In many ways, Kila Raipur is a village just like any other in Punjab – lush green fields, being worked by industrious men and women; aroma of delicious, earthy food wafting from the kitchens; and the enchanting sound of gurbani carrying over the loudspeaker from a nearby gurdwara through the day. But every year in February it becomes the mecca for extreme sports lovers – for it is then that, over a period of three or four days, the village hosts the Kila Raipur Sports Festival, India’s Rural Olympics.
During the festival, this village, about 19 km from Ludhiana, is filled with enthusiasts lifting and pulling heavy items with their teeth, ears or hair; or being run over by heavy tractors; or standing atop horses galloping down a field. And these are just a few of the many quirky events held to test the participants’ endurance. Cheering them on are thousands of their village mates, and tourists from India and abroad.
A local philanthropist, Inder Singh Grewal, started the Kila Raipur Sports Festival in the year 1933. The idea was to organize a set of grueling events where farmers from the area could compete to test their physical prowess, and in the process encourage people to maintain their health through the year. Even Mr Grewal is unlikely to have foreseen that over the next 80-odd years, the festival would grow into a mega international event that sees anywhere from four to six thousand men and women participate in more than 40 disciplines.
Apart from the classic sports disciplines like sprinting and long-distance running, javelin throw and shot put, wrestling and kabaddi, the festival also witnesses some unique events that you won’t find in a more regular sports championship.
Photo Courtesy ruralolympic.net
Stunts like cracking a big stone placed over one’s chest or a heavy tractor passing over one’s ribs are considered run-of-the-mill here. One of the most popular events is the race involving participants aged 70 years and above. The sheer number of physical accomplishments on display can leave no doubt why this part of the country offers up more sportsmen in international events than any other.
There are also a number of events involving animals, from greyhound races to horse and camel racing, where proud owners showcase their thoroughbreds lovingly prepped over years.
Photo Courtesy watanpunjab.com
One of the greatest contributions of the festival is that it also helps revive and maintain traditional sports and games like rassa kashi (tug of war), patang baazi (kite flying), ghaggar phissi (a game involving one participant bearing the weight of a few others riding on him) and gilli danda. Gatka, the centuries-old combat training form that involves wooden sticks used to simulate swords in sparring matches, is also a highlight here.
The festival is worth visiting if it were only for the many sporting feats on display. But there is also a lot on offer for the more culturally (and gastronomically) inclined. Traditional dance forms like the giddha and bhangra are performed in the evenings till late into the night to add to the festivities. And the communal eating – langar – with simple, but wholesome and delicious, food completes the perfect village experience.
Photo by Harmanocp
Other Places to Visit
The village is very close to the industrial, and very affluent, city of Ludhiana. Amidst the many factories, palatial bungalows and shopping malls there are a number of sites worth visiting in the area too. Beautiful gurdwaras like Alamgir Sahib and Nanaksar Jagraon are ideal for a visit after the excitement of the three festival days at Kila Raipur. A trip back in time to the martial history of the region is offered at the several forts here, including the Phillaur Fort, Payal Fort and the Lodhi Fort. Learn more about brave soldiers from Punjab, who have shown their valor in battlefields right from ancient times to the modern Kargil War, at the very well maintained Maharaja Ranjit Singh War Museum.
Kila Raipur is connected with Ludhiana by an excellent road, and local taxi and bus services are available. Ludhiana is easily reachable by train, road or air. The station is an important junction on the Delhi-Amritsar route. The city lies on NH 44, also known as the Grand Trunk Road. Chandigarh International Airport is just 100 km away, served by all major Indian airlines and connected to most Indian and many foreign cities. While visiting Kila Raipur Sports Festival, staying in Ludhiana, which has hotels to suit all budgets, would be the practical thing to do.
Featured Photo (A Sikh Warrior at Kila Raipur Sports Festival) by Thakur Dalip Singh