Venue: Anandapally Village.
District: Pathanamthitta, Kerala.
Date: 15 August 2019.
The magical allure, rich culture and grand festivities draw tourists to Kerala like bees around the hive. Festivals like Onam, Pooram, Theyyam, Snake Boat Races, are all familiar to every travel enthusiast visiting Kerala. But do you know Kerala plays hosts to a very risky competition with bulls? Bull surfing or the Maramadi Festival is what it is known as. Although Maramadi Festival is closely associated with bulls, it stands entirely different from Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu and the Bullfighting in Spain. And this is gonna be an offbeat experience for travelers who set foot in God’s own country, Kerala.
Bull Surfing forms the vital part of the post-harvest season festival in Kerala and is organized every year in August. It has a history that dates back to 200 years. Anandapally village in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala is where you can witness this bull race. And hence it is popular as Anandapally Bull Surfing.
Although Kerala takes pride in conducting several bull races, the Anandapally Bull Surfing is the most popular among all. As per the tradition, the Anandapally Bull Surfing is held annually around August 15. This traditional bull race is closely connected to agriculture and is conducted every year on the belief that the race brings good harvest and plenty of rainfall in the forthcoming agricultural season. The barren waterlogged paddy fields serve as the venue for bull surfing.
A boundless stretch of arid paddy field is freshly plowed to prepare the track for the race and is filled with half a foot of water and mud just before the contest. A pair of bulls are tied to a yoke kept on their backs, connected to a wooden slide and is controlled by three men who are professional jockeys. And the bulls are then made to race 100 meters down the newly prepared track. The race begins at the noontime and continues till the dusk and it enjoys the participation of nearly 30 teams representing different regions of Kerala.
Each team consists of a pair of bulls and 3 professional jockeys who are experts in managing the bulls. Among the three jockeys, two of them are known as handlers who run on either side of the bulls and steer them using ropes attached to the yoke, leading them to the finishing line while the third man is known as the surfer who sits on a plank of wood between the pair of bulls and slides through the mud. The bulls are specially fed and well-trained to participate in this competition. Also, they are optionally decorated in the traditional manner along with their horns polished.
Bull Surfing, however, highly competitive and risky, is an electrifying carnival enjoyed by the villagers of Kerala. Swarms of people gather around the field to witness the thrilling Bull Surfing. The muddy field turns into a real stadium, once the race begins and it creates a lively ambiance full of energy, excitement and cheerfulness all around. It also reminds us of the old farming practices used in Kerala that involves the participation of bulls. The scene of water splashing as the bulls are raced by their masters is quite a thrill to watch and to take a perfect shot.
The fastest pair of bulls is awarded the cash prizes and trophies sponsored by local clubs or landlords of Kerala. And the category of awards ranges from Best Dressed Bull to Style and Speed.
Bull Surfing is definitely a thrilling and exhilarating event to witness in Kerala. To feel the vibrancy of this event you have to be there at Anandapally during the month of August.
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