October 09, 2009

A Buffalo Gets A Bath

Buffaloes love their bath. They love water, more so if it is muddy. Then they can roll in the mud until the mud can roll no more.

There’re folks who assign buffaloes the capability of thought. I do not dispute their ability to entertain thought, but to say that buffaloes revel in mud baths to keep ticks and flies away is stretching it too far. It might well be true, the effect of keeping ticks and flies away that is. But I am not prepared to believe that buffaloes roll in mud and water so as to keep ticks and flies away. That must be more a consequence of loving a mud bath, not the reason.

Their unmoving nature might prompt some into thinking they’re deliberating. They might well be, but deliberating a thought? No sir. A big head does not necessarily mean all of it is grey matter. As it is the world has enough heads, big and small, cooking up thoughts, and see where it has got us, and the buffaloes.

In the water they are a picture of calm even when a colony of frogs uses them for floating islands like they did with a buffalo lolling about in a streetside pond in Kasargod. It was only on getting closer did the 'warts' in the distance resolve into frogs basking on the buffalo's back in the late noon Sun as I hurried down the mud path for the bus back to Murudeshwar. For an animal that chews so much one might expect them to chew a thought of its frills and spit out wisdom. Instead they chew wisdom and spit out thoughts in those who observe them.

Where obedience is a virtue, it fetches you a bath that lasts three minutes!

It takes a strong man with strong hands to get buffaloes out of a mud pit. But it takes a hard man to give his buffalo a three minute bath!

On Naumi day in Lahavit, a farming village off Nashik, I was witness to just such an atrocity.

Nearing noon, the farmer led his buffalo out of the shed with a sloping asbestos sheet to the water trough. An outhouse abutted the shed. In all likelihood the farmer had his living quarters in an accommodation adjacent to the shed for he was bare-chested when he led the buffalo out. He was clad in a dhoti and the swell of his belly mirrored the swell of the hills in the far distance.

Grass grew lush in the foreground. A pipe ended over the water trough, a likely source of water pumped into the trough.

A tree rose over the trough and beyond I thought I saw signs of a sugarcane field fenced off from the farmer’s dwelling. I’ve no idea whom the sugarcane field belonged to. In the shade of the tree clothes dried on rocks heaped underneath. Power lines conveyed electricity to the farmer's dwelling.

To the other side, under a small tree, a tractor lay parked. A few feet away from the farmer’s tractor a wooden cart stood in the shade.

Next day was Dussera, and I was looking to experience it in Nashik. It was on Dussera day, after nine days of fighting his army of demons that Goddess Durga finally slew the demon Mahishasura after he took on his original form of a buffalo.

Mahishasura had sought from the gods a boon that granted him immunity from death at the hands of a male. Armed with the boon he turned on the Gods themselves. Constrained by the very boon they had granted Mahishasura they conspired to dispatch Goddess Durga, a female, to bring about his downfall.

During Navratri (Nine Nights), leading up to Dussehra day (it fell on Sept 28 last month) it is common to find pictures of Goddess Durga astride her vehicle, the tiger, grace public and private spaces. In the train we took to Kalyan that morning on the eve of Dussehra, fixed to a partition in the compartment was a picture of Goddess Durga by the tiger, duly garlanded.

She slew Mahishasura when in the heat of the battle he took on the form of a buffalo, his original avatar. Elaborate Durga pandals often depict her plunging her trident into Mahishasura as he bit the mud, his horns lying limp at the force of her thrust. And so do pictures depicting the moment.

I’m not sure if buffaloes were tamed as a result. Whatever the case maybe they somehow took a liking to mud and water.

So when the farmer reached into the water trough and splashed the buffalo with water that morning I imagined the buffalo sigh with relief unless of course it knew better.

The farmer was joined by an elderly lady at the water trough. She washed an utensil before leaving the bonded alone.

A quick motion saw the water splash against the buffalo on the left.

It was followed by a quick splash and a vigorous rub of the neck.

Another quick splash followed by a vigorous rub of the back.

No sooner had the farmer finished with the back he turned his attention to her right flank. Two quick splashes later he was done!

All it took was three minutes!

A three-minute bath before she was led back to her shed!!!!!!


Uma Gowrishankar said...

That's heartless, denying a buffalo its bath. As usual beautiful narration, Anil.

radha said...

I never would have thought I would be so engrossed in reading an account of a buffalo been given a bath. Very nicely written with the right touch of humour and pictures to match.

Kamini said...

Nice post. There is nothing more annoying than having a buffalo lumber to a stop in front of your car while driving! No amount of honking or shouting will make it budge! It will move when, and only when it feels it is time to do so!

Mumbai Paused said...

It doesn't matter if the whole world shouts,
Or if there the coutry rises up in revolt,
Buffalo. It doesn't trouble you....

A famous song from Karanataka by Rajkulmar, here:


Amber Star said...

I guess the poor three minute bath water buffalo might have been as thoughtless as the man who owned him is now. Maybe, in his next life he will get to be a fish or something where he will be able to have all the water he wants...or her. My knowledge of water buffalo is limited.

Did your country finally get the monsoons? We have been growing web feet with all the rain we have had lately. I'll see if I can send some rain your way.

Darlene said...

Evolution may have taught the Buffalo that rolling in the mud kept flies away. Instinct is bred into us all for survival and that may be an example of a learning process that became an ingrained habit.

Anil P said...

Uma Gowrishankar: Absolutely. A three-minute bath is a travesty of justice to a water loving buffalo!

Radha: Such is life indeed! Thank you :-)

Kamini: They're difficult to budge if you happen upon them on the road. Stolid, ruminating, vacant is what comes to the mind. But a joy as well.

Mumbai Paused: The first time I'm learning of this. Thank you for the link. I'll check the link out.

Amber Star: A fish might be risky, but not a bad idea if one loves water enough.

Rains did come over, erratic. Other parts of India, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Maharashtra flooded recently.

Darlene: Instinct can be a likely reason. Cooling off may be another.

Mridula said...

Anil only you could have thought of such a post! And make it so worthwhile!

Anjuli said...

As always, I loved reading your post and seeing the pictures. As was mentioned earlier, who would have ever thought I would be on the edge of my seat reading eagerly every word about a buffalo taking its bath! :)...but it enjoy it, I did.

I felt sad for the buffalo because he only got 3 minutes with the water- and then was led back to the shed! :(

Magan said...

After long I sensed a bit of your humour that I missed. Reminded me of a book by Martathi author Vyenktesh Madgulkar (different than ग. दि.)who has written a lot about village and wild life.The rhino in one of his books wears an armour of mud.

Anil P said...

Mridula: Thank you :-)

Anjuli: Thank you. Yes, there's rarely a drama to a buffalo being given a bath, or for that matter with a buffalo itself for, how would anyone explain away a buffalo that lets 17-20 frogs ride on it (face, neck, back) without batting an eyelid (see pic above) :-)

I was startled on coming upon that scene years ago.

Seeing the buffalo get a bath lasting all of three minutes I thought its plight needs to be documented :-)

Magan: Thank you. Surviving Bombay can make one lose a sense of humour :-)

The book you mention must be in Marathi. I've heard of him but not read him in Marathi. Are English translations available though I doubt if English translations can be half as effective as the original.

R.K Narayan did the same beautifully in English.

Now, the modeern Indian writers in English rarely depict Indian village life in their writings and where they do it lacks nuances and subtle renderings that can only come from living and assimilating there as opposed to a quick trip or academic research or the urban critical eye that cannot see beyond urban sensibilities to human behaviour.

Golden West said...

Hi Anil,

To answer your question, no, the original Depression era Farm Services Administration was long ago folded into another government agency focused primarily on writing regulations.

I've enjoyed your photographs and will be back!

Delwyn said...

Hi Anil

thank you for this short and pithy lesson in Buffalo care...I will put the information into my dilly bag for future lifetimes...then again I may be the buffalo...or the water...

Happy days

Samvedna said...

Nice pictures and good narration !

Meggie said...

I enjoyed your post, very much.
Thankyou for visitng my blog, & leaving me a comment.

magiceye said...

never thought a buffalo would be the subject of such a beautiful post!
thank you

Anil P said...

Golden West: I thought it might help to have a Government Agency or a similarly endowed agency fully tasked with documenting the country.

Delwyn: Thank you. It might be a life of bliss with all the time in the world to float and stare :-)

Antarman: Thank you.

Meggie: Thank you.

Magic Eye: Thank you :-)

Anonymous said...


Your world is fascinating! Thank you for sharing it!

CIN&BUD said...

Thank-You for sharing your very important observation on our gold-mining techniques. We liked your photos and story on this beautiful buffalo. It's skin looked silky when wet. Even the 3-min bath looked refreshing to the buffalo.

Anil P said...

The Things We Carried: Thank you.

CinBud's Gold: Thank you. Maybe a three-minute bath was still better than none at all.

Preethi Prabhu said...

Hi Anil,

When im online, im more of a visual person than a reader. I see your pictures are a reflection of the life that we see everyday or ignore rather.

I must say you make them look very very beautiful. i can really imagine the life inside your pictures. Amazing ...

Rouchswalwe said...

Ah, it is the age-old question. Upon reflection, I find that I would happily immerse myself in a Japanese hot spring for even 3 precious minutes rather than not at all. I miss those hot springs sooooo much.

What About The Girl? said...

Considering the size of a buffalo, really..do you think a 3-minute bath is good enough? But then again, considering that they are wild animals...yeah a 3-minute bath would suffice.

Great writing, as usual!

Sucharita Sarkar said...

Lovely detailed pictures. Although the poor buffalo should have been allowed a longer wallow in the water.

neha said...

Hey Anil. I don't know how you feel about tags. But if you don't hate them, stop over at my page :)

Granny J said...

Am I to guess that those brownish blobs on the buffalo in your initial picture are all frogs taking advantage of the island in the midst of the mud?

alice-in-wonder said...

Interesting post.. like someone's said above, never thought I would be this engrossed in reading abt a buffalo and its fascination for water. :D

Sahildeki Ev said...

I have visited a lovely part of the world thru your blog and enjoyed it a lot. Thanks for the nice post..

Anil P said...

Preethi Prabhu: Thank you. The simple we can relate to. The complex we try to relate to.

Rouchswalwe: Something is better than nothing at all.

TGF Cherry Blossom Street: I'm sure the buffalo had serious misgivings about getting a bath that lasted only three minutes!!! :-)

Sucharita Sarkar: Absolutely, I agree.

Neha: Was never one for tags, more so 'coz focussed entirely of travel and photography. Let me see what I can do about this, if not now then sometime later. Thank you.

Granny J: Yes, they are frogs riding the buffalo in the muddy pond.

Alice-in-Wonder: :-)

Turquoise Diaries: Thank you.

Nisha said...

Your narration makes daily chore a beautiful story. Well said.

My first time here, but now you are on my reader. :-)

Jessilyn said...

Thank you for stopping by my blog! Looking forward to getting to know you by reading yours :)

Anil P said...

Nisha: Thank you :-)

Jessilyn: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

Keith said...

What a great post. I loved the photos. I quite enjoyed reading this. Thanks for stopping by and commenting on my blog. I appreciate it.

Anil P said...

Keith: Thank you.

Merisi said...

I believe that buffalos have a right to take a mud bath, and as long as they want to!

I have seen water buffalos in the South of Italy, they had free access to nice mud ponds, and seemed to truly enjoy the opportunity to linger. Their milk is used to produce the famous mozzarella di bufola (a soft cheese, best eaten within days).

Anil P said...

Merisi: Absolutel. I agree with you.

Even here in India you'll find buffaloes rolling or cooling off in mud ponds for hours on end. This is all the more reason I thought this particular buffalo was unlucky to be give a bath that lasted all of three minutes!!! :-)

Lucy said...

How much more fun to wallow around with frogs on your back! I thought they were leaves at first.

It's like they say ducks only need to be given enough water to wet their heads, but that seems sadly inadequate to duck nature...

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