If you haven’t watched Ben-Hur, you could take a trip down to the ongoing sports festival here to see a desi version.
For over 70 years now, this village near Ludhiana has been home to the annual Rural Olympics that have attracted massive crowds, most of who have come to watch the fabled bullock cart races.
The race, with prize money of Rs 2 lakh (as compared to Rs 10,000 for other events) is about pride, honour and bragging rights. So, for the people of the Grewal Range, a bullock for the Kila Raipur spectacle is not just an animal, but a major investment.
And these bullocks don’t come cheap. Lambardar Gurvachan Singh Dhandari of Dhandari Kalan, who has been racing his bullocks in these games for the past 35 years, bought a bullock for Rs 6 lakh — money for which he could have got six Nanos — last year. It’s a record so far.
And if you thought it was just an expensive buy, well, think again. According to Balwinder Singh, a bullock cart jockey, a bullock’s diet alone costs Rs 50,000 a year. “Thrice a day we feed our bullock milk, desi ghee and chana. Then comes the training,” he said. “But first, we have to select bullocks of the highest speed and strength.” For this, they travel to Banga in Rajasthan.
The bullock-races, though the highlight, isn’t the only featured event. Tug of war, the loading and unloading of trucks and Maghar Singh’s 50-year-old horse show, where he rides two horses, one leg on each, filmi-style, grab as many eyeballs.