Buffaloes battle it out in Assam on Bhogali Bihu

Ahatguri (Assam), Jan 15 (IANS) The mood was festive, but the atmosphere tense as hundreds of people gathered for an annual event that had all the elements of a full-scale battle – 50 huge buffaloes locking horns and fighting it out in an arena.

The stakes are not high, but still the matadors goaded and cajoled their tame nearly one-tonne buffaloes to fight and win the prize – a trophy and Rs.5,001 in cash.

The village of Ahatguri, 80 km east of Assam’s main city of Guwahati, buzzed with activity Friday with the locals organising the annual buffalo fight – a tradition dating back to centuries.

For the villagers, buffalo fights are an entertaining sport organised during Bhogali Bihu, the weeklong Assamese harvest festival where traditional games accompanied by feasting mark the celebrations.

‘It is nothing but pure entertainment,’ said Abani Das, a community elder.

The mood was one of festivity with hundreds of people thronging the fighting ring with drums and cymbals, coupled with hoarse cries of the keepers as they goaded their flamboyantly decked-up buffaloes with vermilion splashed over their bodies.

After initial song and dance and rituals performed by a village priest, the buffalo fight began – the trumpet blared with the promoters calling out to owners to bring their animals to the ring – a paddy field with spectators sitting in circles metres away.

‘It is not about winning or losing, but the fun and thrill involved in the daylong event,’ said Dharani Bora, an elderly farmer involved in buffalo fights for the past 25 years.

The fight turns aggressive at times with enraged buffaloes running amok, scaring spectators as they run for their lives.

For the locals, it is a matter of pride to bring their buffaloes to the fighting ring.

‘Locals prepare for the event for months together by feeding their buffaloes and looking after their health,’ said Nabin Das, a buffalo owner.

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