Whither rural sports?

Miscellany

Whither rural sports?

It is that time when they pause and take a break from hectic agricultural activity.

Even their cattle take a small break, as they start preparing themselves for the sporting events that mark the festivities. The Hori Bedarisuva Spardhe (bullock race) is a typical sport in the semi Malnad region and the plains,  where the main crops are cereals. Every farmer in the region invariably rears cattle, not only for agricultural work, but also to cater to their dairy needs. The race is so prestigious that each farmer feeds his cattle with nutritious food days ahead of the race and trains them for the competition. Some farmers purchase new oxen for this race. They choose the best breeds available in the region (like the Dagina Hori) which is known in those parts to be the strongest and unbeatable breed. They cost anywhere in the range of Rs four lakh, motivating farmers all the more to win the race.

In Uttara Kannada district, Banavasi, Malagi, Pala, Maragundi and other villages host these bullock competitions. Thousands of people witness gather to witness the race and much excitement ensues.

The day of the race makes for a particularly interesting sight. Farmers, with their competing bullocks arrive at the spot from hundreds of kilometres decorating their cattle with balloons, crapes and decorative items. The race begins with a minimum of 200 bullocks. Special barricades are erected on both sides and there are hurdles set up for the bullocks that participate in the race.

Then, there are hundreds of youths eager to seize the garland tied around the neck of the racing bull. As a rule, the bullock has to complete four rounds without allowing anyone to touch it. If it fails it is out of the race. Each successful bullock will be eligible for the final round. The finalist will be handed over a huge prize, while the youngster who garners the maximum number of garlands will be bestowed with special prizes.

While there are no two ways about the fact that these are traditional sports invariably linked to rural lifestyles, it has been observed in recent times that the spirit behind such sports is diminishing. The competition instead of being healthy is getting a commercial colour. The lure of the big cash prizes available means that some cattle owners even intoxicate the bulls before the commencement of the race. Even the garland snatchers seem to be in some kind of a trance, giving rise to questions on whether such sports have become commercialised, and whether they no longer reflect the joys of a rural way of life.

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