In Maharashtra, Diwali is celebrated with an array of different customs and traditions. One of the most popular is making miniature mud forts. The fun of getting your hands dirty and playing in mud and creating miniature forts adds a certain element of fun quotient during the festival. Plus, the children love it!
We at the Punekar explore this unique tradition.
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It is believed that the tradition of making these mud forts is almost 300 years old. It started as a symbol to pay respects to the great warrior of Maharashtra, Shivaji Maharaj. He was especially known for his intelligent and artistic architecture which is evident in the different forts he built across the State. These mud forts also known as killa in Marathi are either displayed in the front or backyard of the house. In fact, even competitions are held between different groups who are constantly trying to outdo his counterparts.
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Days before the festival, kids start digging the earth to collect fine mud, bricks, stones and other required elements for the construction. Often jute rags are also used to keep the structure strong. Once the structure is complete, it is adorned with small clay figurines of Maratha soldiers, villagers, animals and the Maharaj himself who is sitting in a throne. To make the fort look natural, methi (fenugreek) seeds are sprinkled which look like grass when grown.
Today, ready-made miniature forts are also available in the market. However, nothing can beat the fun of making your own killa at home. So unleash your creativity and let your imagination come alive and start constructing some fascinating forts.
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The Pune Municipal Corporation Garden department holds fort -making competitions at Shambhaji Park. The competition that has been taking place for over thirty years, aims at acquainting kids about our rich culture and history. The participants are expected to create replica of popular historical forts of Shivaji Maharaj which obligates them to research on the fort they plan to make.
The concept has been quite popular and with every passing year the number of participants keeps on increasing. It is also quite an attraction for visitors who flock the garden just to have a glance of these forts.