, i must say its lucky u…..i have never ever got a chance to visit a village…but i too want…must be an enriching experience and interaction with the locals must be interesting .. πŸ™‚

    Thanks Arpit. No I wasn’t on assignment although I would love to be a travel writer! But where a village is concerned I have lived in a village for weeks together when I was growing up as my uncle has a farm and even now we go there and live at times. Villagers are far happier than us city folk, despite their simple life! – Nita

  21. November 4, 2008 2:50 am

    Beautiful! I was in India earlier and driving around in those very parts. Pune vicinity, down to Satara and back, then on to Mahad through the mountains north of Mahabaleshwar.

    Yvonne, thanks. Mahableshwar is indeed very beautiful! – Nita.

  22. November 4, 2008 3:44 am

    @ Nita : Oh yes Banyan is a fig as well. Although Buddha went under the Sacred fig tree.

  23. November 4, 2008 7:08 am

    Nita, could you talk about any caste related issues you saw in the villages ? For example, did any groups live on the outskirts of the village ?

    Female labour is absolutely essential in rural life. Not only in the house work but also in the fields. In fact, this loss of productive labour could have a severe impact on the state of agriculture in states in like Punjab and Rajasthan. It is also one of the main reasons why men are allowed to migrate to the urban areas more, their labour in the fields is not as crucial.

    Vikram, I am glad you asked this question, particularly as I am writing a post related to this issue too. You see, caste consciousness is far less in Maharashtra than in other states and there is no such thing as you mentioned. I have lived in a typical village too and the maximum there can be is a certain snobbishness by brahmins but no illtreatment, untouchability etc. Maharashtra has a long history of a social reform movement and what is important is that different castes have come into the mainstream.- Nita.

  24. Padmini permalink
    November 4, 2008 9:30 am

    Loved the photographs. They evoked the “real” India – a totally timeless zone.

  25. hoku permalink
    November 4, 2008 11:31 am

    ‘Maharashtra has a long history of a social reform movement and what is important is that different castes have come into the mainstream.- Nita.’
    I agree about social reform in Maharashtra. But what is mainstream? Is it a cast less society? What about intercaste marriage?

    Hoku, the process has not ended and will not end for a few more generations. Social reform has been set in motion and with every generation there is a huge upward movement. Intercaste marriage also happens often in Maharashtra today and what is significant is that there is no opposition in the sense of killing the groom or the bride or banishing them and so on. Ofcourse in rural areas such marriages are rare, but again there is no killing etc.
    My cousin (we are Brahmins) married a girl from his office from another caste. A few eyebrows were raised by the elders, but there was no question of opposition. She was welcomed into our family. They are happy today after several years of marriage and she tells me that she never imagined that she would recieve the kind of love she got…her stereotypes of what brahmins were supposed to me were shattered! πŸ™‚ I also know of several cases where arranged marriages have taken place with different castes, where the couple has arranged the marriage themselves. I think its all relative isn’t it. I mean relative as compared to other states. – Nita.

  26. November 4, 2008 12:38 pm

    I meant no pun, Nita πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€
    I wanted to say that these girls became so strong that they have very less problems in pregnancy. They won’t need any operations which are becoming a common thing in out cities. Now, am I right about this point?

    Ohhh, so that is what you meant! πŸ™‚ But yes you are right, its important to be active during pregnancy. – Nita.

  27. hoku permalink
    November 4, 2008 12:54 pm

    Dear Suda@ in ideal condition (I mean when commercial interest is not in play) cesarean section is performed when normal child birth may put mother or the baby or both at risk. It has nothing to do with how ‘muscular’ the mother is.

  28. November 4, 2008 2:25 pm

    May be I used wrong words πŸ˜€ I have heard old ladies (my grandma and her friends) saying things like this in Marathi (in Rural Marathi) Seems like I got it wrong.
    What they (grandma and company) said is, “new generation” girls can’t stand/face the pain (whats it called btw? Labor pain?) and if the girl had been doing some exercise from start of pregnancy, it would have eased her trouble a little and helped for normal delivery.
    See, I don’t know, I am little tech boy πŸ˜› and never touched any biology book in life.
    Now explain!!! πŸ˜€

  29. November 4, 2008 8:08 pm

    Nice pictures Nita. I loved the 2 and the 3 one.

  30. November 4, 2008 9:14 pm

    @ Vikram : It is unusual for women to labour in the fields but they do go to collect fodder for animals. It is unusual these days sometimes even to see the men doing labour because we rely on imported labour. Punjabi’s have no rice plantation skills so we need the labour that comes from eastern states. Most farmers here are mostly “supervisors” only. Although the wheat season does see them do manual work. Although surprisingly you see more female farm workers in Himachal and Haryana that used to be parts of Punjab not that long ago.

  31. November 4, 2008 10:08 pm

    Very nice pictures Nita. Its very refreshing to see them. But I fear that they too may lose their identitiy in name of urbanisation. The trigger to my fear is many villages and towns near to chennai are changing in name of expansion. I still remember the place where I go in my village which is surrounded fully with tamarind trees. I am longing to go there soon again.

  32. November 4, 2008 11:48 pm

    Another thing I like to mention is /*Karva Chauth but the way it is celebrated */
    in this both the links are interchanged.

  33. November 5, 2008 1:55 am

    Nita, I am so happy to see you back blogging πŸ™‚

    And again a lovely rural photo-report, thank you very much for showing this “real life”.
    You know, every time when I come back from India to the Europe, I have a strange feeling that the life in Europe is not “real”, a kind of artificial…difficult to explain that…
    your pics are very “real”.

    I also love the way you pointed out this toilet business πŸ™‚ It is indeed an important issue.
    We have a public WC in the center of Vienna, just by the Opera House – there is Mozart music playing there inside all 24 hours, inviting tourist to go in (and pay!) – amazing, how one can develop this kind of business πŸ™‚

  34. November 5, 2008 2:19 pm

    nice pics.. i have been to kamshet twice πŸ™‚

  35. November 6, 2008 8:14 pm

    Nice photos, made me nostalgic.

  36. vasudev permalink
    February 22, 2009 3:20 pm

    while travelling by konkan railway through maharashtra and konkan-goa, one comes across many villages which really look like ‘god’s own country’ (it is a misnomer for kerala). quite often i have felt like jumping out of the train at pen/khed/and forward till goa. even beyond, the scenary is splendid and the villages are so neatly kept. man and animal lives together there in a rustic scene which is akin to rolling english countrysides (though i never visited anywhere beyond delhi, i have a fairly good knowledge of the english countryside from chesterton/hardy/wodehouse). even while flying over maharashtra to chennai one can look down upon large lakes and tiny villages nestled amongst large hillocks and mountains. maharashtra does deserve a closer look. in my experience of travelling through interior maharashtra i have come across villagers who always look freshly bathed and dressed( especially the females). konkan maharashtra and goa do have an abundance of water and hence they seem to look richer and the people look happier. i think the konkan railway must have been a real intrusion into their pristine space and privacy because, unfortunately i can see the entire train route littered with trash.

  37. June 18, 2009 1:03 pm

    ohh….these country roads reminds the villages known to me in south india………and these pictures shows there is no difference between south and north when it comes to village.
    Though it is not great but definitely one of the
    Cool photographs i have seen
    Thanks a lot for reminding the days i spent in villages

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