They prefer their jatra to the polls

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The temple of ‘Grama Devata' at Benachi village in Dharwad taluk which was built with funds
The temple of ‘Grama Devata' at Benachi village in Dharwad taluk which was built with funds

Girish Pattanashetti

Benachi will be busy making preparations for a festival of the village deity

DHARWAD:While residents from all villages in Dharwad district will be going to the polling stations on May 12 to exercise their franchise in the gram panchayat elections, the people of Benachi village in Dharwad taluk will be busy making preparations for a “jatra utsav” of the “grama devata” (village deity) of their village.

It's not that they have boycotted the elections, they have only succeeded in getting it “postponed” by not filing any nomination papers. The reason for their collective decision is the “jatra utsav” of the “grama devata” (an incarnation of Goddess Adi Shakti) which is being held in the village after more than a century.

Located at a distance of around 30 km from the district headquarters (Dharwad), Benachi village lies on the banks of the Dori Halla. There are 330 families residing in the village having a population of around 2,500 people.

“It has been three years since we started mobilising funds for the development of the ‘grama devata' temple in the village. Every family in the village has contributed a share of its earning during the week to the temple committee. And we managed to get funds and donations in the form of building materials from various other places,” Suresh Nagappagowda Patil, a taluk panchayat member from the village, told The Hindu.

It was a collective dream of the villagers to get the temple built and organise the “jatra”, which, according to the village elders, was last celebrated more than a century ago.

“It has been a collective effort and since the whole village was involved, the village elders didn't want any trouble or difference of opinion over electing four gram panchayat members from the village spoil the jatra celebrations,” Mr. Patil said.

The “Pancha Committee” (committee of village elders) did think of getting the four members elected unopposed to the panchayat.

But the fallout of the gram panchayat by-election in the village more than one and half years ago, which left some people dissatisfied, although the member was elected unopposed, prevented them from repeating the exercise especially when the “jatra” celebrations were fast approaching.

The “Pancha Committee” even approached the officials to get the election postponed but to no avail as they expressed helplessness in the wake of the issue of election notification. After much deliberations, they decided against filing nomination papers for the election to the four gram panchayat seats. This meant that the authorities would have to conduct re-election at a later stage.

“Elections can be conducted later but not the ‘jatra utsav' which is being conducted after more than a century,” said Mr. Patil. Ever since the committee took the decision, every family of the village is busy preparing for the utsav which will be held from May 15 to May 28, with the rathotsava scheduled on May 22. So when the rest of the district goes to the polls, Benachi villagers will be making preparations for the utsav by involving themselves in shramadan.




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