What sets Asia’s largest village, Bhuban apart during the four-day Durga Puja is the bullock festival. The festival attracts lakhs of visitors who participate in the grand procession of bullocks decorated with ornaments, beads, bells and colourful velvet saddles on Dussehra and the immersion day. To ensure the festival’s success, bullock owners embark on a month-long rehearsals to acquaint the bullocks with loud music, crowd and light.
The bullocks are selected after proper health examination. Even during the rehearsals, the bullocks are treated as guests and are not served any leftovers, sources said.
The 150-year-old tradition binds the villagers together with families and their relatives chipping in to make it a grand affair. Every family spends not less than Rs 50,000 on the decoration of the bullocks.
“What Durga Puja is to Cuttack, the bullock festival is to Bhuban. It remains a major attraction during Dussehra with people travelling to the village to participate in the unique tradition,” said Bipin Bihari Sethi, a member of the local puja committee. The festival was first started by ‘Thorias’ or salt merchants, when the bullocks were the only means of transportation and used for trading by the community.
According to a villager, Naba Guru, people and well-wishers voluntarily contribute for the festival. “The festival promotes love for animals and respect for tradition,” he said. This year the administration constituted a peace committee evolving strategies for crowd management keeping in view the large number of expected visitors.
This year, as many as 45 bullocks will be decorated and taken around villages for two days. Eleven puja pandals have been erected for Dussehra.
Official sources said people’s involvement plays an important role in ensuring that the festival is incident-free. The peace committee, comprising bullock owners, locals and officials, would be responsible for maintaining law and order during the festival, they added. The police administration have made elaborate security arrangements to make the festival a smooth affair.