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Notes on the Geography of India Themes: Farming Technology

Although it's possible to show tractors roaring through the fields of the Punjab, the commoner sight in India is the age-old one of a man behind draft animals. All those animals require fodder; hence the attention to neatly thatched fodder stacks.

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Puddling a field near Karnal, Haryana, so it will hold water during the paddy season. Across the road, a tractor might do the same work. The transition from hand labor to machinery isn't always welcomed, especially by the laborers whom the machinery displaces.

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Cultivation south of Hissar, Haryana. 

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Nearby, a neighbor cultivates with a camel. To the south it's no great distance to the Great Indian Desert, or Thar.

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Straw is protected during the rainy season by ingenious, water-shedding stacks.

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As fodder is needed, the stacks are broken open.

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And this?

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Here's an earlier stage in construction: cowdung cakes neatly stacked and ready for a protective wrap.

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Still earlier.

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It's an industry in itself.

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The first step is forming and drying the cakes. They burn slowly and so are a very desirable domestic fuel, even though experts interested in agricultural development have castigated their use for well over a century.

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Indian or British? These grain mills, at a drop along the East Jumna Canal, are found in virtually the same design throughout northern India and Pakistan. For pictures of the same kind of device there, see Pakistan: Swat.

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The winds of change: tractors for sale in Hissar, a town in an irrigated district west of Delhi.

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Rice harvesting by combine, west of Karnal. The brand-name is Swaraj, "self-rule," but though that name alludes to Gandhi, the machine itself echoes American harvesters.

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A portable thresher works the paddy harvest at Villupuram, west of Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu.

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Getting ready to move on to the next village.

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A more specialized crop: sugarcane growing against the rough countryside near the ruins of Vijayanagar. In the foreground, a boiler pan for the juice expressed by the bullock-driven crusher behind it.

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The British introduced steel-roller crushing machines. Between the drums at the left, a bit of crushed cane emerges.

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The juice will be poured into large pancakes to dry, then pressed into blocks. There are plenty of flies in the neighborhood, but the product--locally called gur but more widely known in India as jaggery--is very tasty, at least for anyone with a sweet tooth.


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