During my last visit to Paro, I scurried quite a long distance of the valley; and one thing that amazed me was the vast land of rice fields. Then I strongly felt the reasons why the locals objected the government’s decision to convert it into a throm. It would be a disgrace to transform this beautiful farmland into a concrete jungle.
But this post is not about the farmland and throm. It is about one more thing that amazed me in Paro, scarecrows. To tell you, I see them everywhere in and around the rice fields, thousands in number, guarding the crops. Most of them resemble human shape.
The Bhutanese farmers are simply clever in designing and erecting the bird-scarers to scare away crows and wild animals. Some are very frightening, others cute and funny, and few threatening with bows and arrows. They are dressed in some of the old shirts and trousers, torn plastics and caps. Some have highly reflective films and CDs and bottles tied to their hands to create shimmers from the sun.
I know the locals make scarecrows to protect their crops, but at the same it is a creative centre piece for one’s crops. Amazing creative works!
On my own, I studied about the scarecrow online. I have come across very interesting findings though; indeed, I am quite surprised. The straw-man has a huge impact in some countries.
In Japan, there are many fascinating tales and legends surrounding the use and character of scarecrow, known as kakashis, in the rice fields. In Kojiki, the oldest surviving historical chronicle of Japan, a scarecrow known as Kuebiko appears as a deity of agriculture and wisdom. Till this present day, it is worshipped, and the Kuebiko Shrine in Sakurai is dedicated to the deity.
In the United Kingdom, the use of scarecrows as a protector of crops date from time immemorial and it has huge cultural impact. Many villages in England have annual scarecrow festivals where there are many events like display of hand-crafted scarecrows, scarecrow sculpting, scarecrow trails and scarecrow contests.
In the USA, different villages host annual scarecrow festivals which attract thousands of people and they also raise money for charity. Besides scarecrows, the festivals have live entertainment, art and craft show, carnival, foods, eating competition and children activities. The festivals are truly a family festive fun.
Bluntly speaking, I am not aware of the origin and any tales of scarecrows in Bhutan. But I assume there should be, looking at the rich history of our culture and the prevalence of scarecrows in Bhutan. I feel it would be nice that we study and record about scarecrows of Bhutan.
Like in other countries, we can also initiate scarecrow festivals in Bhutan, especially in a place like Paro. This can encourage the farmers to be a creative and smart person who understands the historical significance of our agricultural practice. It would provide an opportunity for the locals to earn revenue by exhibiting their products and skills and to create awareness on importance of farming.
Through participation in this event, they would not only learn to protect their crops from birds and animals, but also learn to protect and preserve their farmlands from the aggressive and encroaching town planning.
Some pictures of Paro scarecrows here: