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Sarangkheda Rides High With India’s Oldest Horse Fair

26-12-2017 01:30 PM | Lathika Saju | My Indian Dream

Sarangkheda Rides High With India’s Oldest Horse Fair | My Indian Dream

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Oscar and Bahubali to steal the show at the Chetak Horse Festival

Every year the sleepy town of Sarangkheda comes alive in December with the Chetak festival, the oldest and largest equestrian fair in the country.  The fair has been hosted for centuries in the Nandurbar district in Maharashtra which is close to the borders of Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat and has attracted hundreds of horse breeders from across the country who converge here to buy and sell horses.

The Chetak Festival held in this remote village is steeped in a 500-year-old history. This horse fair is named after Maharana Pratap's famed horse Chetak that he supposedly bought at Sarangkheda and went on to escape on during one of the most decisive battles against the Mughals.

The great Maratha ruler, Chhatrapati Shivaji is also known to have visited this fair to acquire war horses. It once attracted farmers from as far away place as Baluchistan and Arabia.

This year, the star of the show is undoubtedly Oscar, a seal brown stallion with white hooves and lean athletic build. Its owner Satputa is camping with six of his horses at the Chetak Festival where some of the biggest horse dealers pick up the best horses with the hope of unveiling the next show jumping star, a suave wedding ghodi, a thoroughbred racehorse or simply for good luck.

However, Satputa would not sell his Oscar even when it was offered a whopping Rs 1.11 crore from a Jaipur buyer. According to the proud owner, Oscar is a unique horse and it is only for display as he refuses to part with it. The four-year-old stud boasts of an ambling gait and inward-turning ear tips that make Oscar easily recognizable as a Marwari, an equine breed known for its valor in wars.

Well, Oscar has a stiff competitor in Bahubali, a two-year-old tall chestnut horse from Nashik, tagged at Rs 51 lakh but not for sale either.

Both Oscar and Bahubali will be participating in beauty contests competing over their pedigreed lineage, milk teeth and trotting tricks in "beauty contests" at this fair.

Over the years, this historical and oldest fair had reduced to a bazaar where people were selling spices and clothes more than horses. Now, the Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC) is leaving no stone unturned to hard sell Sarangkheda as a national equestrian hub since they joined forces as an official partner last year and witnessed a trade of horses worth Rs 2.5 crore.

Thanks to the MTDC’s efforts, the fair has bounced back and is garnering wider attention. It has invested Rs 4.25 crore this time to fence off the fair, provide previously-absent water, light and shade and extended the two-week affair into a month-long jamboree.

While horse trading will be the priority at the festival, it will also include other events like quad biking, archery, paramotoring and water sports activities to woo more visitors.

Thus, this historical fair which had gone unnoticed for many years will be elevated to a global platform to increase tourist footfall and create employment opportunities for the villagers of Sarangkheda.

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