Karnataka's Ballari village empties a lake to please angry deity

The New Indian Express
File Photo for Representative Purposes. HUBBALLI: At a time when the region is reeling under severe drought, some residents of a Ballari village have done the unthinkable. In one night, they emptied a village lake that was brimming with water. Simply because the village deity "advised" them that if they did so, good rains would be assured this year. Driven by this superstitious belief, water from Ramdurga lake in Kottur taluk was let out by breaking the bund wall on Tuesday night. The incident came to light on Wednesday morning when other villagers, who were unaware of this "divine" plan, found the lake almost dry with fish swimming on the surface. It turned out that a few youths had cleared the water. "We are not sure who instigated them but the youths claimed they heard rumours of a daivi vani' (divine voice) to empty the lake," said a villager from Ramdurga. Their rationale was even more bizarre: Apparently the deity was so "angry" that the lake was brimming with water for over three years that the village stopped receiving rain. Emptying the lake was the only way to please the god. Heeding to the rumours, the youth broke the bund of lake and the water drained into canals. The villagers and fisherfolk though did not waste the opportunity to collect the fish which had surfaced. Though rainfall has been scanty in Ramdurga, water in its lake has always been bountiful. Villagers stored the water and never used it for irrigation. As the district received spells of heavy rains two weeks ago, the water level in the lake had increased. But some villagers feel the fishermen community could be behind the handiwork. "Tonnes of fish were removed from the lake once the water levels receded and fishing was on till Thursday. It's possible that some fishermen may have broken the bund and village heads are now claiming 'daivi vani'," said another villager. One positive fallout though is the government can finally take up desilting of the lake which was pending for long. On Thursday, district officials visited the village and the dry lake. Tahsildar L Krishnamurthy said that he would request the villagers not to waste water in future. Social activists in Hubballi pointed out that there could be many reasons why the lakes and wells are emptied. "Often caste plays a role in wells drying up. If someone from the backward caste uses water from a particular well, the water is emptied to uphold the 'sanctity' of the well. One must investigate why the water was wasted in a drought situation," said an activist. Two years ago, in a Dharwad village, the government constructed an overhead tank spending Rs 75 lakh. But the villagers in Bellikatti refused to use the water as the tank was taller than the village temple. Water experts and officials had to do something ingenious to ensure the villagers start using it. The officials ensured that the water first anointed the village deity and then flowed through taps. The idea worked and village now has potable water available in taps. Lake runs out of luck and water The bizarre rationale for emptying the Ramdurga lake was that it was brimming with water and this made the village deity so angry that it stopped raining in the village. So the lake had to be emptied out to please the village deity.
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