Come to Bastar for the Weekly Markets, Stay for the Cockfights
All images: Vijay Pandey
Travel

Come to Bastar for the Weekly Markets, Stay for the Cockfights

As controversial as the sport may be, it remains a cultural staple of the region.
May 29, 2018, 4:30am

Every week, hundreds of people, but mostly men, gather at the weekly market at the Geedam Bazaar in Dantewada, Chhattisgarh. They come to place bets on their favorite cock.

Cockfighting is prohibited under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the AP Gaming Act, 1974. Despite police crackdowns, its popularity doesn’t seem to have waned. The weekly haat, or market, in Bastar is incomplete without the traditional blood sport of cockfight. As bloody and upsetting as they are to many animal rights activists, cockfights are considered a distinctive facet of Bastar’s tribal cultural identity.

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The makeshift ring is surrounded by huge crowds standing in rows, as two roosters with sharpened two-inch-blades at their feet lunge at each other. The crowd place their bets quickly as fights don’t last longer than five to 10 minutes. There’s a 15 minute breaks between rounds, allowing the victor time to collect his winning and the surviving rooster. As many as 40 to 50 bouts can take place from noon till dusk. As the fights rage on, locals and spectators imbibe mahua and selphi (locally brewed liquor).

The sport isn't just fatal for birds, in 2014, a man believed to be a Special Police Officer was supposedly stabbed by Maoists while attending a cockfight. These photos were taken in Geedam Bazaar, in 2016.

Two roosters are let out as spectators place bets in the background.

Cockfighting is a traditional sport in the region.

The birds often have two-inch-blades tied to their feet.

Madkam Hunga with his prize champion before a fight.

Spectators have a short time in which to place their bets. A fight rarely lasts over 10 minutes.

The sport attracts hundreds of people every week.

There are no bookies so bets are placed amongst spectators.

Locally brewed Mahua and Selphi are the drinks of choice at a cockfight.

The winning owner collects his bird in the background. All fights are to the death.

This article originally appeared on VICE India.