Extreme Sports – Photography of Bull Races in Kerala, India

Photography of Bull Races in India

Craziest Extreme Sport

Kerala Photography by Anoop Negi

This post is not about Redbull Racing. No It is not that I do not like Vettel. I positively endorse his driving style and love his performances till date. If things be what they are, he may still win the 2012 F1 championship. If you think F1 racing is extreme or tough and exciting or for that matter snowboarding, skiing down the Himalayas or surfing mighty waves are all tough and exciting extreme sports, than you have not been to India to see the wet mud bull races which are held in Kerala. If you prefer a dry version, Pakistan has some over there.

The most famous bull race is held in Kerala in India and it is an extremely tough one. Bulls are reared specially for racing. They are fleet footed and tough and two of them are hitched together in a harness and a team of 3 men tries to run with the bulls till the finishing point which may be about 100 metres or so. A paddy field is filled with water days in advance and the field is generally in 6 or more inches of water. There is fine mud and rain and sometimes sunshine to accompany the event.

The bulls are always impatient and eager to run the gauntlet of 100 plus yards, mud or no mud. Two runners hold a guide rope to control the direction and speed of the bulls and they actually sprint in the mud alongside the bulls. There is a third rider who sits on a thin plank of wood between the two bulls. Here is a photograph to show case how it looks.

Bull racing
Racing with the bulls

This event is one of sheer courage and am sure an embodiment of manhood for the Malayali man. That year there were about 50-60 heads of bulls that you could count. The latest one held in August in 2012 is reported to have had only 12 pairs. There has been a steady decline in the numbers mostly because of ongoing litigation between organizations wanting a ban on any event that requires animals to perform. They are fighting cases in the Higher courts to stop the horse races because of the usage of a whip. Stuff like that. Anyway, it appears that these races may go on now till it suffers normal attrition as less and less brave or courageous souls venture in this mad bull rush.

For this event I drove down from Cochin to a small town called Adoor. Close to this, is a village called Ananadapalli where the race track was located.The whole exercise of the bull racing is called “Maramadi” or Maramady” and is held every year around Onam time. It is an agrarian pursuit and a thrill to watch for the pure joy of men splashing in the water and running as if for their lives. Beats the 100 m dash at the Olympics.

More exciting things happen during the race. Specially interesting and dangerous is when the bulls can not be stopped from running. They scramble and jump over the 4-6 feet embankment in the blink of an eye and the bystanders, mostly young men packed on the earthen bund have to save their lives. Similar fate awaits camera men who happen to be there. Fortunately all is in God’s hand and nothing untoward happens. A living proof that God exists and wants Indians alive and kicking..err running.;-)

This post is to showcase photos from the event A series of photos where the bulls go charging into the embankment stands will come up in a separate post.

So here we go !

Bull racing at frantic pace
Bull racing – Are the riders in control ?

Here it is not a standard race but the bulls have bolted before the starting gun and the runner is trying to catch up.

RAcing at Full Throttle
Racing bulls in Kerala

Another take of a standard bull race

Jockey raises some mud
The Jockey in the bull race remains hidden in the fine spout of water and mud

And here is a jockey spraying some fine water and mud.

The Jockey on his way back performs some impromptu moves
Is this the Indian Rope Trick ?
One of the bull racers stop briefly
A young bull racer

Each image in this selection is linked to the published page on Flickr. A simple click on the image will take you there. All images are copyrighted and you may not use it for any commercial purpose whatsoever.

For more connected links here are the resources –

Anoop Negi on Flickr

Anoop Negi on 500px

Anoop Negi on Behance

Photography by Anoop Negi on Facebook

    Yes there are more photos on bull racing at Flickr


27 thoughts on “Extreme Sports – Photography of Bull Races in Kerala, India

  1. nice writeup to go with those stunning photographs Anoopji
    Well, though I hail from Kerala I havent had a chance to witness something like this
    Been away from flickr for a while, hoping to catch up soon

    1. Anooj – Thanks for dropping by and your feedback. Life is like that. While I was in Kerala, the people in the Central and Southern parts had never seen a Theyyam performance. Same for the bull races I guess…

    1. Thanks for your feedback

      The bull races were stopped in Punjab also but early thisyear the Supreme / High Court allowed the rac es to go on.

      Let us hope Maharashtra gets to witness some plain bullock cart racing in the near future

    1. Thanks for your feedback

      Kerala is regarded as one of the Top 10 places in the world for photography. The light is generally sublime and there are so many genres that you can shoot here

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