This Madhya Pradesh village gives out free dairy products

This Madhya Pradesh village gives out free dairy products

This Madhya Pradesh village gives out free dairy products

People in Chudiya do not trade in milk, buttermilk and curd, in accordance with the promise supposedly given to an 18th-century monk for lifting the curse of cholera   

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh: Two good quality cows can give up to 40 litres of milk daily. One litre of full cream milk costs around Rs 60 in Bhopal, which translates into a daily maximum income of Rs 2,400. Despite the rising inflation, the residents of Chudiya in Betul district of Madhya Pradesh have been letting go of this potential earning of Rs 72,000 a month.

By doing so, people claim they are fulfilling a promise they believe their ancestors had given to Chindhiya Sadhu for lifting the curse of cholera from the village. No documents are available to show the life and times of the revered monk, but villager Babulal Yadav says his brother’s great-grandson, Tukdu Maharaj, still lives in the village. People believe that Chindhiya Sadhu lived in the 18th century by taking note that Maharaj is an octogenarian.     

“The villagers had made a promise to never trade in milk, buttermilk and curd. We have been following this for five generations now. We distribute all of it for free,” Gorelal Yadav (80) tells 101Reporters.

The village is home to the tomb of Chindhya Sadhu. A grand two-day celebration in his honour is held here every year during the full moon (Photo - Pooja Yadav, 101Reporters)

While many a home budget has been buckled keeping up with the persistently high inflation, the 400 households of Chudiya follow their age-old tradition. “Over 90% of the families here are into agriculture. Most households have anywhere between two to 10 cows. A farmer will spend Rs 50 to 100 on a cow daily. For milch cows, it will go up to Rs 200, excluding fodder. Hiring labourers to clean the place where animals are kept, running a motor pump to meet their water requirements, and medical care are among the main expenses,” says Ramkishore Yadav.

Yashwant Yadav, another villager, adds that expenses went up to Rs 500 per cattle, including the cost of vaccination and preventive medicines, during the Lumpy Skin Disease outbreak.

“Earlier, cattle were set free on fallow pastures for grazing. As more and more land has been diverted for agriculture, they have to be tied up and fodder arranged,” says Ramkishore. 

Bhujlal Yadav (75) claims that every villager follows the tradition willingly. “Be it good or bad days, we manage our expenses based on the situation… Selling milk is never in our calculation.”  

A two-day annual fair is organised on Kartik Purnima in honour of Chindhiya Sadhu, with his tomb as the centre of attraction. Puris and halwa made from Chudiya ghee draw a large crowd to the bhandara (community feast) on both days. The villagers also maintain an eternal flame running on ghee in honour of the monk. 

Not just the elders, even the youth stand by this tradition. “I got to know about the sadhu from my grandparents. He took the oath of celibacy, lived an ascetic life and helped our village… and in return, he took a small oath from us. There is no question of not following it,” says Aryan Yadav, a village youth.

Chudiya villagers welcome with open arms any person who needs milk, curd or buttermilk. Of course, the distribution is free!

“Chudiya is about 25 km from my village. Whenever there is a big event in our family or village, we get buttermilk from there. We inform them ahead of schedule in case of a big order, and they will keep the buttermilk ready for us. No one takes money even if you offer a token amount as a goodwill gesture,” says Sevak Yadav, a farmer and social worker of Lakkadjam.

“This tradition allows us to do public service. The cost factor does not apply. Our buttermilk is famous, especially at weddings,” beams Yashwant.

If there is no demand for milk, the villagers turn it into curd and buttermilk for domestic use and make ghee from it. The ghee, however, does not fall under the ambit of the ‘promise’. “We sell it under the label ‘Chudiya Ka Ghee’ for Rs 600 per litre. We do not make much profit, but there is no loss,” says Ranjan Yadav.

(Above) The Gram Panchayat building in Chudiya; (Below) A bird's eye view of the village (Photo - Pooja Yadav, 101Reporters)

The villagers do not have to go out to sell ghee as prospective buyers from Betul district headquarters, Chicholi block headquarters and Sarni town reach out to them.  

“For the residents, the sage is still alive. His invisible power ensures our welfare. Had our ancestors given him the promise of not trading in ghee, that would not have happened,” says Ramkishore, when asked why ghee was an exception.

Though it is a noble act, the distribution of free milk makes a little more sense when one considers the village’s income profile. The 4,000 residents of Chudiya belong to Gawli, Thakur, and tribal communities. The region’s fertile black soil helps them grow wheat and vegetables and sell them at Chicholi, located 5 km away, during the Tuesday weekly markets. A canal from the Godhna dam brings water to their farms.

“Farmers get cattle fodder from the land. In return, cows provide manure for farm work. Some households have cow dung-based biogas plants running. The milk that cows provide nourishes the children of the households. We get everything from our cows," says Gorelal.

Every household has at least one two-wheeler and tractor each. Every tenth house has a four-wheeler. Almost 90% of the families have pucca houses. In addition, the younger generations are migrating to Bhopal, Indore, Pune, Delhi, Nagpur and other places for studies and for earning white-collar jobs.

Cover photo - Ranjan Yadav milking a buffalo (Photo - Pooja Yadav, 101Reporters)

Edited by Tanya Shrivastava


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