Welcome to land of beautiful turbans, phulkari, bhangra, giddha, bullet (Royal Enfield Bike), Patiala peg, Butter Chicken and Jassi, Honey te Tony (most common nicknames among Punjabi’s)”.
I have spent almost 9 years in Punjab (all my education from 10th onwards was in Punjab) and truly imbibed so much from the Punjabi culture and lifestyle that I really wished to cover it on my blog ever since I started penning down my travelogues. And guess what- my wish came true!!! and I was on my way to spectate the one of the quirkiest sport festival in the world-78th RURAL OLYMPICS at Kila Raipur near Ludhiana, Punjab.
The legacy started way back in 1933, when a philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal envisioned the notion to organize a yearly recreational meet for nearby farmers to showcase their physical endurance and talent. The idea has now travelled for almost seven decades and has matured into a major international event attracting participants from abroad too. This year the sport saga continued for three days from 31st January – 2nd February, 2014.
Now coming back from the history lecture, I reached Ludhiana on the early morning of 1st February, took a few hours rest and left for Kila Raipur to witness the sports extravaganza. Since, I was on a tight budget, I boarded the local city bus to reach the venue and it turned out to be the right choice. The local city bus echoing with the contemporary Punjabi songs snaked through the narrow roads between the lush green fields swaying with crops.
The aura and freshness in the air was something that could only be felt. There was no traffic, noise, pollution and the sheer feeling of being in “real India” where majority population of country resides emerged in my core. Our ride dropped us in the mid of Kila Raipur village which added more spice to our visit, as I was able to see the charm of a Punjabi “pind” (village).
Being a metro city dweller, the site was extremely exquisite, calm and soothing and I feel relieved to escape from the city’s hustle-bustle. After rambling for about 30 minutes seeking directions from the locals and enjoying the charm of the “pind”, I finally reached the arena hosting the Olympics.
With every step closer to the venue, the voice of the commentator and the clamouring of spectators emanating from the stadium became stronger and it raised goose bumps of excitement in me.
At last, I finally reached the stadium and was completely overwhelmed by the sight. The venue was jam packed with the spectators soaring high with their spirit for the event. The love for the sports in this small village of Punjab could be very well seen in the hearts of the audiences as they occupied the terraces, parapets, turrets and even nearby trees to have a glimpse of the event.
There were multiple events going on simultaneously and the commentator was trying to cope with all of them without missing any. With a meagre budget of Rs. 35 lac, of which around Rs. 12 lac to be spent of prizes, one could not expect state of art of technology in the event but it was the enthusiasm and zeal of the participants and crowd which stole the show.
When I reached the venue, the track event for senior citizens was taking place. I hurriedly rushed to the tracks to have a gaze at these so called “senior citizen” while their hearts were much younger than mine. They vanished to the end point within a wink of the eye and finished the race without even an iota of tiredness on their face. I looked much “senior” in term of fitness as compared to these so called “senior citizen” athletes.
Then I moved to other events and witnessed some daring and colossal display of strength and endurance. These included some ultimate wacky events such as dragging car by ear, teeth, hair, lifting bicycles tied to 10 foot pole from mouth, pulling a tractor and lifting it from one side by legs, lying under a moving tractor….the unending crazy list goes on.
But among all these worth mentioning display of courage and strength, few which needs notable attention was the dragging the car by teeth and a handstand and couple of other stunts over bottle tips by the handicapped participants.
The photographers which included many foreigners also gathered around the participants as they performed the stunt with audacity. Some of them also interviewed them once they finished the stunts and they really seemed to enjoy these moments of fame and attention.
Most of the participants were not professionals; they were farmers, students, teachers, workers etc. in their daily life tied only with the bond of fervour and passion towards sports and their culture. Some of the contestants were a regular a participants in the event every year for the last couple of decades. Hats off to their spirit!!!!
Later during the day, the crowd was fortunate to see some young “nihangs” (warrior Sikhs) dressed in gleaming royal blue turbans exhibiting their war skills (“gatka”) while some other participants performed local folklore such as “bhangra” and “giddha”. There were some other entertaining events such as beautiful decorated camels and horses dancing to the tunes of “dhol”, tug of war, horse racing etc.
Various events continued uninterrupted throughout the day and it was evening time, sun too was playing hide and seek with us, but down at the venue, the stage was all set, ground and tracks were cleared for the most famed and legendary event of the Olympics- Bullock Cart Racing. The spectators had now even occupied the rarest corners of the ground. The bullock cart with their “jockeys” leaned on their carts had lined up on one end with countless cameras posed at them.
The race started with super extra dose of adrenaline pumping through the veins of “jockeys” and within moments they blazed towards the other end of the stadium. Since, it was impossible to stop the bulls immediately at the finish line; the other end was kept open and the bulls blazed into the field. There were several doses of such adrenaline pumping races and the crowd whined louder than the last one each time.
As the daylight faded, the venue turned into musical concert stage with presence from some of the eminent Punjabi singers and cultural performances, however, I missed it as I had to rush to the hotel.
Photo Credits: Shweta Berry