Afghani Game of Buskashi
game of Buzkashi has been played in northern Afghanistan since the days
of Ghengis Khan, the Mongol warrior whose army swept across Asia in the
13th century. It is a fierce game of competition played on the steppes
of Asia by expert horsemen. The Mongols lived and died in the saddle.
Today, it is played in the Afghan provinces of Maimana, Mazar-i-Sharif,
and Kataghan. As a rule, women are not allowed to watch.
of an animal is used. Goats are preferred, but small calves will do if
goats are in short supply. A carcass is soaked in cold water for 24
hours before the game. This is done so the carcass will remain intact and
not be torn to pieces as hundreds of chopendoz horsemen independently
compete to grab and carry the carcass to the winning circle.
a the carcass is beheaded, its four legs are cut off from the knee, and
its insides emptied before soaking. Sand is sometimes packed inside for
extra bulk. Once the carcass has been prepared for the game, it is
called a boz in the language of Turkoman.
To begin the
game, a pit is dug and the
boz is placed into it so that the top
of the boz is level with the ground. A large circle is drawn around
the pit. This circle is called the hallal, which means "circle of
justice." Far to the right of the hallal is a pole, and far to the
left is another.
horsemen encircle the hallal containing the boz, and on a
given signal, compete to grab it and gallop away around one post and then
the other before returning and throwing the boz back into the hallal.
The other riders try to prevent that by attacking the rider and trying
to steal the
boz away. The chopendoz
the boz into the hallal is considered the winner. He may have
stolen the boz a few meters from the hallal. The chopendoz
strive to win at any cost. It is a Machiavellian game, where the end justifies
the means and all means are utilized.
past, the distance between the poles was many kilometers, and the game
of Buzkashi would begin at daybreak and last till sundown. The distance
these days may be shorter, but the fierce struggle for winning remains.
are remarkable horsemen and frenzied competitors, where anything goes.
Smashed noses, wrenched shoulders, and shattered thigh bones are not at
wear high leather boots, a quilted, padded jacket over a long chapan,
and a fur hat traditionally made of fox or wolf skin. They carry short
whips, which are made of a handle attached to a piece of wood about one
foot long encased in leather. The chopendoz not only whip their horses
but also whip the other riders, especially the one carrying the boz.
days past, the whips were made up of a handle attached to thongs tied to
balls of lead.
of old also carried a knife and sometimes stabbed an opponent's horse or
even it's rider when attempting to steal the boz. It was not unknown
for chopendoz to be killed in a fiercely competitive game.
Nowadays, it is a little more civilized, but riders still get hurt. They
are a tough breed of men. Bone breaks do not stop a chopendoz. The
will stop just long enough to bandage the break and then remount his horse
and continue the game.
horses are bred for the game and possess special qualities. When the chopendoz
falls off his horse during the game, the horse halts in an ever prevading
cloud of dust and mistified sweat and waits for the horseman to remount,
Once the boz is in the hands of rider, the horse will gallop with
unbridled speed back to the hallal. Those who train Buzkashi horses feed
them eggs and butter at regular intervals along with their normal feed
of oats and barley. If the horse gets too fat, the trainer will perform
the kantar, which means standing the horse in the sun for hours,
bridled and saddled every day for weeks on end. The sun not only burns
away the fat but also teaches the horse patience.
to unwritten rules of the game, nobody can tie the boz to his saddle,
or hit his opponent on the hand to snatch away the boz. Like-wise,
tripping the opponent by using a rope is forbidden. However, these rules
are not strictly observed in local matches.
A player who is thrown can use a rider less horse to continue the game.
horsemen are carried away by their excitement, they ride their horses into
the crowd to beat their opponents, but they are still chased by other riders.
If the game is played near a river, chopendoz have been known to
conspire to have other opponents drowned.
are awarded prizes of chapan, turbans, cash or rifles. Not all horsemen
may own their horses. Most of the Buzkashi horses belong to rich
men who can afford to buy them and hire trainers and riders.
much betting takes place in the crowds that assemble to watch the game.
chopendoz is treated with great respect and considered to be an
honored member of Afghan society. His fox fur hat is the highest honor
for a player.
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