The Game of the Steppes Horsemen : Buzkashi
I still remember the scene vividly, my favorite actor, Amitabh Bachan playing an Afghan in the film Khuda Gawah, engaging in a tribal game, Buzkashi as it was called. Of course then Bollywood came in and “Badshah Khan”, as his character is called falls in love with “Benazir” played by Sridevi when they are like almost at par in that Buzkashi contest. I dont really know how many of you remember that scene.
That image of of men on horses trying to take possession of what looked like a dead sheep and trying to throw it into a marked circle looked kinda primeval when played out on the big screen. The sport of Bushkazi, in simple terms entailed a number of horsemen trying to wrest the control of a sheep skin and trying to put it inside a marked circle in the center of the arena where it was held. It was usually a no holds barred contest where except using weapons everything else was pretty much allowed.
Buzkashi, which literally means"goat pulling" in Persian, probably originated in the wilds of Central Asia in the days of the Central Asian Horse empires. Its is still played in that nursery of the feared Mongols, the fore bearers of all the Turkic tribes, in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia. It is said that the Great Khan himself, Genghis Khan made this game up as an exercise to strengthen the legs of his soldiers for war.
As mentioned Buzkashi begun among the nomadic Turkic peoples who came from farther north and east spreading westward from China and Mongolia between the 10th and 15th centuries in a centuries-long series of migrations that ended only in the 1930s. From Scythian times until recent decades, Buzkashi has remained a legacy of that bygone era.
Buzkashi is the name that this sport gets in Afghanistan and is considered the national sport of Afghanistan. Similar games are known as Kokpar, Kupkari and Ulak Tzartysh,in Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan and as Kökbörü and Gökbörü in Turkey, where it is played mainly by communities originally from Central Asia.
We can still imagine images of the Mongols playing a round of Buzkashi in between rounds of raiding and plundering the areas far beyond their ancestral steps. It also spread to their Turkic cousins and each of the Turkic tribes developed their own format and version of the game. It is still regarded a very masculine sport as it was in its earlier form played by the Soldiers in between battles and wars.
Sharing some pics of this sport. Think of it as a wild form of Polo :)
Pic from the Internet for educational purposes. In case you own a copyright to this pic and want it removed please let ,e know and I will immediately remove it.
Pic is from Kabul, Afghanistan. In the winters.