Gambling on Cock Fights at Indian Festival

Over centuries external elements, unrelated to the original cause, creep into the celebration of festivals. Such is the case of gambling on cock fighting during the celebration of the Indian festival of Makar Sankranti. Makar Sankranti, celebrated on January 14, marks the beginning of the sun’s apparent northward journey from the Tropic of Capricorn.

Apart from being one of the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar, Makar Sankranti is celebrated as a harvest festival and the end of the winter season. In many parts of India it is also the day on which there is rampant betting on cock fights. These are more common in rural areas and held in orchards or even temple compounds. Reports in India’s leading newspaper, The Times of India, states that the amount bet in 2012 will reach $40 million, which is double of last year’s figure.

Indian cock fighters breed a rooster known as Aseel for this sport. Two mature roosters with three inch blades attached to their feet are thrown into a pit where they must kill or be killed. Each year thousands of roosters are killed in this bloody sport. Often hens and chicks are not spared. People from villages flock to the contests where they bet on which fowl will win. Instances of immovable property being bet are not unheard of.

The betting violates Indian law. Even the sport itself violates laws related to cruelty of animals. Then there are law and order problems resulting from the brawls that invariably follow. Every year the police threaten strict action against the offenders. But the political parties, who need to the support of the population, intervene and the cock fighting continues in the garb of religious custom.