Bulls furiously racing down the track with their riders, men adorning big turbans and flowing beards, multitudes of riders balancing upon a speeding motorbike in formation; no this is not a scene from a big budget Bollywood movie nor is this part of any elaborate circus. This extravaganza of high voltage action and eye-popping colours is known as the Annual Kila Raipur Festival, or more commonly as India’s Rural Olympics.
The Kila Raipur Festival, first conducted in 1933, draws thousands of people from all around the country every year. These games are divided into three categories – rural games, modern sports and performing arts. Each of these events is filled with the regular Punjabi vigour and pomp. The rural games consist of sports like kabaddi and weightlifting. Age is no bar at the Rural Olympics as participants range from the ages of 12 to 90 years old. From the rural games, the action moves on to the sports popular in the modern world. Sports like hockey, athletics, highjump and cycling come under this category. Moving on, the most popular category of the festival is the performing arts. Bullock cart races, tractor races, lifting bicycle by one’s teeth, sword fighting are the major attractions of this festival. The whole event is a mixture of sheer will power the strength to do more. There’s even a 100m race for 90 years olds who could easily beat any of their grandkids in a sprint on a good day.
In 2012, there was some controversy surrounding the main attraction of the event, the bullock cart races. Animal right activists had appealed and successfully banned the races from the event. But a local court lifted the ban in 2013 when the jockeys assured the judges that the bulls were being treated in the best possible manner. These races have drawn participants from as far as Japan and are a major crowd-puller.
Behind all the festivities and competitions, there is a very subtle message. These games promote individuals to come out, perform and showcase their talent to the entire world. From athletes who perform insane stunts on motorcycles to strongmen who lay under moving tractors; all of these events have an underlying message of staying fit. The Rural Olympics have given a new identity to the participants, an entertaining past-time for the spectators and the motivation to stay healthy for everyone.