Do you remember playing with catapults as a kid? I’m sure every Indian kid has at least seen one, if not played with it once. The catapult, also known as a slingshot or a Gulel, is a tool which is also known as Baatul in rural areas. In the early days, the Gulel’s popularity was so widespread among Adivasi boys, that it had become their best companion, just how phones are our best companions today.
The boys always kept the Gulel with them while grazing cattle in the fields, while answering to nature’s call or while simply hanging out or roaming around in the village. The Gulel is a lightweight tool made of wood, which is used to shoot pebbles and stones onto an object. The Gulel is like a toy for most children, which can be easily made and manually engineered at home.
The Gulel is made of a v-shaped tiny branch from a tree. The branches from the Hesel and Jaamun trees are considered to be the best to make a Gulel, because both are very strong and have plenty of perfectly v-shaped branches. The other very useful material needed is an elastic rubber rope which can be purchased from any local shop. Shopkeepers stock these specifically for the purpose of making Gulels and they are always in demand.
Another important part is a tyre tube, which is cut into long noodle type sections and then used to tie the rubber rope on the Gulel.
The holder has to be made manually with fishing thread; leather is also often used for this. When the Gulel is made, a stone or a pebble is put on the holder and the holder is pulled and then released at any aimed object. The stone travels very fast once released and a Gulel without a stone is like a bow without an arrow.
During crop cultivation, flocks of birds visit fields to eat the crop seeds and this becomes a problem to the farmers. The farmers try to chase the birds away by throwing pebbles and shouting, but the persistent birds keep coming back to eat the crops. Although scarecrows are put in many fields, some birds have become so clever that they are not afraid of scarecrows anymore.
When the villagers learnt about Gulel, they decided to give it a try to chase the birds away. The Gulel turned out to be very useful- the flock of birds could be easily chased away without exerting too much effort, throwing stones or shouting. A person with a Gulel and some pebbles can sit in one place and chase birds away from a distance.
The Gulel is a multipurpose tool- not only is it used to chase away birds, it is also used as a toy, a sports equipment or a weapon. Children in my community love playing with it, and I hope more people revisit the joy of playing with a Gulel, it definitely helps with concentration and good aim!