Hingot yuddh: An ancient ritual and identity of Runji Gautampura

Hingot yuddh: An ancient ritual and identity of Runji Gautampura

Hingot yuddh: An ancient ritual and identity of Runji Gautampura

A Diwali tradition, 'warriors' of two adjacent villages in Indore district fire hingot ‘rockets’ at each other, in an act reminiscent of the mythological wars


Indore, Madhya Pradesh: After a spell of uncertainty, the Indore administration has given its approval to organise hingot yuddha  an annual mock battle between the warriors of Turra and Kalgi on the fields of Runji Gautampura on Dhok Padwa, the day after Diwali. Due to a solar eclipse on October 25, the event will take place the next day.

While Turra represents Gautumpura, Kalgi represents Runji the villages located on either side of the Indore-Ujjain Road, forming the core of Runji Gautampura, a small town in Depalpur block.

As in the previous years, hingoriyan trees in and around Runji Gautampura are bereft of hingot (desert date), which resembles a small mango kerri (raw mango). The locals have plucked the hingot nuts to dry and will use them as ‘burning missiles’ during the yuddha (war). 

“In a meeting on October 18, attended by the sub-divisional magistrate, tehsildar, police station incharge and noted citizens of Gautumpura, it was decided that hingot yuddha would be held in a disciplined manner,” Vishal Rathi, the former president of Gautumpura City Council, told 101Reporters.

“The warriors will submit their Aadhaar IDsand take adequate safety measures. Once they clear the alcohol test, they will be allowed to participate,” he added.

Earlier, there was uncertainty on whether the ritual will be held on the maidan adjoining the Devnarayan Temple, the reason being the reporting of injuries in the past. Two Public Interest Litigations (WP-7819/2015 and WP-17198/2017) seeking a ban on the sport were filed in the Indore High Court.

While the first petition was disposed of as infructuous, the second one filed by Sadhu Prasad Namdeo was admitted. It stated that one person died and 38 others suffered injuries in hingot yuddha. And in its latest order on March 25, the High Court directed the petitioner to include the representatives of Turra and Kalgi as respondents.

As per a news report, the State government in its reply to the court submitted that hingot yuddha is observed as a religious and cultural practice in Gautampura, and such practices have been given protection under the Constitution.

Due to restrictions, the sport was not allowed during the COVID-19 period. To maintain the tradition, the warriors participated in a mock battle in a secluded place, according to local sources.   

The game in a nutshell

The participants start preparing the crackers after Dussehra. They pluck the hingots, dry the shells, scrape the surface, drill two holes and extract the soft pulp. Then the hard hingot shell is filled with a mixture of local combustible material called daroo. 

(Above) The explosive hingots are prepared days in advance using combustible materials; (Below) The game officially begins after evening prayers are offered at the Devnarayan Temple (Photos: Vinati Bhargava Mittal)

The ingredients include crushed charcoal of castor or arandi ki lakdi (a source of biodiesel) and ear of corn, besides soda, gandrap and kshar. After being stuffed, the shell is covered in yellow mud, a binder, and then tied to a bamboo stick that helps propel it. Once ready, the rockets are stored away.

After offering prayers in the evening at the Devnarayan Temple, the participants carry their ammunition in sling bags. They light the wick using arandi ki lakdi, which burns slowly like incense sticks. They then hurl the rockets one by one at their opponents. The hingot shells flash past like meteors, and are defended by the other side using iron shields.

There are no winners or losers in this friendly war, which is perceived as an act of bravery and masculinity. “In mythology, men went to war. This tradition is followed here,” said sports psychologist Dr Sudhira Chandel of the School of Physical Education, Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya, Indore. Without any set rules or training, hingot yuddha does not qualify as a sport. It is rather a recreational game of war, which has been played across the ages. Being a native of Indore, Chandel heard about it from her grandparents first, though a more structured research into its history has happened only in the recent years.   

Although there have been attempts to ban the game, the administration had to give in to local pressure. As per a media report, locals threatened to boycott the 2018 Assembly polls if hingot yuddha was stopped.

“Is climbing Mt Everest not risky? What about bullfighting in Spain? Should these activities be stopped since they are accident-prone?” said Rathi, adding that the sport is Gautampura’s pride. “One must not shy away from the ritual as it is an intrinsic part of the town’s identity.”

Safety a priority

Some locals claimed the injuries in hingot yuddha were only minor, but were blown out of proportion. However, media reports reveal otherwise. 

According to a Public Interest Litigation filed in the Indore High Court, one person died and 38 others suffered injuries in hingot yuddha (Photo: Ankit Jain) 

Hukumchand Dasoriya (35), a spectator, lost an eye when a hingot hit him in 2016. The family pooled Rs 1.5 lakh for his treatment. “The pain persists. It is difficult to cut soyabean. What happened to me should not happen to anyone else,” said Dasoriya, a labourer.  

A source said the spectator who died during the sport had fallen off a tree, after being hit by a shell while watching the game.

Nowadays, players wear helmets and protective jackets. Mud barricades and wired fencing separates them and spectators. Ambulances, fire brigades, paramedical staff, doctors and police are present during the event. 

“We have to promote hingot yuddha, but only after ensuring that it is held safely. This game can boost tourism prospects and village economy,” Rathi explained.

“It should continue in an organised manner,” said city council president Harshali Gagan Baheti.

It can never be entirely risk-free but a long-standing tradition that is enjoyed by local youth (Photo: Ankit Jain)

A great unifier

Undoubtedly, this sport is a great unifier. There are no restrictions regarding the players’ age, social strata or religion. Different communities come closer as they play in unison.

Yunus Khan (40), a mechanic from Runji, entered the 'war zone' when he was very young. Hingot rockets have hit his leg and stomach, but have not prevented him from participating again. “The half inch bamboo stick jutting out of the hingot arrow causes injuries, but not severe usually,” he claimed.

Aadmi ko josh rehta hai. Samne wala marta hain, hum marte hain (The men are enthusiastic. The opponents hit and we hit back), said Mohanlal (50), a former player. 

“There is no pressure on the warrior, but a junoon (craziness) within him drives him to participate,” said Ashish Pandit (35), whose mother Savitri helps him make hingot shells. Though the thought of Ashish receiving injuries crosses her mind often, she does not stop him. “Mana kyon karenge? Yeh Yuddha bhai chare ka hai (Why would I say 'no'? This is a game of brotherhood).”

Rajkumar Bhavsar, a school teacher, said women from the upper strata usually do not join as spectators due to the conservative nature of the society.  

“Our youngsters are taught to follow traditions and culture at an early age, and hingot yuddha must be seen under this prism,” said Sudhira Chandel.  

The local authorities and citizens have a chance to make hingot yuddha safe and attractive. Any negligence will weigh heavily on this ancient rural sport, an intrinsic part of the local sentiment, self-pride, tradition, religious beliefs, folklore and the cultural fabric of Runji Gautumpura. 

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