Kathmandu: A unique 200-year-old bull fighting festival marking the beginning of the Magh month of the Hindu calender was held in Nepal today with thousands of people witnessing the spectacle that has often attracted criticism from animal rights activists.
People of Nuwakot district, 40 km west of Kathmandu, organised the bull fighting festival in which a total of 15 pairs of bulls participated in Taruka, situated in the bank of famous Trishuli river.
About 10,000 people, including tourists, gathered at the river banks to witness the event that also marks the Maghe Sankranti festival.
Unlike in Spain and other European countries, where men take part in such events, in Nepal, the bulls are made to fight each other. Much less or no blood is shed in the festival.
However, animal rights activists have attacked the festival on the grounds that it causes injuries and have sought to have it banned.
The bull that loses, usually runs away. The owner of the bull that wins usually gets the losing bull as reward. But now cash prizes have also been introduced, Baburaja Amatya, a local resident, said.
The bull fighting tradition is said to have started at the time of Raja Jayprithvi Bahadur Singh, who was the local King some two centuries ago.
When he visited his maternal uncle's home in Nuwakot district as a child, bull fighting was organised for the first time to entertain him. Later on, people held the event as a tradition.
The festival is being held in an organised manner for the last ten years to attract tourists.
Now the festival has become an attraction for both domestic as well as international tourists. People from neighbouring Dhading, Lamjung districts and Kathmandu also visit Nuwakot to enjoy the festival.
The festival takes place around mid-January marking the first day in the month of Magh as per the Hindu calendar.
The bull fighting is related with the profession of agriculture as the majority of people here are farmers.
People put their bulls on a heavy diet to prepare for bull fighting festival. Bulls are used to plough field and the stronger bulls represent good harvesting.
Therefore, the people have been organising the festival so as to keep their bull healthy and stronger, Amatya said.
This year's bull fighting festival is the first in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that hit central Nepal last year.
Nuwakot is one of the quake-affected areas, where more than 1,000 houses were damaged by the disaster.
The devastating earthquake killed nearly 9,000 people and damaged more than 6 lakh houses across Nepal.