Cattle Racing In Maharashtra: The Traditional Test of Valour
Tags: Ancient Sport of Cattle Racing, Bailgada Sharyat, Bull Racing, Farm Activities, Fun activities at farm, Harvest Celebration In India, Indian Fair & Festivals, Offbeat India, Rural Culture of India, Rural India Festivals, Rural Tourism, Rural Travel Experience, Traditional Sport Of India
Although Spain is famous for the Great Run of Bulls, there existed an even more ferocious and breakneck competition in rural India that tested the relentlessness of the farmers. This bone-chilling sport required extreme fortitude and physical strength, areas in which our valiant farmers can beat the world. This offbeat adventure was accompanied with a frenzy of emotions and jubilant screams as the farmers raced their cattle to the finish line. Here is a closer look at this ancient sport of cattle racing that could make all other adventure sports bite the dust.
The post-harvest celebration in India is marked with various events that allow the farmers to exhibit their innumerable skills. One traditional sport of India that used to be the key highlight of these festivities was that of cattle or bull racing. Cattle racing was one of the agrarian sports in India that was organised on a grand scale in different parts of the country. It formed a major part of the harvest celebrations in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala. Each state had a unique version of this exciting sport in which the farmers participated with much enthusiasm.
Winning the cattle races was a matter of prestige for the villages. Each village was proud of its specially trained bullocks and racers and considered the cattle as a symbol of prosperity. The adrenaline rush and the surge of emotions on winning the race encouraged the villagers to practice for weeks before the main event. This glorious festival united the people of different castes and communities, who came together to cheer for their village’s sportsmen.
The races were not just a way of paying homage to the traditional roots, but also a chance for all the members of the farming community to congregate and rejoice together. This spirit of oneness promoted by cattle racing made it the favorite sport of the farmers of India.
The Maharashtrian version of bullock cart racing was known as Bailgada Sharyat, a 450-year-old tradition of the farmers of Konkan, western Maharashtra and Marathwada. Four incredibly fast bulls pulled an unmanned cart for a distance of 350-450 feet on the racing track, and the team with the highest speed won. Each team dashed across the tracks one at a time and most finished the race in only 10-15 seconds. It required a strong grip, excellent balance, and astonishing bravery to hold on to the carts as the bulls rushed towards the finish line. Clouds of dust and loud cheers filled the environment with pulsating energy.
The organisation of these races was not a small task either. The racing track or Ghat was carefully prepared, days in advance. Veterinarians were brought in to inspect the bulls, so as to ensure that the animals were in prime physical conditions. These cattle races formed an integral part of the Jatras or village fairs that were held between Makar Sankranti and the Monsoon months, a time when the farmers were not busy in the fields. Sometimes, the races were organised as solo events instead of being a part of a village fair. The money that was raised by the races was utilized for the betterment of the village and for the renovation of the local temples. In this manner, cattle racing in India was an adventure sport that also helped to raise funds for social causes.
Bull racing may have been a humbler version of horse racing, but it provided the same thrill, adrenaline boost, and exhilaration of victory as its glamorous alternative. It was known by different names in several parts of India, but the essence of the sport remained the same. Be it the Maramadi or Kalapoottu of Kerala, the Killa Raipur Olympics, or the Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu, the energetic atmosphere of the races used to be equally exuberant during all these events. Cattle racing revealed a unique facet of the rural culture of the country; it shed light on the offbeat India.
Note – Although all forms of cattle racing have been banned in India since 2014, the fervour and the feeling of unity that this sport represented still live on in the hearts of the farmers of the nation.