India's Most Offbeat And Dangerous Sport: Bull Surfing In Kerela

Photo of India's Most Offbeat And Dangerous Sport: Bull Surfing In Kerela by Sakshi Nahar Dhariwal

Kerala, as we all know, as also famous as "God's Own Country". The natural beauty and diversity of the state with its lush green landscapes, tropical climate, and diverse cultural heritage speak on their own. The nickname is also a nod to the historical and religious significance of Kerala, which has been home to a number of ancient temples, churches, and other religious sites for thousands of years. The nickname has helped to establish Kerala as a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors from all over the world who come to experience its unique blend of natural beauty and rich cultural heritage.

When you think of running bulls, aren't you instantly taken to Pamplona, Spain? Or the movie Zindagi na milegi dobara? Well it's time to think again. While the world has banned The San Fermin Festival, parts of Spain still follow this brutal sport in the name of tradition and beliefs. Just the way villages in Kerala do too.

Maramadi Festival is South India's own version of The San Fermin, except that, it's not running from the bulls, but surfing with the bulls. Brave participants charge down freshly ploughed rice paddy fields, the size of football fields which are flooded up to ankle deep water. Bull guides then run behind charging bulls with utmost zeal and thrive to win the game.

Maramadi Festival, Kerala

This exotic water sport which is considered a peculiar race takes place in "gods own country", Kerala. Imagine muddy paddy feilds, oxen's running in full speed, insane danger and one man zooming at the same speed right behind the oxen's.

Maramadi is a traditional festival celebrated in India, especially in the southern state of Kerala. It is a festival that marks the beginning of the agricultural season and is celebrated by farmers. The festival involves rituals and activities related to agriculture, such as preparing the fields, planting seeds, and offering prayers to the gods for a good harvest. Maramadi is usually celebrated in the month of January or February and is an important event in the cultural calendar of Kerala.

Vishnuprathap Photography

Photo of India's Most Offbeat And Dangerous Sport: Bull Surfing In Kerela by Sakshi Nahar Dhariwal

The post harvest season in Kerela welcomes the gut-tiring bulls run in different villages in Kerela. During the game, 2 bulls or oxen's are paired together in a harness and made to run the ankle deep flooded paddy fields for at least 100 meters. Spectators from neighboring villages come and watch the thrilling adventure, as the bulls race down splashing wet mud and creating a theatrical scene. On the day of the race, the horns of the bulls that are prepped a few months before the festival, are polished and made to look colorful.

3 men surf with each pair of oxen, and these men are called jockeys. Out of the 3 men, 2 control the bulls and direct them to the finish line. The 3rd man sits on a plank of wood placed between the bulls and slides once the race is finished.

Vishnuprathap Photography

Photo of India's Most Offbeat And Dangerous Sport: Bull Surfing In Kerela by Sakshi Nahar Dhariwal

While many villages host this event, and the jockeys are looked up to and respected well, the most famous race takes place in Pathnamthitta District's Anandapally village in the month of August. The festival embarks at noon and ends by sunset when each of the jockeys are painted in wet mud by the end of the game. Over 30 teams sign up for the festival and costs over Rs.10,000. The winners win gold medals, and cash prizes in different categories.

The specific dates may vary from year to year and depend on the local customs and traditions. You may check with local authorities or organizations in Kerala for more information on the dates of Maramadi festival.

Have you ever attended a daring festival like this? Have you been to Kerala before? Check out this photoblog to see some thrilling pictures of the gut-sinking festival.

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