Traditions and culture have always fascinated me. So when I heard about the Horse Race at Jatar Deul, I could not resist myself to witness the event. A horse race in rural Bengal – this was enough to make me visit Jatar Deul in the middle of April.
Jatar Deul is located at Kankandighi near Raidighi in the South 24 parganas district. After a train, auto and motor van ride of around 4 hours, we reached the Jatar Deul. Please read my earlier post to know more about Jatar Deul and its interesting history.
On the second day of Baisakh (this year on 16th April) a horse race is held at Jatar Deul. A fair is also held during this time. The horse race usually starts in front of the temple and follows a certain path in the adjoining paddy fields before ending again in front of the temple.
The area around the temple complex was converted into a fair. It had all the colours and flavours of rural Bengal. There were various food stalls along with ice cream and kulfi malai stalls. There were other stalls of colourful merchandise and merry-go-round that are must in fairs!
Singing, dancing and jatra (rural plays) were also to be held at the fair. Overall, it was a festive and jovial atmosphere at Jatar Deul.
The Horse race:
The horse race was due to start from about 4:30 PM. The horses were generally brought from outside the villages. A few of them were brought from Canning. We were informed that there were 20 horses that would take part in the race this year. The horses were brought out and paraded before the crowd by their owners and jockeys. Well, here the jockeys were mostly boys in their teens.
These small boys would ride these horses for the race. Also there were no saddle and stirrups. There was no fixed racing track. The horses ran through the uneven fields with the onlookers standing just inches away from them. Although it seemed a bit dangerous to me, but I learnt that is what happens every year.
So we started waiting for the horse race to begin. The race takes place in several rounds. There is a complex point system and each of the horses gets a point after each round. After a certain number of rounds, the horse getting the maximum points is declared the winner. The point system went clearly above my head! I simply could not understand it and so decided to focus on the race. The atmosphere was quite charged up when the rounds started. The horses raced past the onlookers amidst much clapping and cheering. A few of the horses (I believe they were mules) were left far behind and they refused to budge even after much beating from their jockeys!
We watched 3 rounds of the horse race till 5:30 PM and then we decided to return back. Yet, there were 2 more round left. So if you want to witness the entire event, either take a car or stay back at Raidighi. Raidighi has some basic hotels.
How to reach:
Take a train towards Lakshmikantapur from Sealdah (South) and get down at Mathurapur Road.
From Mathurapur Road, take an auto to Raidighi.
From Raidighi, take a motor van to Kankandighi.