When you are traveling, a good way to learn about the place is to read the local newspaper. That's how I found out that rural Olympics were being held at Kila Raipur, about 25 miles from Ludhiana. This was the 79th edition of the festival which is held annually.
These games exist as an effort to preserve the mainly agrarian culture and traditions of the region.Contestants, mainly farmers, congregate to display their prowess at sports such as tent pegging, archery, fencing, horse riding, acrobatics and martial arts.The competitions are an explosion of eccentricity and macho prowess as men of all ages from seven to seventy display a test of human endurance and skills. It is a show of strength and passion.
The big attractions include horse racing tent pegging in which riders gallop down with spears piercing the pegs on the track as they let out a battle cry. It certainly calls for clockwork precision and an uncanny sense of anticipation.
Villagers from all over the region trickle in from early morning to occupy vantage seats for the crowd pulling horse cart race on a 300 meter track.Martial arts by "nihang" sikhs drew a huge applause from the spectators. They displayed their artillery and engaged in sword fighting while displaying their foot moves.
Teams competed in a game of wrestling called "kabaddi". Sprinting, hockey, veterans 100m dash, tractor tire rolling races were some other events that took place.Women competed in events such as long jump and a 400m race.The highlight of the event were riders racing on the horse carts.
The stuntmen "baazigars" enthralled the audiences with amazing feats such as bending an iron rod with their throat , balancing a 35 feet long ladder on their head, balancing on a glass bottle, and pulling a car with their teeth and ear. The daredevils did stunts riding around on a motor bike.Horses and camels danced to the music.
The trainers told me the animals were trained from their birth and one had already bagged first prize for last 4 consecutive years.A paraglider appeared in the sky as the sun was going down and showered confetti on the gathering.
I got an opportunity to meet the owner and organizer of the games, Mr. Grewal of Grewal Sports Association who has been conducting the festivities for the past few decades . Before him, his uncles had started and conducted these sports. He was confident that his nephews will continue this tradition.
I had a great time and was fortunate to have a close interaction with the contestants, organizers and spectators.
Check out the pictures.