Kabutar Baazi - Pigeon Gaming - a folk sport

Folk Sports are home grown sports that remain localised and have no equivalent in other regions. In a country as diverse as India - the bamboo climbing sport of Nagaland, the Kabaddi of Maharashtra and Goa, and the Kabutar Baazi of North India have no equivalent in other parts of India - so finding these sports on an international platform is unlikely. Some have developed because of the interest shown by sportsmen or because of patronage, and enjoy the platform of community organisation. Others remain within the realm of individuals and there is no common platform or sponsor in which interested sportsmen may participate. Kabutar baazi belongs to the first category. I first heard of  Kabutar Baazi through William Dalrymple's book on Delhi  where he describes the legendary age old 'Persian' customs such as the Pigeon Flock Contests. He talks about the skill of men controlling flocks of pigeons - making them to fly up and land back with just a few verbal commands. The level of skill determines the status you earn in this sport and while it is challenging but possibe to become an "Ustad", becoming a Khalifa can be an ambitious goal. It is a sport that is popular in the North West of India as well is in Pakistan, with every town boasting of at least a few skilled sportsmen. Unlike many other folk sports - this one is fairly developed and championships are held every year at the town, regional and sate level. The pigeon master - or the Kabutar Baaz -  raises the pigeons and looks after their health as he prepares each bird individually in terms of strength and stamina. A few images of a Kabutar Baaz (a Pigeon Sportsman) and his pigeons:  

Outside the Kabutar Baaz's home

The feeding pipette with which the pigeons are fed enriched water prior to competitions

His babies - a few days old

The top performers - marked by foot bands

A few weeks old

The Champ with his championship Cup

Visitors to small towns in North India during the spring months can seek out practice kabutar baazis and contests for a fine display of human - bird bonding! jm November 2011


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