Once a year, on the fifth day of the moon in a month when the wheat has been harvested and the fields are bare, as many as 15,000 persons from all the villages in Bharatpur gather at Sinsini for their annual three-day fair. A 14-man committee of lambardars (village chieftains) directs the fair and its events—racing on bicycles, camels, horses and bullock carts, wrestling, dancing and singing of devotional music. In essence, the fair at the ancestral village of the Maharajah of Bharatpur is much like those at Danbury, Connecticut or Rutland, Vermont—even to the primitive, hand-turned Ferris wheel, called a rehent. But India can also be modern, and for a look at some Western trends on that nation's sporting front, turn to page 19 and a report by SI Correspondent Alexander Campbell.
THIS GAILY DECORATED BULLOCK, WEARING THE MULTICOLORED CLOTH CALLED "JHUL," PLODS OVER THE CROWDED FAIRGROUNDS
Country matron, her features shrouded against the gaze of men, proudly carries her child and a mass of silver arm ornaments called hathpul.
Wrestlers compete for the Maharajah's prizes, 400 rupees ($84) and the right to keep for a year a silver mace which is modeled after that carried by the monkey god, Hanuman.
Dancing is a big part of the fair too, and this boy is one of many who draw crowds with skilled exhibitions of traditional village dances. Bharatpur also is famous for its drum dance.
Bullock carts, like Roman chariots, line up before the big race under the direction of a village chieftain (left of center, above). The bullocks were dragging loads the day before and, quite obviously, are not built for speed. Drawing their carts (bahilis), the animals make about 10 miles an hour. The picture below is the last ever taken by Ylla, who was photographing the race from the hood of a slow-moving jeep when it struck an obstruction and pitched her to the ground, injuring her fatally.