For the love of Gehrebazi: Horses race in ‘Vedic time’ event in Sangam City!
Training a horse in all this intricate footwork requires several years and lots of money, due to which the number of participants has been steadily decreasing over the years.lucknow Updated: Jul 11, 2017 13:10 IST
The Sangam city reverberated on Monday with the sound of galloping horses taking part in a unique sporting event Gehrebazi (horse cart race), claimed to be held during the Vedic era.
Organised every Monday of the Hindu month of Sawan (five this year), an interesting aspect of this five-kilometre long race with no prize money is that horses are judged not for speed but their ‘chaal’ (synchronisation of movement)!
A large number of people gathered on both sides of the road near Boat Club since 3 pm on Monday despite heavy rainfall to watch the race. The crowd cheered as the owners, including famous ones like Badre Alam, Lalji Yadav, Kishen Chaurasia, Murari Maharaj, Mohan Murari Pathak, entered the ground with their prized horses.
Septuagenarian Badre Alam, whose family has been organising the race for the last 100 years, was happy with the enthusiastic crowd turnout despite incessant rains. His horses ‘Sultaan’ and ‘Kanhaiya’ are considered best in Gehrebazi.
Elaborating about various ‘chaal’ that determine the horse’s performance, Alam says, “The best chaal is called Sindhi Madri, which is a synchronised movement. This is followed by Chautala and Khadi Chal, in which a horse does not get exhausted easily. The last movement is similar to race course horses, where animals move forward simultaneously.”
Training a horse in all this intricate footwork requires several years and lots of money, due to which the number of participants has been steadily decreasing over the years, rues Rajeev Bharadwaj, one of the organisers. Earlier, 50-60 horses took part and the number has now dwindled to 20-25. To encourage new participants, organisers pay a token money of Rs 500 to Rs 1000.
Pure Sindh breed horses are used for the race and Gehrebazi enthusiasts spend nearly Rs 6-7 lakh annually on training and diet of these horses. According to owners, horses are trained throughout the year for kadambaazi (synchronised movement) apart from their usual exercises every morning and evening. Their daily diet includes 2-3 kgs of chana, 250 grams almonds, 500 grams munakka, 5-10 litres cow and buffalo milk, 250 grams ghee and grass. “A helper is also appointed for bathing and cleaning a horse,” says Bharadwaj.
Not only pandas and teerth purohits, but Muslim families are also passionately involved in this sport. “There are mentions of a horse cart race on similar parametres during the Vedic times in ancient Prayag,” says Bharadwaj.
According to Bhardwaj, Gehrebazi was so popular that Padamshree Kishanji Maharaj, one of India’s greatest tabla player would come every Monday from Varanasi, to watch it. “One may not believe that a horse, which has been judged to have the best Sindhi Madri chaal can fetch upto Rs 50 lakh in Indian market but owners never sell them,” he says before signing off.