Rice Planting Tradition That You’ve Never Heard Before

Rice Planting Festival in Nepal

Rice is the staple crop in Nepal and almost every nepalese consume rice daily in various forms like Bhaat, Roti, Puffed Rice (Bhuja) or Beaten Rice (Chiura), etc.

And it contributes 40% of the energy and 23% of protein in a Nepali’s daily diet.

Not only the livelihood but Rice is also the primary source of income for more than two-thirds of farm-households in Nepal. It contributes 20% to the Agricultural Gross Domestic Product (AGDP) and more than 7% to the total GDP (Nepali Times, 2020).

As we know Rice is the most important crop in Nepal, let’s talk about its plantation and unique system that’s followed in rural hilly regions of Nepal.

Parma: Unique System of helping and working together

It might surprise you if I told you that you cannot buy labor to work in the fields in most of the hilly regions in Nepal.

Instead they follow “Work for Work” which is called Parma.

In this system if I have to either plant rice or harvest or any other work in fields then I can call any number of people based on my requirement.

“Let’s say if 25 people come to help me, then I’ll have to go and do the same work for all of those 25 people. I cannot say I can’t come to their work and pay money instead.”

And I think it’s an awesome system created in the past. Because it brings them together, builds the sense of helping others and living with harmony in a community which is almost lost today. 

This might be the reason for people being too kind in rural hilly regions.

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Different Groups of People involved in Rice Planting

Hali

They are the group of people who should have great muscle power of both humans and oxes.

These groups of people are responsible for ploughing the field and making it ready to plant the young rice plants.

Among them also, some plough the fields with Halo (Traditional Wooden Plough). And others use tools like Saha (In Hills) and Heenga (In Terai) to make the soil creamy and even in all places.

They are usually men.

Traditionally, a pair of ox with wooden ploughs and Saha (Heenga), etc. is used but these days, people have started to use modern tools like Tractors. 

Baaksey

While Hali ploughs the fields and makes almost ready to plant the rice, Baaksey digs the soil with Kodalo (hoe) in the corners and edges where ploughs can’t reach.

They are also responsible for making the edges of field (Aali) broader, removing the unwanted things (plants, stoness, plastics, etc.) from the field and making the soil as soft and creamy as possible.

They are also usually men.

Ropahar

Finally after ploughing and making the field ready, Ropahar comes in with young rice plants and plant them in the field.

“First Rice Seed is sowed in a designated area. And after 1 month (approx.) they are uprooted from the ground and then again planted in different fields.”

In this group, usually more women are involved than men.

Rice Planting in Nepal
Rice Planting in Nepal (Photo by Gantabya Nepal)

And the task of rice planting in the fields of an individual must be completed within a day. So, if the field is huge then a large number of these people are invited. And they continue to work until it’s finished even if it’s dark.

Finally after the completion of the task (Rice Planting), the owner the fields serves dinner to all.

Normally the dinner includes Daal, Bhaat, Curry, Pickle, or Beaten Rice, Curry and Pickle, etc.

Home made wine or Raksi is also served to those who drink.

(Note: This system is based on my village (western Nepal, Tanahun). If you’ve similar system then please let us know in the comment below.)

Also Read about “Disappearing Tradition of Buying and Selling Meat in Nepal”

15th Asaar: National Rice Planting Festival

With the start of monsoon sasson/rainy season, plantation of the most important crop, Rice, also starts. And 15th of Ashar (Nepali Calendar) or 29 June is celebrated as Dhaan Diwas or Rice Plantation Day.

On this day, all the farmers from all around the world plant rice on their fields followed by dancing, singing and playing with the mud.

And Dahi – Chiura (Yogurt and Beaten Rice) is eaten to celebrate the festival.

A lot of enthusiastic tourists also take part in this festival.

High Consumption, Low Production of Rice in Nepal

Though Rice is the most important crop in Nepal and consumed by all on a daily basis, the rice yield gap is huge. The difference between attainable yield and potential yield is between 45-55% in Nepal (IRRI, 2020).

To increase rice production, productivity and productivity needs knowledge of intensive rice farming using best rice varieties and best management practices, and linking production with rice-based agri-food systems.

But it has not happened because of the lack of training, adequate and quality inputs, climate change and seasonal variations in rainfall.

Besides this, Urban land expansion in Terai, Kathmandu and Pokhara has converted prime agricultural land for rice cultivation into housing.

Also due to Out Migration 18-37% of farms have been abandoned in the mountainous region (IRRI, 2020).

Hence, Now is the time to take the necessary actions to make the country self-sufficient in rice. And the following things might help to improve the rice production in Nepal

  • Improving productivity and profitability of rice-based systems using innovative solutions. 
  • Creating more jobs in rice-based agri-food systems for Nepali youth and women
  • Connecting production with the food systems and fully unlocking the immense potential of rice-based agri-food systems in Nepal for overall economic development.

(IRRI – International Rice Research Institute)

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Rice Planting in Nepal FAQs

When is Rice Planting Festival in Nepal?

Rice Planting Festival is on 15th Ashadh of every year (Nepali Calendar) or on 29th June.

How is Rice Planted in Nepal?

First, Rice seed are sowed in a designated plot of a field. Then after a month they’re uprooted and planted in all the fields.
And still the farmers use traditional tools like Plough, hoe, etc. for all the activities in Rice planting. Some have also started to use modern equipments as well.

Why is Rice planted in Nepal?

Rice is the staple crop in Nepal and everyone consumes rice almost daily. So almost everyone plants rice for self consumption.
And some people in Terai region plant Rice in a commercial way as well.