OFFBEAT PUNJAB- SOLO BUDGET TRIP TO KILA RAIPUR RURAL OLYMPICS NEAR LUDHIANA
THE RURAL OLYMPICS AT KILA RAIPUR near Ludhiana in Punjab is one of its kind festivals. A movie poster promoted the Punjabi movie called Kila Raipur on the walls. The Kabaddi and hockey players were warming up. The local kids were goofing up, requesting me to click them, the elderly had started to occupy the seats around the stadium.
A lazy moment was hijacked by a bare-chested man with disabled legs. Not waiting for an audience to build, within moments he thrust his entire body upon a beer bottle stuck in ground. Lost in my thoughts, I noticed his presence when a small group applauded his histrionics.
Soon inundated with requests of a repeat performance, he single handedly stole the limelight from the rest of the sportsmen and unwittingly also set the tone for the day. I knew in that moment that more bizarre and quirky moments will follow at the annual 3 day long Rural Olympics of Kila Raipur.
I was lucky to attend the 80th edition of the festival in 2016. Rural Olympics at Kila Raipur began in 1933 as an informal event where villagers from different areas congregated and displayed their muscle power in fully glory. Over the years, it has evolved and in its present form it is not just a rural sports event but also a kaleidoscope of Punjabi heritage, culture & machismo.
I had bumped into an Italian-Punjabi NRI who had come to India just to attend the event. Many foreigners and urban DSLR camera toting youngsters also head to the Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur every year along with the media.
By noon the audience had filled every inch of space outside the stadium ring. They had clung to whatever they could. Adults and kids, both agape mouthed, watched the proceedings in awe. The political incorrectness in rural land allowed the audience to create their own comfort zones.
Nihangs (men in blue robes) aka akali (Immortal) watched the proceedings sitting atop their horses. Toting customary weapons, they exuded a sense of authority. And then there were bad ass security men who would make you cry if you misbehave. They were armed with tear gas.
Watching Kabaddi after so many years brought alive my childhood memories. I remember I was good at it. While Kabaddi was the sport which was played all day at Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur, many blink and miss sports events were played throughout the day. Some of it was serious sports while most were bizarre and visually entertaining.
Women’s race, Old men’s race, kids’ race, Tyre race (Men run and push the big tyres- and win, well, tyres!), cart race, horse cart race, horse race, tractor race were some of the easier to grasp events.
Then there was the man who rode two horses at time and pulled it off with elan at blink- and-you-miss speed! Another man shouldered the heavy weight and did a ramp walk around the stadium.
The cycling race turned out to be interesting to me. Almost all the participants in the cycle race were clad in professional dresses and pedaled professional cycles. One local villager stood out in the race thanks to his desi (Country made) cycle and rough clothes. Within minutes, everyone was rooting for him and cheering him despite the lack of resources he had. He did not win the race, but he did win the love of the people. People from the audience gifted him money for his efforts despite his losing at the game.
The other jaw dropping sports at Kila Raipur involved holding layers of bricks (With a child sitting atop!) with teeth, pulling a car (with 2 passengers sitting in it) with teeth, riding a bike and a tractor over tae-kwon-do trained girls and regular men respectively. Nearby was a man pulling two 350 cc Royal Enfields with just his teeth. Yes, of course with 4 passengers.
Punjabi folk songs played in the background as men and women performed magical stunts on moving bike. Without touching the handle, the men would ride the bike (At times standing on the seat) around the stadium, winning applauds from the audience. Another quirky game was the fun loading unloading game, where the team which finishes loading and unloading heavy gunny bags from a tractor first, wins! The twist: the bags were filled with wheat.
There was more to ‘mahaul’ (ambiance) than just sports! Bhangra performers from ‘deaf and dumb’ (their words, not mine) school made the proceedings lively with their spirited dances. The live commentary was politically incorrect and at times unintentionally hilarious. The words also reflected the innocence of the people.
Elderly men would control and discipline the crowd with the authority of family head. They would scold the unruly ones like a father would scold his children. In the backyard of the Kila Raipur stadium, myriad food and beverages were sold with a mela (fete) like enthusiasm. The kids guarded their father’s carts while the lazy women, comatose in the winter sun, pretended to sell berries.
As the darkness fell, the kabaddi matches were still going on. Some of the winners had started leaving the stadium. I met an ecstatic man who won 3rd prize in tractor race. His son showed it off to me with pride. The green fields in distance had pulled upon it a misty blanket. I had my last chola kulcha and left the place. The men were still standing in a disciplined circle to watch the ongoing kabbadi match. One member of the audience was standing stop a motorbike. I looked back, smiled at all the craziness and called it a day!
OTHER TRAVEL BLOGGERS I MET AT KILA RAIPUR
It was a solo travel but I bumped into two other talented travel bloggers, Ragini and Anil Yadav sir. Catching my live updates on Instagram , Facebook and Twitter , Ragini knew I was around. My cell battery had exhausted and Ragini tried to find me in the food section (I was posting more food pictures than sports pictures). Later she found me sitting with the locals; the zip of my bag open, kulchas and chips threatening to fall off it. She did all the translation of hilarious commentary in Punjabi for me. Special thanks to her for this and to her parents for dropping me till Ludhiana in their car.
THE CONFIDENT HORSE RACE WINNER OF KILA RAIPUR
I met Jitendar and his mare called Rani. He won the race last time and was confident that this time too he will win despite a change in horse from the last year. He did win in 2016 too. He recognized Ragini as soon as we approached him. Ragini’s parents gifted him money in 2015 ‘s race (a tradition encouraged here) . He remembered them even after a year.
MEET TITU MAHAJAN- GOVINDA OF PUNJAB AT KILA RAIPUR.
Meet Titu Mahajan, Govinda of Punjab, as he introduced himself. It was hard to agree to him that he looked like Bollywood superstar Govinda. But when he wore the glasses and started doing histrionics, I freaked out as I did see a Govinda in him.
He brought with him many cuttings of newspapers where he was featured and enthusiastically showed us. He has done some bit roles in films including a Punjabi film with acclaimed actress Divya Dutta. His is a businessman. He shifted his focus on business when his efforts to try his luck in Bollywood failed many moons ago. Ragini has blogged a flawless account of our meeting here.
Bike stunts. Solo budget trip to Kila Raipur, Rural Olympics near Ludhiana. Incredible India!
WHEN TO VISIT RURAL OLYMPICS, KILA RAIPUR:
The rural Olympics in Kila Raipur are held in the month of February every year. The date varies every year.
HOW TO REACH KILA RAIPUR FROM NEW DELHI AND LUDHIANA:
Early morning from New Delhi, I took a bus to Ludhiana bus stand.
The next morning, I took local bus to Dehlun from Ludhiana Bus Stand. Not many buses go to Dehlun so please ask around the previous night.
From Dehlun, I took a shared autorickshaw to the main entrance of the stadium.
HOW I DID SOLO TRAVEL TO KILA RAIPUR ON A BUDGET:
These are the expenses I made during the trip:
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics-Day 1:
- Bus from New Delhi to Ludhiana: Rs. 400
- Meals (on highway) : INR 150
- Meals (in Ludhiana bus stand on day 1): Rs. 120 (Makke ki roti, Sarso ka Saag, Lassi)
- Hotel Room INR 300
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics-Day 2:
- Breakfast- Skipped
- Bus from Ludhiana to Dehlun: Rs.15
- Shared rickshaw from Dehlun to Stadium: Rs. 10
- Hotel Room INR 300
- Meals (in Kila Raipur on day 2): Rs. 100 (Survived on Kulchas- INR 10 a piece, sugarcane juices and chaats. I had 4 plates kulcha chola n two plates aaloo tikki, chips and more)
- Meals (in Ludhiana bus stand on day 2): Rs. 200 (Makke ki Roti, Sarso ka Saag, Palak Paneer)
Kila Raipur Rural Olympics-Day 3:
- Breakfast at Ludhiana bus stand- Rs. 50
- Ludhiana to New Delhi bus- Rs. 400
- Meals on highway- Rs.200
Total Cost- INR 2,225
(These are round figures of actual cost, up and down by few rupees. E.g. The real price of a meal mentioned here as Rs.100 might be around Rs. 85 or Rs. 90)
Where did I stay in Ludhiana for Rural Sports, Kila Raipur:
I stayed at a very dingy hotel room opposite Ludhiana Bus Stand. I can’t recommend it to everyone as it was really a shady place. I was the only guest at the top floor of the vertical hotel. My room didn’t even have a bolt and lock. “Just go and sleep, no one will come!” I was told. When I insisted, I was given a room with a bolt. The room was opposite the bus stand so I was bombarded with horn noise for 2 nights. The bathroom had no light and was too small. Do it (Only males) for Rs. 300 a night only if you can slum it up.
Where to Eat in Ludhiana and Kila Raipur (Rural Olympics): Check out the many restaurants opposite the Ludhiana Bus Stand. Almost all of them serve excellent Makke Di Roti and Sarso Da Saag (Corn Bread with Mustard leaves curry), Aaloo Ka Paratha (Potato stuffed bread) and Kulchas (Breads often with stuffings).
When in Kila Raipur, eat at the many food stalls at the rear end of the stadium. These are the places where the villagers eat from. If you have hygiene issues (which I clearly didn’t have), please bring your own food. Chances are that you will not get the hygiene standard you have been looking for. Please carry at least 2 liters of water per person.
Have breakfast at Ludhiana or just before reaching Kila Raipur stadium, stop at Dehlun for nice clean places for breakfast.
The chola kulcha served at Rural Olympics, Kila Raipur was of a different variety. It was more potato than chola (chick peas), stuffed in Kulcha like you stuff a Pita bread. It was topped with ketchup and cabbage. At INR 10 a piece, it was filling and tasted great.
Tips on How to do Kila Raipur cheaper: Book train tickets (General class/ sleeper class) instead of bus. Eat off the road side carts and not sit down restaurants. Better still pack food from home. Fresh food for the bus journey and dry food for the rest of the trip!
Many highway dhabas (Highway dining stalls) are a rip off. For example: I ordered 2 Aaloo ka Paratha which would have costed me just Rs. 50. But they served me a Rs. 150 Aaloo Ka Paratha plate with unnecessary dal makhni and salad for Rs. 150. In another case, simple Rajma Chawal was served to me at Rs. 200 (Extra quantity which I could not eat and salads which I didn’t need) Always ask the price before you eat. Better still, pay before you eat! The rip off is a widespread malpractice in other North Indian states also.
Disclaimer: The budget solo travel ideas suggested here may not be safe for solo woman traveler. This blog is entirely a brown male’s perspective and suitable for males.
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