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Hurda, Hurdo, Jowar, Sorghum- A tender classic

Ancient monuments are like classics. Each time you return to them they give you something more . More to notice, understand, question and think about. What meant little when young becomes meaningful with age. Old mysteries are solved and new ones present themselves.

This was the case on a recent visit to Ajanta and Ellora. Even though we have been to see these magnificent sites several times before, usually to accompany friends from overseas, I was completely astounded by them again. What richness of detail, what colour, what form , what balance!

There was gratifying evidence of an increased care in their upkeep and maintenance. Ongoing  efforts to record and document the murals in their present condition and to revive some of their former glory albeit with help from the Japanese government.

While hordes of children too young  to know what they were looking at, swept like locusts through the caves, touching the frescoes where they were in reach, custodians yelled and bellowed to restrain them from wiping their grubby hands on the precious paintings. Their voices reverberated through the dark halls but they could not drown out the hum of devotion or visions of dedication  that these glorious temples evoked.

We had driven there through a pleasing countryside, some areas of black cotton soil were covered with cotton and sunflower fields. Others more parched, grew sturdy crops like jowar (sorghum). On our return we were treated to another classic. Jowar-fields

Hurda ‘parties’ were taking place at every possible jowar farm which bordered the highway. We stopped at one which was really well organised. Welcomed by the farmer and his family, rugs had been spread out in the shade of the subabool trees, each seating area cordoned off from another by hedges. Our orders were taken in weight. One kilo or two kilos of tender green jowar. Cut fresh from the field the stalks were heavy with the ripening grain.

Cow-dung-for-fuel

Small heaps of cow dung had already been placed in shallow 2 ft wide circular holes in the ground. As we sat there the cow dung was lit.

Cooking-hurda

The fire became strong and the jowar sheafs were placed under the burning dung where they began popping and crackling like corn.

Threshing-hurda

A few seconds and they were whipped out, threshed on a gunny sack to take off the grain and

Sieving-hurda

-then sieved to remove any remaining dust, leaves or extraneous matter.

Hurda-Party

Served with a dried chilli and peanut chutney and a small bowl of buttermilk the Hurda was utterly luscious. Nutty, milky, sweet and redolent of the warm fields around us it was a perfect reminder of all that is timeless in this country.

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