The traditional bullock cart race made a comeback at the 'rural Olympics' or Kila Raipur sports festival at the Grewal sports stadium on Thursday, even if it was a time trial round and not the final race.
And if response from the audience was an indication, it was quite evident that spectators were gung-ho about the resumption of bullock cart races, a tradition that goes back more than 70 years and is the trademark of the rural sports meet.
It is pertinent to mention here that in the 2012 edition of the games, much to the disappointment of villagers, the bullock cart races were not held due to ban imposed under Section 11 of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act by the union government.
However, Punjab and Haryana high court ruled on July 4, 2012, that bullock cart races at the Kila Raipur sports meet did not amount to cruelty since the bullocks were treated well by the owners.
Meanwhile, during the time trial in bullock cart races, two jockeys lost control, due to which the bullock carts moved dangerously towards stairs meant to seat spectators at the Kila Raipur stadium. One of the jockeys was injured in the knee after a fall from the cart during the race.
A number of bullock carts ploughed into the fields adjoining the sports stadium after crossing the finishing line. Even though farmers were certain to suffer crop losses, monetary loss was the last thing on their minds. They just wanted the traditional bullock carts to go on unhindered.
"Such losses are inconsequential when we weigh it against the heritage of Kila Raipur sports festival. We eagerly await the whole year to watch bullock carts races to know whose bullocks would get the pride of the year award," remarked Kila Raipur resident Gurmat Singh while watching the games.
Jasbir Singh Bittu, president of bullock carts owners association, said that he was happy that the bullock races had resumed without problem this year. He pointed out that everyone was disappointed after the bullock cart races could not be held last year.
Bullocks costing anything from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh participated in the time trial events on Thursday. Villagers pointed out that owners spend lakhs of rupees to nurture the animals the whole year. The bullocks were even fed dry fruits and other nutritious diet to keep them in excellent shape for the races at the Kila Raipur sports festival, the villagers added.