Thrilling Experience at the Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur

For so many years I have been reading about the famous Bullock Cart Race and, I was in a dilemma shall I cover it or not as Supreme Court of India was at time planning to ban the same. Finally, I got a chance to witness this thrilling sporting event in 2014 at 78th Rural Olympics.

Well! Kila Raipur Sports Festival, popularly known as the Rural Olympics, is held annually (February) in Kila Raipur (near Ludhiana), in Punjab, India.  It was in 1933 when, Philanthropist Inder Singh Grewal visualized an annual recreational meet where farmers from areas surrounding Kila Raipur could get together and test their corporal endurance. The three-day festival is witnessed by more than a million people, every year. So many eyeballs witness the numerous set of games like Bullock Cart race, Athletics, Tug of War, Horse Race, Tractor Race, Cycle race, Dog Race etc.

For me it was my first sporting event in terms of Photography. I was excited, thrilled and confused at what to do now. On the very first evening, I was a little apprehensive of the fact that I should be clicking the event from a safe distance or else try my luck at the finishing point. The locals were way too loud and the atmosphere was electrifying. As the blue hour approached I found myself at the finishing line of the race which is considered to be the most dangerous spot for the onlookers. But, I decided to frame that moment, despite of the loud surroundings, and luckily got few. But the feeling of achievement and to be at that spot was much higher than the fear of getting hurt.

Next morning, I reached the spot before it started. Had a chit chat with locals, took out time to taste some local delicacies like sugarcane drink and Pakoras. Organizers were cooperative enough to issue me a press card for the stadium. Since, I had press card so I was able to go near the participants on the ground. It was more of a dream for me that I am between these jockeys and beautifully dressed Nihangs.

To summarize, you will definitely feel the real spirit of Punjab and the Rural Olympics which often demonstrate the physical strength and valor of the Punjabi men and women.

The festival has become an international hit for its more unusual sports categories. Spectators travel from all over the world to the village of Kila Raipur to attend the games which attracts more than 4,000 sportsmen and women, and N number of travelers, photographers, and tourists.

If you are planning to visit that then remember this mantra – first BE SAFE and then Enjoy !

Where to Stay: You have lots of options for hotels in Ludhiyana within the range of 1000-3000+ (varies season to season). But get your bookings done to avoid last minute rush. I stayed in Pukhraj Hotel which was not good at all and so as the services

What to eat: Yummm! this is the real thing. All hotels and dhabas serves traditional and mouth watering traditional Punjabi dishes. You have the option of exploring local western food joints as well

What to see: Other then the sporting event you can visit local villages which are surrounded by mustard field and are treat to the eyes. Nihangs and their tradition attire, farms and tractors, Guru Dwaras and the overall culture of Punjab will take your heart away

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Kids performing the art
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Welcoming audiences on a bike
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Nihang demonstrating his riding skills
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Cycling event
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World famous Bullock Cart Race
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Kabaddi – The Traditional wrestling
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Horse Race
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School kid participating in Polo
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Stunt on two horses by Nihang

References: Punjab Tourism, Rural Olympics.net

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The Land of Red Aryans

“Welcome aboard to the land of Red Aryans” this is what you will see at the entry gate of the village. This story is about the lost Master Race of the great Alexander or the Red Aryans. I visited this place in the month of September (very important to decide your month of visit to this part of J&K), prior research is recommended. Since, I had only few hours in my hand so did not get time to interact with many people out there. Hence, I am taking references to complete my story.

In the North-East of Kargil, there are four main villages where Red Aryans live – Dah, Hanu, Darchik and Garkon. I took Kargil-Batalik-Leh road to reach there. All these four villages are situated at the bank of Indus (Sindhu) River. While Dah and Hanu villages fall under the jurisdiction of Leh district, Darchik and Garkon villages are in Kargil district.  The inhabitants of these villages are known as ‘Dards’. Locals also call them ‘Brokpas’ which in Tibetan language means the highlanders. These are also known as Red Aryans.

According to the census of 2001, these inhabitants were around 2000 in numbers. Because of the Aryan ancestry and the unique culture, Dards of these Aryan villages have been subject matter of anthropological research especially from European countries.

Their striking features include blue eyes, aristocratic noses, fair complexion and flawless skin. They appear ethnically distinct from Ladakhis or Kashmiri. Being nature worshippers, celebrate the Bononah (nature) festival and are strict vegans, which means they are not only strictly vegetarian but also don’t consume milk or milk products. This minuscule community bars both men and women from marrying non-Aryans.

Music and dance are a way of life for them. Both men and women wear colorful costume, decorating their hair with flowers, and are full of joy. They live in harmony with nature, and are cheerful and stress-free despite living in small rock shelters. They trek long distances.

Almond, apricot and walnut form part of the diet along with endless cups of butter tea. Nobody knows of their real origin or if they are indeed the real Aryans. But, regarded as long-lost members of a purebred ‘Master Race’ settled in the Himalayas.

Where to stay: No hotels here. You got to be lucky enough to get yourselves home-stay here. Kargil and Leh are the nearest options

What to eat: Other then local food you will have ample amount of Almond, apricot and walnut to get your tummy full

What to see: Other then natural beauty of the place. The features of inhabitants, their culture, house, folk dance and of-course their way of living can be noted down

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Rainbow in Waterfall, few Kms away from Aryan Village
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Village girls with beautiful features
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Family working
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A villager calling her children
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Elderly Aryan woman
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Kids playing
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Folk Dance
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Famous headgear
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In their traditional attire

Writeup Sources: open magazine, india mike, facebook

Mandawa – Asia’s largest Open Art Gallery

Considered to be the Asia’s largest open art gallery, Mandawa is a town in Jhunjhunu district of Rajasthan in India. It is part of Shekhawati region. Mandawa is situated 190 km off Jaipur in the north. Mandawa is known for its fort and havelis. The fort town of Mandawa is well connected with the other places in region through a good network of roads. This town has been referred to as the “open art gallery” of Rajasthan because the entire Shekhawati region and not just Mandawa is dotted with fascinating mansions-havelis that have lavishly painted walls.

Fatehpur Shekhawati is midway between Jaipur and Bikaner on National Highway 11. Fatehpur is famous for grand havelis with frescos, which are significant architectural structures of the Shekhawati region. A number of monumental wells and springs known as bawdis are also centres of attraction.

Navalgarh is a part of the Shekhawati region and is midway between Jhunjhunu and Sikar. It is 30 km from Sikar and 39 km from Jhunjhunu.

Where to stay: You can stay in beautifully painted havelis converted into hotels. We stayed in Hotel Heritage (2014/2015) which had decent infrastructure and services. I rate this 3.5/5. You can opt for other havelis too depending upon availabilty and your budget

What to eat: All hotels provide good Rajsthani, North Indian, Continental & Chinese food. On the street you must try local golgappas and kachori-jalebi

What to see: Mandawa Fort, Sewaram Saraf Haveli, Sneh Ram Ladia Haveli, Chowkhani Haveli. Also few Kms away lies Navalgarh region where you can witnes the beautiful fresco work at Morarka Museum. Fatehpur Shewati is another god option to explore for paintings and street lovers

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Paintings on the walls
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Haveli in Fatehpur region
Gher Temple - Naya Bazar, Navalgarh
Gher Temple – Naya Bazar, Navalgarh
Morarka Haveli Museum - Navalgarh
Morarka Haveli Museum – Navalgarh
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Fine art on the walls of Sneh Ladia Haveli
Mandawa Fort
Mandawa Fort