For rural residents in Coimbatore, Tirupur, Erode and a few other parts of the western region, the annual Pongal festival may never gets fulfilled without watching rekla race.
But things are different this year as the race may turn low key due to surging COVID infections. This century-old sport, which used to be a crowd puller, was first planned on a massive scale at CODISSIA in Coimbatore on January 23.
“As organising the race in CODISSIA may attract huge crowds, it was decided to be shifted to the district outskirts. But multiple races will be held in different areas,” said S Jaya Prakash, in-charge of Tamil Nadu Rekla Club.
Last year, the race was organised on CODISSIA Road, where more than 450 pairs of bullocks participated. Like jallikattu, which is famous in Southern districts, the rekla race has been popular in the Western districts.
“Only native breeds like Kangeyam and Alambadi varieties, which are known for their speed, participate in the race. The sport has been growing in popularity over the years,” he added.
Two decades ago, the number of participating bulls used to be less than 100 in each of the race categories. It’s quite different now as the numbers have more than doubled, despite a string of restrictions in force.
Bulls are allowed to participate after checking various parameters like age, weight, health status and no torture is allowed during the race. Just like Jallikattu, the winners are awarded with gold coins and two-wheelers.
To participate in the race, bulls undergo rigorous training, besides being fed with highly nutritious food.