Every year the four-day Kila Raipur sports festival, commonly known as the ‘rural Olympics,’ enthralls thousands of spectators from across the country as well as from abroad. At this year’s 79th edition of the event, which ended on February 1, this reporter spoke to a few first-time visitors on how they came to know about this festival and a lot else besides.
Jürgen Held, 49, a feature writer and photographer from Germany, who has visited India several times, said this year he decided to attend the festival as he had been reading about it for the past several years. “It was a thrilling sight to see one of the participants pulling a car with ropes tied to his ears, horses and camels dancing to the beat of a ‘dhol’ (a double-headed drum), horse racing and, of course, horse cart racing that was replaced this year with bullock cart racing”, he said.
Another visitor, Ion Calvo, 36, a Spaniard who was among a group that had come all the way from Europe to witness the fun-filled event, said: “We had been told earlier that this festival was a mustsee before leaving India. Seeing the various folk dances being performed was a terrific experience.”
Another member of the group, Catherine Gerber, 29, from Austria, said: “I’d like to thank my Indian friends who told me I definitely had to visit this festival. I was amazed to hear about its unique sports events including dog and bullock cart races.”
Thijs De Ruyssch and NickVanberckler, both 24-yearold students from Belgium, who have been holidaying in India since the past two months, said they learnt about the Kila Raipur festival on the internet. “Next year we may come again to see the games along with our friends”, they added.28-yearold Ben Uxbridge from London said the festival was on the top of his India itinerary. “I wore a blue coloured turban and tried to match the steps of the folk dance performer,” he remarked.
35 year old Ashleigh Davies and 38 year old Ricardo Sanchez , sports channel correspondents from England shared something interesting, “Our channel has covered this festival many a times and due to its huge popularity among our viewers spread in about 80 countries, our channel head gave us an assignment to cover it again on a fresh note” said the duo. Many of the Indian spectators averred a visit to Punjab would not be complete without attending this festival.
“It’s festivals like this where you can experience the true local flavor of a state, its people and culture. We came to know about the games from a social networking site and, having seen it, it was an amazing experience,” said Ankit Mathura and Shally Makil, both 26-year-old marketing professionals from Delhi who appreciated the organisers’ gesture to install flags of more than 100 countries on the sports grounds.
However, some spectators were left disappointed for not getting the opportunity to see the bullock cart races.