The Chronicles of a Rooster

Raja was always on top of things. Having fought and won several combats had boosted his morale as well as the respect among his peers. The way he would wield his knife was so unique, that his opponents would often be baffled. The blades of his single comb were so perfect that his friends envied him. The walk was so dignified that he ruled the neighborhood. Casanova that he was, the women of his kind drooled around him trying to attract his attention. An opportune flirt, he had the best of available females of his kind.

My memory dates back to the time when I was roughly 5 years old and I had made good friends with Raja. He was courteous towards me and would make a distinct noise whenever he saw me pass by. A typical day in his life would begin at the wee hours of the morning crying out loud extending his neck (cock a doodle doo), setting pace for the neighbors to wake up and get going. Guarding his territory was another self appointed job for Raja. Any other rooster in his territory was the last thing he wanted in sight. But the rope tied to one of his legs deterred him most of the times. Insects picked from ground, paddy seeds were his staple diet.

Well, the rooster belonged to my grandpa. A slight whistle was enough and Raja would be at his feet. Such was their camaraderie. Raja was one of his fine birds among some mighty ones that he owned. He had collected quite a few good bets as evidence of his judgment of fighting quality of the birds. The rooster fighting fraternity in and around Pernal regarded him the master of these birds. This was one of the surreptitious trades he had.

Roosters were raised not only for their delicious meat but also for their combat specialties. The combatants known as ‘gamecocks’ are a specially bred birds raised for increased stamina and power. They are given the best care and are conditioned like pro-athletes. Erstwhile a favourite ‘time-pass’ for the common man in India, rooster fights now have been banned for good but, occasionally I hear the current events happening in and around my place. Nevertheless, I recall the times I was present for these combats that were a regular feature of the “red board common friends’ club”(I was not the member of the club, though) in and around Pernal. Inebriated villagers and outsiders would gather at a designated area with their priced possessions to pit them into fight among each other which was a regular feature back then. A rooster which won a fight was certainly an ego booster for men. Some of the men were professional betters who knew how to exactly judge a bird from its distinct qualities, although they would imbibe these traits after years’ of close watch, judgment and research.

Ofcourse, there were people who thought that rooster fights were wicked & cruel but this was one of the means of bread and butter for few others. There were times when there were raids by the police but seldom did they venture to get into the details of the fights and were happy with green colored Rupee Five notes. Giving them ‘hafta’ and letting go of them was the easiest and the best practice the villagers inculcated.

Pitting the roosters one on one was decided based on more than one factor. The men would look at the history of a rooster’s fights, the feathers, the comb, the shanks, the greater sickles, the cape, the hackle, the size of the beak, the toe nails and so on. It also came to my attention that there was a horoscope specific to roosters and the colors of the rooster’s feathers and other combinations. On a certain day for a rooster to be pitted in the ‘death pit’ (Kori-Katta in Tulu) was the owner’s responsibility to check the minutest details of the rooster.  The horoscope might have formed an integral part of the decision making process, I guess. Besides, it was a game of how fit a rooster was when it comes to speed, skills and combat specialties. Among the competitors who raise fighting roosters, there is a great pride in the prowess and capabilities of their birds.

When fighting, the birds are equipped with metal spurs (gaffs or knives usually 2-4 inches in length), tied to their leg in the area where the bird’s natural spur has been partially removed. The gaffs (Baal in Tulu) typically range in the length of 2-4 inches. The blades that are tied to the foot of the rooster are special and lethal enough to inflict an injury that would hurt so much that it was hard to bear it. It was sharpened to such an extent that, a slight touch would sever the skin. The blades were dipped in some kind of chemical(often kerosene) that maximised their capability at inflicting pain.

I was surprised to learn that the rooster fights originated as early as Indus Valley civilisations(2000 BC) and was a favourite pastime. It has since, spread across the world to as far as the USA, Mexico etc. There are various regional variations of a rooster fight.

The day heralded as usual except that it was a day of reckoning for Raja because he had his fight scheduled for the evening and there were expectations to deliver due to his previous performances. He was given a greater attention through the day. Grandpa patted him, running his hands from his head through his tail feathers. He was fed paddy seeds and lots of water to keep him hydrated. Raja seemed happy and at the same time knew and looked forward to the combat.

It was around 5:30 PM and villagers had gathered in a circle right in from of the “Saarai Angadi” (Liquor Shop) in Pernal. I was one of the onlookers. There was a huge crowd and bets were placed and negotiated among the owners of the roosters. Without doubt, Raja claimed highest bids for the evening. You could see the owners of the roosters frantically fanning their roosters to keep them cool. Some were feeding them water.

Raja was to open the game that evening. And the game began. A rookie was pitted against him. The owners brought their birds and positioned them against each other while holding their tail feathers. The hackles of both the roosters rose showing the aggression against each other. Raja, with his signature move inflicted a fatal blow to the opponent in the opening minute and the rookie rooster was down before anyone could observe it. Raja won the battle easily and convincingly. The people roared with joy on the win of their beloved bird. Few among the crowd made handsome money.

Usually a rooster is pitted once in a day, due to the fact that the fight in itself is so intense that the roosters lose their stamina within a short span of time due to the aggression they use in the fights. (Although in some variations, the roosters are made to fight continuously). But the day proved otherwise for Raja. After his convincing win in the first round game, grandpa decided to pit him again. Raja seemed OK with that. He was fed water and was fanned. He made a distinct noise signaling he was alright now.

After couple of rounds of fights among other roosters, it was Raja’s time to enter the pit. But this time the stakes were high. The bets were laid, the fingers crossed!

Raja again made his way to the pit like a gladiator sent into the colosseum and the fight began.

Both the roosters were made to stand face to face and the men slowly let the roosters go. The actions of the roosters were very calculated. They circled each other feeling themselves out. The hackles were raised and the necks were moving in unison. As for the roosters themselves, I was amazed how human-like they were during the fight. I thought it would be a fast paced ‘peck-athon.’ How wrong was I? They had both attack and defense moves. The opponent of Raja seemed to be a seasoned one. Both of them would wait for an opening before they would attack .Raja threw his signature moves and even some combos. But the opponent seemed to know his moves and countered them. The fight went on for sometime and the roosters seemed tired. Sighting an opportunity when Raja jumped the opponent gave a blow to the thigh of Raja and this is when the blade inflicted the thigh of Raja and in the split of the second, Raja was down with a severe injury to his thigh. And a injured rooster is as good as a dead rooster. The onlookers including me were in awe coming to terms with the loss. I had lost a great hero and a friend, Raja.

That evening, I sat with my grandpa consoling him sans any words sipping the toddy. (Special beer’ as I named it). He had lost one of his greatest and irreplaceable fighters he had in his backyard. Since then we reared many rooster but none could match up to the stature and success of Raja.

Sometimes in the evening these days whenever I am reminded of Raja I listen to ‘El Gallo del Cielo’. “Hola, my Theresa, I am thinking of you now in San Francisco” sings Tom Russell through my disc player.

References: Encyclopedia Britannica 2008. 

Deepak Machado - Archives:

By Deepak Melwyn Machado
Disclaimer: The article is a recall of my past memories and is intended for plain reading. I am a supporter of animal rights and do not support animal cruelty in any format -
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Comment on this article

  • Shal Lobo, Shirva/Abu Dhabi

    Fri, May 21 2010

    Incredible article Deepu, Hats off to u dude.

  • Roy Mendonca, London

    Fri, Aug 21 2009

    Wow man great article your getting hang of this article thing.I''ll be waiting for more of your really bring back those golden memories.

  • roshni, mangalore

    Wed, Jul 22 2009

    Article is really good.... Do they used to call ,injured or defeated one as''''otte kori{tulu}?

  • Vishwanath Shetty, parkala / Mumbai

    Tue, Jul 21 2009

    Dear Deepak , This was a Awesome Article..which really brought the Virtual Glimpes of the whole " Koridatta " Arena. Also , i would like to add few more Notch to ur Article.. I have seen few Specialist who Operate the Damaged part of Rooster which are injured in the Fight. To my Surprise..they do workout..the roosters are backin Action after the sucessfull Surgery. All in All a Very well Article...

  • Randell, Mangalore/Kuwait

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Deepak, Dude....nice article. keep writing. i have never been to these fights but it seemed i missed something.

  • Rajesh, Udyavara/Indore

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Good article Deepak. I expected a information on fight itself. It is brief. The theme came out very well. Keep posting. All the best.

  • Antony Crasta, Mangalore/Sydney-Australia

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    This article brought back so many memories of my childhood as well. Muddadi(near Venur)used to be a popular venue for the cock fighting sport, and my elder brother, Thomas, used to raise the game-cocks on our farm at Pathikarottu, closeby, and sell to the prospective Bidders/Players at handsome prices. He used to be the proud owner of so many of such cocks, and the winning owners used to come around and shower heaps of thanks and praise for his efforts. It used to be a big gathering and mela with lots of people coming from different villages and towns around, and huge entertainment as well, specially with no TV and/or cinemas close by during that period. This was sometimes during the early 1970`s. My brother also used to set up food stall at those venues with the able help from my sisters and me, and his special dish Idli (Sanna in Konkani) with spicy Pork Masala prepared by my dear Mother used to be the popular cuisine on the menu. Congratulations Deepak Machado on the excellent article and thanks to you Daijiworld for the publication.

  • SUNIL SHETTY, sooda/Kuwait

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Dear my friend you reminded my childhood days. I Also one of the fan this KOORIDA KATTA.THANK YOU.

  • Rina, Mangalore/Dubai

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Hi Deepak, nice to see ur article. best of luck.

  • Carol D''Souza, Mangalore/Riyadh

    Mon, Jul 20 2009

    Well narrated article this is! Its so gripping that it made me feel that I was present in that village at that time. Throughly enjoyable!!

  • defney, bahrain

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    gud article bro this actually gives a lot of information about olden times keep writing cant wait for next article dude

  • Gopal P.K., Khor Fakkan

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    Wah Wah. nice article. Koorida Katta. I used to get free Soji when I was 5. Nice enjoyment in those days. Keep writing. I like your articles. It''s something special.

  • avil, karkala/dubai

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    hey deepak... nice article dude..

  • Alwin Pinto, Bantwal / Kuwait.

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    Wow.. good article it reminded me my childhood days. I also seen these kind of fights and we had one "RAJA "it won the game 7 times for us.

  • Rodney , Moodbidri/ Middle east

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    Well Narrated article dude...reminds me about ..amavase katta at ma place ..appreciate it buddy..keep writting

  • Praveen, Neermarga/Doha

    Sun, Jul 19 2009

    Well written article. I have also seen these fights. But sadly nowadays they are only played secretly.

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