Sunday 18 November 2018

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Dhirio (Bull Fights) in danger ?

 

The bulls race into the ring from opposite directions... catch sight of each other... and screech to a hoof-scraping halt...

Tails go up and rigid, like the banners of medieval knightsgoing into battle... hoofs churn the hard earth into swirlingdust clouds... heads lower, horns gore deep furrows into the earth...

There is no perceptible signal... no apparent spark to setoff the confrontation... but suddenly, to the electrifying drumroll of hooves on hard-packed earth, two tonnes of blood and boneand gristle and plain bloody mean-mindedness hurtle towards anearth-shaking, bone-jarring clash on mid-turf...

One gives way... the other presses the attack...

The first disengages... then slyly lunges for its opponent'sflank...

Like a master fencer, the other bull wheels away, then forwardagain to lock horns with the other...

Cut and thrust... parry and riposte... blood and gore... tillfinally, one of the two is down and helpless... or turns tailand flees, ceding the arena to its conqueror...

While from many hundred massed throats proceeds a primevalroar... the roar of a crowd high on the greatest emotive forceon earth...

Blood lust!

It is feast day in pastoral Goa.

From morning, the build up has begun. Announcer Lucas, megaphonein hand, perches on the rumbling jeep as it judders through theroads and bylanes, trumpeting the track records of the evening'sfeatured contenders. As he goes, he tosses pamphlets around likeso much confetti - multicoloured bits of paper announcing theidentities of the fighters, supplemented with photographs of theleading contenders in martial attitudes...

Meanwhile, the locals are busy with their own preparations. Massand prayers duly over and done with, they return home to an afternoonmeal - typically featuring sorpotel and bebincawashed down with a glass or three of wine or the local brew, feni.The resultant euphoria signals the start of the daily siesta- a ritual of somnolence that a Goan will not omit, no matterhow pressing the emergency...

A refreshing shower later, the family attires itself in its bestand steps out... to join the gaily chattering hordes heading forthe amphitheatre. The mattov, in local Konkani parlance...

No Coliseum, this, but a patch of recently harvested agriculturalland, with corrugated iron sheets forming an impromptu "stadiumwall". Within - and to get in you fork out Rs 35 per adult head,children free - the arrangements are equally simplistic. The arenaproper is demarcated by a thick rope, stretched into a rectangularring reminiscent of, yet far larger, than the average boxing ring.

The primitive PA system kicks in with a throaty rasp..."Ladeeeesand gentlemunnn.... On your right the favourite, Mohammad Aleeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!....and on your left.... the challengerrrr, Saaaaai Babaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!"

Oh yes, the names of featured contestants oftentimes give scopefor ersatz humour. Thus, a Ruud Gullitt could go up againstRam Jaane, a Nana Patekar lock horns with DonaDolly, the King of Pandharpur forget his illustriouslineage and scrap in the dust with Number One Goonda,a Sharad Pawar engage a Saddam Hussain in aduel to the death... But hush....

The bulls race into the ring from opposite directions... catchsight of each other... and screech to a hoof-scraping halt...

One bout ends, the other begins - with the day's card of featuredbouts - the dhirio providing an hour, even two, of primevalexcitement to the massed crowds.

Where, the introspective soul caught up in the throng asks himself,lies the link between a religious festival in predominantly CatholicGoa, and the pagan thrills of a bullfight?

The Christian priests deny any connection, passing the buck tothe minority populations of Hindus and Muslims. Who, for theirpart, shrug collectively and mumble that the dhirio hasalways been a part of life, who knows how it all began? More tothe point, who cares?

A clue to the conundrum could be found in the timing of the annualdhirios. Traditionally, the first dhirio followson the heels of the harvesting of the first konnos (sheavesof corn). The first konnos is traditionally harvestedon August 10 at the village fiesta of St Lawrence Church in Agacaim,the first dhirio held on August 21 at Taleigao, suburbof Goa's capital Panaji.

There is logic, of a primitive sort, to it. Man, having sloggedfor three quarters of the year in his field, finally reaps therewards of his labours. His thoughts turn to play. And what betterinstruments of pleasure than his newly idle field, ditto bulls?

In the event, the dhirio which begins in Taleigao graduallyspans the state - Salcete taluka and Tiswadi, being importantwayside halts in a carnival of violence that climaxes, some sevenweeks later, in Margao. Each local dhirio boasts itsown favourite contenders from among local bulls - but it is thetrue champions who pack them in at the turnstiles through thestate.






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