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.