Hurda parties, which have become quite popular among tourists lately, are a way of giving city dwellers a peek into the countryside. Here is a look at the age-old tradition that’s back in a new format
A slice of rural life is how hurda parties are described by most agro farms in this part of Maharashtra. Hurda or coal roasted tender jowar is the base for many activities planned around it.
Elaborating on hurda party and how it is celebrated today, Akshay Borkar, a farm owner near Saswad, says, “Conventionally, people organise farm visits every year in the period between December and February to feast on hurda.” Sometimes, the feasts continue till March. It is primarily a tradition followed in the Ahmednagar belt of Maharashtra but to give people from other cities a taste of this traditional cuisine, farm owners have now begun to organise what they call hurda parties.
“Along with hurda, we also serve other traditional snacks like roasted harbhara and bora, and accompaniments like sweet and spicy chutneys. We also give people an overview of farm life,” explains Rishikesh Bhoite, owner of an agro farm in Daund. “Besides, these age-old snacks and the related traditions are slowly fading; the urban population has no idea of it. This was another reason to initiate the parties three years ago, so that the kids and the next generation can get acquainted with rural life and its small joys,” he adds.
“We give them a complete farm experience,” seconds Pratik Kand of Theur’s Kalpataru Baug. “We have a 12-acre land, of which we have developed two acres for these activities.
We welcome our guests with a traditional Maharashtrian breakfast of Bhakri, and then have a number of activities like a bullock cart ride, etc for them to view the village, the farms, and the agriculture of the region up close. The lunch too includes something like Pithla Bhakri, Kaanda Bhaji, etc, and the evening snacks has Rewdi, jaggery, etc,” Kand elaborates.
Kand doesn’t stop here. Through his agro tourism initiative he also provides employment to many women and youth of his village. “They work with me and earn some bucks. We have the Agri Tourism Development Corporation India’s ((ATDC) approval but no funding. We have sent them a proposal for it, let’s see what happens,” he informs. He also takes his guests to see the nearby polyhouse, a local saree factory and jaggery-making unit.
There are others like Morgaon’s Sangita Bhapkar, who go beyond hurda parties. “I grow my own jowar in a small area of land. Most people who organise hurda parties outsource their jowar. I don’t do that. The guests get to see the farms where it is grown. Also, I want to change the urban youngsters’ approach towards farming and their attitude towards rural life,” she says.
She thus shows them the new-age farming techniques and the profits that can be made in this profession. Bhapkar, who practises sustainable farming, tells her guests about its advantages and benefits to the environment while also acquainting them with the vermicompost plant that she has set up at the farm. “Enjoyment is not the only reason I host hurda parties. Awareness is equally important,” she insists. Bhapkar produces organic vegetables at her farm, along with 13 people from the village who assist her, her husband and son.
The agro tourism practitioners are effectively supported by the ATDC. “Hurda parties began catching up around 2006-07. Farmers usually harvest jowar and sell it for Rs 16-17 per kg, thus making very little profit. But hurda parties have led to a rise in demand for jowar, and a rise in profits too,” explains Pandurang Taware, executive director at ATDC.
People getting to experience the rural lifestyle, is of course another idea behind promoting these activities, he says. “We do this by helping them advertise and by making the conditions for business easy. For instance, getting the non-agricultural (NA) permission for your land is not necessary to start this initiative. Also, not all profits are taxable,” says Taware.
Most of these hurda parties will continue up to February end. So get yourself a slot if you want to have a fun and away-from-city-life enriching experience.