Pune: Making miniature mud forts is an integral part of Diwali celebrations, but in an age where everything is available with just one click, with kids gripping their laptops and mobile phones, this activity is looming with dark clouds. The art of building a mud fort by hand definitely remained a brilliant tool to engage children in meaningful pursuits, but the times have changed though.
The culture of children reconstructing the structure of a fort is predominant for many decades in the state of Maharashtra. It had not only taught many lessons but has also attracted the attention of corporates. These corporates routinely organised the competitions, and the best structures were later awarded.
Mud is filled in bags and brought to the site. It is then cleaned and filtered for any stones. The fort premise is marked using chalk and stones which give structure to the hills and covered with gunny bag cloth. Mud mixed with water is applied on this to coat it and give a surreal, natural feel.
Mustard seeds are then sown on this peak to stand for trees, which grow in a few days. A pedestal is created in the specially imprinted shrine for the King Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The different parts of this fort include the hill, roads, ramparts, moat, gardens, zoo, houses and several small toys are placed here as well.
Diwali wasn't a one-day affair like it has become today, but a whole week of festivities. The situation has drastically changed. Today, modern-day India is tied conclusively to the internet, which has made life simpler and on-the-go. It has also altered the social fabric of our cosmopolitan societies. Age-old traditions seem dismissed.
To keep this tradition alive, the administration conduct competitions of fort-making and other games every year. Many housing societies hold fort making competitions, but over the last few years, this activity is slowly being forgotten.
One of the traders of the readymade miniature forts who wished to remain unnamed said, "The days are changing. Ten years ago, we were busy crafting miniatures as soon as the Ganesh festival ended, because the demand was huge. We never found time to have our dinner or lunch. The shops used to remain crowded during Diwali. However, since the last five years, we are not making a big profit from the toys or the sculptures."
Sachin Barate, one of the parents, said, "Children learn about the structures of various forts, as also the stories associated with them. What better way to teach history and kindle the pride of the rich heritage of our state? These days kids are stuck to mobile phones, but parents also must teach our culture and fun-loving activities during the festival."
Some things are vanishing fast and furiously. So this Diwali, here is me bidding a mild adieu to a ritual which quietly died among a set of lost traditions. Some things are vanishing fast and furiously. So this Diwali, here is me bidding a mild adieu to a ritual which quietly died among a set of lost traditions.