While gambling is illegal in most areas in India, once a year, tradition and police clash over gambling games that take place after Dasara until Diwali. It seems that tradition holds that it is good luck to gamble during this time, especially on the night of Kumar Purnima. It is believed that this will bring the gamblers wealth and prosperity so while online gambling is technically illegal in India, most take part.
Not only is gambling considered to be auspicious around this time, but there are many that hold the belief that if they do not gamble at this time, they could come back as an owl when they come back in their next incarnation.
In the Ganjam district in Odisha, there are many different forms of gambling that take place during the month between Dasara and Diwali. People place wagers on all kinds of things as is the tradition at this time of the year. While the police try to prevent this gambling, they have been somewhat unsuccessful in doing so. The police are fighting a tradition that is centuries old.
In the town of Berhampur in Ganjam district, it is transformed into an unofficial gambling center during this time. Parents give money to their children in order to gamble, and it is known that sons-in-law are given a special gambling allowance at this time. Men, women, the aged, and the young all take part in gambling, even if only with their relatives and friends.
Gambling takes place in individual households, with many playing popular card games such as Set, Nox, Pata, Kampi, and Sequence. The stakes in the games can be very small or very large, depending on who is playing. It is known that things can get somewhat out of hand when gold jewelry and even cars can end up being wagered on the gambling table. Not only does betting take place in private homes, but during this time, there are also illegal gambling dens that are quickly set up for the season.
When police try to raid the gambling dens, they are often met with resistance from locals. This year, two policemen were injured when they were attacked by locals, and a police vehicle was damaged when stones where thrown during another attempted raid.
A senior police official based in Ganjam said: “Gambling may be a tradition here but it violates the Orissa Prevention of Gambling Act (OPGA) which is already existing in the state. Therefore, we have to take action against the violators of the act.”