Updated: December 27, 2018 09:16 PM GMT
Salesian Father George Quadros operating a paddy-planting machine in a field in Goa. (Photo supplied)
The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has advised farmers to chant ancient Hindu texts to obtain a bumper harvest, but Catholics in the former Portuguese colony of Goa in India are not convinced.
Goa's population of 1.8 million is about 66 percent Hindu and the 25 percent Christian component of the state is overwhelmingly Catholic.
The government is promoting what it calls 'cosmic farming.'
This involves farmers chanting mantras to improve their yield.
Launching a pilot project Nov. 20, state agriculture minister Vijay Sardessai said he was determined to explore inexpensive but effective ways of increasing production.
"If you convince me a rock show or a beauty contest will also help get people excited about agriculture, I will have it," he said.
He and state agriculture director Nelson Figueiredo had studied the Shiv (Shiva) Yog farming methods propagated by charismatic guru Avadhoot Shivanand, media reports said.
They visited Shivanand's center in Haryana state, and sought the help of the Shiv Yog Foundation to promote their chanting method for use by farmers.
This seeks to tap cosmic energy through a so-called 'third eye' similar to that of the Hindu god Shiva.
The energy could purportedly then be used to ward off negative forces such as pests and weeds as well as to improve the food value of crops.
Believers in cosmic farming claim that certain mantras help seeds to sprout, Figuerido told members of the media.
He said the state government is also in touch with the 'Sustainable Yogic Farming' project run by a group of Hindu nuns called Brahmakumaris.
These nuns claim that more than one thousand farmers in India are achieving great results by combining organic farming with meditation.
A farmer engaging in 'cosmic farming' is expected to chant a set of mantras for at least 20 minutes each day as crops are becoming established.
Figueiredo said this could enhance productive micro-organisms and gradually reduce dependence on fertilizers.
The agriculture department would not force any farmer to adopt this method, but would give assistance to those who wanted it.
Catholic farmer Stanley Fernandes said he believed that prayer could be helpful for cultivators of the land.
"You may call it spiritual or vedic farming," he said.
"The spirit of God dwells in plants, animals and insects.
"St. Francis of Assisi used to talk to plants.
"Farmers have even used classical music in their plantations for a better yield."
Servulo Judas, another Catholic, said that after his crops were attacked by monkeys and peacocks, he was rewarded when he prayed and visualized Jesus keeping wild animals at bay.
"Though monkeys came to an adjacent orchard, they did not enter my fields," Judas said.
Salesian Father George Quadros, who promotes modern technologies among rice paddy cultivators in the state, said that prayers alone would not ensure a bountiful harvest.
"Prayers along with hard work, commitment, technology and the minimum natural requirements will perform the magic," he said.
This article was first published 5.12.2018.
….As we enter the first months of 2022, we are asking readers like you to help us keep UCA News free.
For the last 40 years, UCA News has remained the most trusted and independent Catholic news and information service from Asia. Every week, we publish nearly 100 news reports, feature stories, commentaries, podcasts and video broadcasts that are exclusive and in-depth, and developed from a view of the world and the Church through informed Catholic eyes.
Our journalistic standards are as high as any in the quality press; our focus is particularly on a fast-growing part of the world - Asia - where, in some countries the Church is growing faster than pastoral resources can respond to – South Korea, Vietnam and India to name just three.
And UCA News has the advantage of having in its ranks local reporters who cover 23 countries in south, southeast, and east Asia. We report the stories of local people and their experiences in a way that Western news outlets simply don’t have the resources to reach. And we report on the emerging life of new Churches in old lands where being a Catholic can at times be very dangerous.
With dwindling support from funding partners in Europe and the USA, we need to call on the support of those who benefit from our work.