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Illegal cockfighting: The popular unofficial 'Super Bowl’ of India

Illegal cockfighting: The popular unofficial Super Bowl’ of India

Abhijit Nair

Published: 26 Jan 2021 6:44 AM GMT

The Super Bowl is an annual match held between the two Conference Champions of the National Football League (NFL). It is undoubtedly one of the most awaited and most-watched sporting encounters of the world. With a highly electrifying atmosphere, it is almost a sin to deliberately miss out on watching two of the best NFL teams going against each other with some ferocious intensity.

But, did you know that India has its own Super Bowl, albeit ‘unofficial’?

Yes, you read it right. India surely has its own Super Bowl, but it is largely different from the actual Super Bowl. For, the Indian Super Bowl does not have humans pitted against each other playing some high-intensity football, but it is rather a couple of cocks or roosters fighting it out till one of them is severely injured or dies.

Yes, the unofficial Super Bowl of India is none other than Cockfighting – a cruel blood sport between birds!

What is cockfighting?

Cockfighting is a traditional sport in which two cocks or roosters go up against each other in a ring which is called the Cockpit. The roosters have a small sharp knife or a blade attached to their legs, through which they try to inflict wounds on the other.

The fight is deemed to be over only if either one of the birds is injured badly or if one of them dies. The bird doesn't need to die during the course of the fight but the injuries caused are usually so severe that it more often than not leads to the loss of life for the innocent birds. The birds which get into combat with each other are famously referred to as ‘Gamecocks’.

Cockfighting in India

Cockfighting in India is held as a large scale event around the festival of Makar Sankranti during January. Though the sport is next to non-existent in the urban areas of the country, it is predominantly present in some of the rural parts of the country.

According to some of the sources over the internet, Cockfighting in India can be traced back to as far as the Indus Valley Civilisation. It is said that it was very popular in ancient India, China, Persia, and many other eastern countries. It is also said to have been introduced in Greece during the time of Themistocles between 524 BC to 460 BC.

Cockfighting in Tamil Nadu (Source: caleidoscope.org) Cockfighting in Tamil Nadu (Source: caleidoscope.org)

In modern times, Cockfighting can be witnessed in the coastal regions of Andhra Pradesh in India. Even in the 21st century, it is conducted with much pomp amongst the rural population of the country.

It is said that people train their cocks and roosters throughout the year to get them flight-ready for the big day. Some people bring in more than twenty roosters to the fight and pocket a lump sum amount from the same. With people drowned in alcohol, gambling is also a very big aspect of these cockfights.

Lasting up to two or three days, these cockfights held in India attract thousands of rural Indians as spectators every year, regardless of their age, caste, and gender. From children to young adults and senior citizens, cockfights in India are completely inclusive.

Though there have been various objections raised against the sport by animal rights activists across the globe, these people do not seem to care less about it. It is not that these people do not care about their birds, but it is the fact that cockfighting is so culturally deep-rooted which makes it difficult for these people to give it up. Cockfighting for them is a part of their rich culture and holds historical significance – two things that are highly dear to the citizens of India.

Illegal Cockfighting

Cockfighting was banned and termed illegal in India for the first time in the year 1960 after the implementation of the Prevention of Animal Cruelty Act in the country. The ban was then upheld quite a few times by the judiciary, most notably by the Supreme Court of the country in 2015 and then by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in the year 2016.

With formal protests, the Supreme Court later in 2018 allowed the resumption of the ‘traditional cockfighting’ in the country – meaning people could indulge in cockfighting without the use of any weapons such as a knife or a blade and without gambling or betting.

But the decision does not seem to have affected the sport one bit in the country as people continue to conduct cockfighting tournaments illegally in their own merry ways. A lot of it has to do with the fact that even local politicians and representatives endorse the sport for their own political gains and continue to lend support to this illegal activity. On the other hand, the police forces remain helpless under the power of the politicians.

While many people still believe it should not be completely banned due to its cultural and historical significance, the question remains – Are animal rights secondary to human culture? Should sports like Cockfighting or Jallikattu be allowed to continue just because they are culturally ingrained?

Also read: Sports and Culture: How Tripura became the powerhouse of Indian gymnastics

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