Chandrabhaga Fair: Where the Horses Dance

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November 24th 2018
Published: February 20th 2019
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How do you describe the dust stirring, drum beating excitement of horse dancing?

How do you convey the fear of near misses with horse hooves and the thrill of watching majestic beasts use their many muscles to contort into art forms?

How do you explain the magnetism that draws a crowd in a matter of minutes, if not seconds?

If I knew, I would not have struggled so much with this blog! My easy answer is with many photos, but even the photos seem to fall a tad bit short.

The event starts with the sounds. The rhythmic beating of the metallic drums draws in the crowd and then the intoxicating sound is punctuated with the crowd’s gasps and cheers as the show progresses.

The drummers keep the beat and they seem to conduct the show. If you are not careful, you find yourself ignoring the horses to focus on the endearing and energizing enthusiasm of the drumming corps. These guys take their jobs very seriously and seem to enjoy every note.

The horse dancing we watched at Chandrabhaga included a drumming corps
with a very young drummer. The drum was as big as him, but what he may have lacked in size or years, he made up for in exuberance. He was talented, proud and loving every minute. His enthusiasm was infectious to say the least.

The drum beats are felt within your chest, but the intensity of the moment is felt throughout your entire body. There is the excitement of the dancing, the adrenaline of trying not to get killed and the struggle to not get knocked over by the pulsing crowd.

There are people jockeying for better views. There are people hoping to get a great video of the moment. And there are the people in the front rows of the unorganized crowd who must keep a keen eye on the activity in hopes of not having a rearing horse land on them.

I know it sounds like I am being dramatic, but in this instance not one bit of this is dramatized. At the show we witnessed at Chandrabhaga, people were pushed over and knocked aside and a motorcycle was even knocked over by a moving horse. This is India...a land without insurance companies and lawyers running the show!

Dad and I used our western world size and our stubborn American bravado to make sure we were in the front row of the action. We came close to horse maneuvers, but we were never wavered by the waves of the crowd. We were lucky enough to be in the center of the action.

A friend of ours was lucky enough to be on top of a Land Rover with his professional camera and we were blessed enough that he shared those photos with us.

Speaking of the chaotic crowd, I assume I do not need to convey it was a group made up of men, the obvious exception being this lone gora with her father!

The sounds and emotions are coupled with the artistic performance of a graceful, athletic animal that is trusting enough to follow the verbal commands of his trainer and caring enough to not harm any of the spectators. The horses use their size and their grace to create a beautiful show that is nothing short of artwork.

I always experience a
little internal struggle when we witness anything involving animals and humans working together to perform or entertain. Were the animals treated well during training? Do the animals mind doing this? Are they scared? Have they been harmed? Could they be harmed? Is this natural? Do they enjoy having a job?

This case, as in many cases, I do not know the answers to these questions. I know the horse looked to be in great condition and followed direction by verbal commands. The owner seemed to adore his horse and showed him off like a proud parent. No animal or human was harmed while I was present. Other than that, I do no know.

What I do know, is it is hard to describe the thunderous thrill of watching horse dancing at Chandrabhaga.

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