GAMES AND AMUSEMENTS
The extent of amusements for the villager is much restricted
and it rarely traverses the family circle. The village gossip
which usually breeds at the cavadi or the temple is further
embellished at the weekly trip to the nearest market, an
occasional visit to a jatra or religious fair such as that at
Bairam, or more rarely a pilgrimage to a shrine of more than
local celebrity. Occasionally a troupe of strolling acrobats,
Tamasgirs, Garudis, Nandivales, Darvesis, etc., visit a village,
and people called to see their exhibition and enjoy the entertainment supplied. The village hoys have their games such as, Gilli dandu (Viti Dandu), Lonpat, and Ardah Purdah. In Viti Dandu (which is not unlike the English Bat Trap and Ball or Tipcat) a small stick (Viti) is placed with one end projecting over a hole in the ground one player strikes it smartly with a longer stick (Dandu), and the others then endeavour to catch it in mid-air. If any of them does so, he has his innings and the former striker joins the field. Lonpat (which is a kind of Tom Tiddler's Ground or Prisoner's Base), is generally played by moonlight. The ground is marked out in squares to each of which a boy of the defending party is posted. Their opponents then try to pass through these squares and back again without being touched. It they do so they win the game. Ardah Purdah may be compared to " Blind Man's Buff ", or perhaps to "Forfeits". The players form equal sides and a curtain is held up between them. One boy then hides close up to the curtain; and the opposite party is asked to guess his name. If they reply correctly he is blindfolded and sent off on some errand, the fun of the game consisting in watching him stumble over and knock his head against the various obstacles placed in his path. Girls have their dolls and play at housekeeping. Their amusements are naturally more of an indoor nature. Desi Kasrat, an Indian counterpart of the 'Swedish exercise' has been introduced in the schools.
Among men, the games most in favour are causar (a kind of draughts) and cards. Races of trotting bullocks are held on Sankrant Day, and wrestling matches, very much of the " catch-as-catch-can " order, on Nag-Pancami. Clock fighting and also ram fighting are favoured by the lower classes; and among Gavlis he-buffalo fighting on Divali is a common diversion. The beasts are fed with specially nourishing diet on the day of the contest.
Of all the village festivals the Pola which is perhaps the most typical in this part of the country deserves fuller description, It is a religious holiday held on the new moon day of Sravana or Bhadrapada, after the ploughing and sowing has been done by the cultivator in honour of his greatest, helper, the bullock. On that day all the bullocks of the village are gaily painted in various colours and their horns and necks covered with garlands. They assemble in one place, where stands the gudhi, a sacred " Maypole " of the patel ; the Mahars beating drums in front of it, and a twisted rope of mol grass covered with mango leaves being stretched from it to a smaller pole on the right. This rope is known as the toran and is dedicated to Maruti. Under this stands the patel's bullocks, which should be a pair without spot or blemish, all white or all red, according to the custom of the village. To the left of the pole a long line is formed of the other bullocks those of the Patel family first,
then a pair chosen to represent the Desmukh, a pair to represent
the Sarkar, the Patvari's pair and finally those of the other
villagers. All do puja to the pair or bullocks under the toran.
At a given signal from the patel, his pair are led forward, the
toran is broken and the remaining pairs follow in order through the place where it has been. With this procession the ceremony ends, but no bullocks can be put to work this day, for once in the year they are granted a holiday.