Even as people elsewhere in the State observed Christmas by cutting cakes, exchanging gifts and picnicking, cock-fight marked the celebration at Ragadha, a remote village in Mayurbhanj district on Wednesday.
Thousands of people from different parts of the district and neighbouring districts gathered at the village market and engaged their birds in the gory fight.
While cock-fight involves betting and gambling, locally known as ‘Khadia’, a fighter cock can fetch thousands of rupees. Started from the Christmas day, the cock-fight would continue till Makar Sankranti in January.
Sunaram Hembram, president of Chachaji Yuvak Sangha which organised the event at Ragadha, said a fighter cock of good breed was sold for `34,000 last year and this year the best cock was auctioned at `70,000.
Locals said price of a cock depends on its ability and past records. The owner of such fighter cocks rears them well and the cocks are given almonds, cashew nuts, millets and wheat grains to make them stronger for the tough battle.
Before the fight takes place, sharp knives or razor blades are tied to the legs of the fighter fowl. Two cocks fight until one of them is dead.
The district has had a long history of animal fights, prominent among them being bull fight and sheep fight but cock-fight, which is also called feather fight, is considered more interesting.
Cock-fight used to be a favourite pastime of the Mayurbhanj royal families and often the kings were patronising it by organising annual shows within the precincts of the palace at Baripada. The owners of the winning cock were rewarded by the King.
As per the tradition, the owner of the winner cock would take all the money put on the bet and his cock will get a title by the community or tribal body organising the sport. The defeated cock will be cooked for the dinner which will be hosted by the winner with liquor and other food items.
Bird lovers are worried as despite ban order, such fights are rampant in the tribal dominated areas of the State. They alleged that poorly equipped administration had failed to create awareness among the people about various provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act and take stringent action against the violators.