Cock Fight (Paining by Zoffany)

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Cock Fight in Lucknow

Volume: 8, No: 11 ; November-2014

Although every sort of breed of cock will fight, the best fighter is ‘asil’, the thorough bred and it is a fact that there is no braver beast than the thoroughbred cock. Braver than tigers, they would sooner die than turn away from a fight. Experts believe that the breed came from Arabia and this appears reasonable, as thoroughbreds are found mostly in Hyderabad Deccan, the area in India where Arabs came to settle in greatest number. The breeds of cock in the mountainous region of India originated in Persia.

A well known Lucknowi cock-fighter used to tell the tale that his cock was unluckily beaten in a fight. He was distressed and went to the sacred Najaf in Iraq where he spent some months in divine worship. He prayed day and night that God, as Sadqa [charity] for the sake of his Imams, might grant him a cock which would never be beaten in a fight. One night in a dream he received a revelation: ‘go into the wilds’. The next morning when he awoke he went into the desert taken a hen with him. Reaching a valley he heard the sound of crowing. He approached and released his hen. A cock, hearing the hen, came out of the scrub and the man managed to seize it. Its progeny was such that never again was he put to shame in a cock-fight. Interest in cock-fighting dates from the time of Nawab Shuja ud Daula, who was extremely fond of the sport, Nawab Sadat Ali Khan, in spite of the fact that he was a very abstinent, also enjoy cock-fighting. His interest had a great effect on society and in addition to the Lucknow nobles, Europeans at the court also became its devotees. General Martin was an expert at cock-fighting and Nawab Sadat Ali Khan used to bet his cocks against those of the generals.

For fighting purposes in Lucknow, the cock claws were tied so that they could not cause much damage, whilst their beaks were scraped with pen-knives and made sharp and pointed. When the two cocks were released the cock-pit, their owners stood behind them, each trying to get his own cock to deal the first blow. When the cocks started to fight with beak and claw their owners incited and encouraged them, shouting, ‘well done my boy, bravo! Peck him, my beauty!’ and ‘Go in again!’ On hearing the shouts of encouragement the cock attacked each other with claw and beak and it seemed as if they understood what was being said to them.

When they had been fighting for some time and were wounded and tired out, both parties, by mutual concern, would remove their birds. This removing was called pani [literally water] in cock-fighting idiom. The owners would wipe clean the wounds on the cocks’ heads and pour water on them. Sometimes they would suck the wounds with their lips and make their efforts, whereby the cocks were restored to their former vigour in the space of a few minutes. They were then once again released into the cock-pit. This method of pani was continued and the fights would last four to five days, sometimes even eight or nine days. When a cock was blinded or was so badly hurt that he could not stand and was unable to fight, it was understood that he had lost it often happened that a cock’s beak was broken. Even then, whenever possible, the owner would tie up the beak and set the cock to resume the fight.

In Hyderabad the sport is much more violent. There they do not tie up the claws but scrape them with penknives and make them like the spearheads. As a result the fight is decided within the space of an hour or so. The practice of tying the claws in Lucknow was probably adopted to lengthen the fight and that’s to provide longer entertainment.

When preparing cocks to fight, the owners would show their skill not only in the feeding and upkeep: the also massaged the bird’s limbs, sprinkled with water, tended its beak and claws and displayed their dexterity in tying up the claws and removing any signs of fatigue. From fear that the beak might be injured by pecking food from the ground they sometimes fed grains by hand.

Great interest was taken in the sport until the time of Wajid Ali Shah. In Matiya Burj cock-fights were held in Nawab Ali Naqi’s residence and some English people from Calcutta would bring their birds to fight there. In addition to kings, many nobles were also interested in cock-fighting. Mirza Haidar, the brother of Bahu Begum, Nawab Salar Jang Haidar Beg Khan, and Major Soirisse, who lived at the time of Nasir ud Din Haidar, and use to set his cocks against the king’s, and Agha Burhan ud Din Haidar, were all fond of the sport. The last-named nobleman always kept, throughout his life, two hundred to two hundred and fifty birds. They were kept with scrupulous care and cleanliness and ten or eleven men were employed to look after them. Mian Darab Ali Khan was a great devotee as was Nawab Ghasita.

The respected Pathans of Malihabad were also adherents of the sport and had very good breeds of game-cock. In Lucknow there were many who were considered outstanding experts: Mir Imdad Ali, Shaikh Ghasita and Munavar Ali had acquired such skill that they could tell from the noise a cock made whether it would win its fight. Safdar Ali and Saiyyid Miran Ali, a vasiqa dar, were also famous. In later days name of the following were well known: Fazal Ali Jamadar, Qadir Jawan Khan, Hussain Ali, Nauroz Ali, Muhammad Taqi Khan, Mian Jan, Dil, Changa Husain Ali Beg, Ahmad Hussain. None of those men is now alive.

These were the people who perfected the sport of cock-fighting in Lucknow but nowadays I think that interest in the sport is greatest in Hyderabad Deccan. Many noble men land owners and officers are devotees. They have an unequalled stock of game-cocks and give great care to breeding.


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Cock Fight in Lucknow

Although every sort of breed of cock will fight, the best fighter is ‘asil’, the thorough bred and it is a fact that there is no braver beast than the thoroughbred cock. Braver than tigers, they would sooner die than turn away from a fight. Experts believe that the breed came from Arabia and this appears reasonable, as thoroughbreds are found mostly in Hyderabad Deccan, the area in India where Arabs came to settle in greatest number. The breeds of cock in the mountainous region of India originated in Persia.

A well known Lucknowi cock-fighter used to tell the tale that his cock was unluckily beaten in a fight. He was distressed and went to the sacred Najaf in Iraq where he spent some months in divine worship. He prayed day and night that God, as Sadqa [charity] for the sake of his Imams, might grant him a cock which would never be beaten in a fight. One night in a dream he received a revelation: ‘go into the wilds’. The next morning when he awoke he went into the desert taken a hen with him. Reaching a valley he heard the sound of crowing. He approached and released his hen. A cock, hearing the hen, came out of the scrub and the man managed to seize it. Its progeny was such that never again was he put to shame in a cock-fight. Interest in cock-fighting dates from the time of Nawab Shuja ud Daula, who was extremely fond of the sport, Nawab Sadat Ali Khan, in spite of the fact that he was a very abstinent, also enjoy cock-fighting. His interest had a great effect on society and in addition to the Lucknow nobles, Europeans at the court also became its devotees. General Martin was an expert at cock-fighting and Nawab Sadat Ali Khan used to bet his cocks against those of the generals.

For fighting purposes in Lucknow, the cock claws were tied so that they could not cause much damage, whilst their beaks were scraped with pen-knives and made sharp and pointed. When the two cocks were released the cock-pit, their owners stood behind them, each trying to get his own cock to deal the first blow. When the cocks started to fight with beak and claw their owners incited and encouraged them, shouting, ‘well done my boy, bravo! Peck him, my beauty!’ and ‘Go in again!’ On hearing the shouts of encouragement the cock attacked each other with claw and beak and it seemed as if they understood what was being said to them.

When they had been fighting for some time and were wounded and tired out, both parties, by mutual concern, would remove their birds. This removing was called pani [literally water] in cock-fighting idiom. The owners would wipe clean the wounds on the cocks’ heads and pour water on them. Sometimes they would suck the wounds with their lips and make their efforts, whereby the cocks were restored to their former vigour in the space of a few minutes. They were then once again released into the cock-pit. This method of pani was continued and the fights would last four to five days, sometimes even eight or nine days. When a cock was blinded or was so badly hurt that he could not stand and was unable to fight, it was understood that he had lost it often happened that a cock’s beak was broken. Even then, whenever possible, the owner would tie up the beak and set the cock to resume the fight.

In Hyderabad the sport is much more violent. There they do not tie up the claws but scrape them with penknives and make them like the spearheads. As a result the fight is decided within the space of an hour or so. The practice of tying the claws in Lucknow was probably adopted to lengthen the fight and that’s to provide longer entertainment.

When preparing cocks to fight, the owners would show their skill not only in the feeding and upkeep: the also massaged the bird’s limbs, sprinkled with water, tended its beak and claws and displayed their dexterity in tying up the claws and removing any signs of fatigue. From fear that the beak might be injured by pecking food from the ground they sometimes fed grains by hand.

Great interest was taken in the sport until the time of Wajid Ali Shah. In Matiya Burj cock-fights were held in Nawab Ali Naqi’s residence and some English people from Calcutta would bring their birds to fight there. In addition to kings, many nobles were also interested in cock-fighting. Mirza Haidar, the brother of Bahu Begum, Nawab Salar Jang Haidar Beg Khan, and Major Soirisse, who lived at the time of Nasir ud Din Haidar, and use to set his cocks against the king’s, and Agha Burhan ud Din Haidar, were all fond of the sport. The last-named nobleman always kept, throughout his life, two hundred to two hundred and fifty birds. They were kept with scrupulous care and cleanliness and ten or eleven men were employed to look after them. Mian Darab Ali Khan was a great devotee as was Nawab Ghasita.

The respected Pathans of Malihabad were also adherents of the sport and had very good breeds of game-cock. In Lucknow there were many who were considered outstanding experts: Mir Imdad Ali, Shaikh Ghasita and Munavar Ali had acquired such skill that they could tell from the noise a cock made whether it would win its fight. Safdar Ali and Saiyyid Miran Ali, a vasiqa dar, were also famous. In later days name of the following were well known: Fazal Ali Jamadar, Qadir Jawan Khan, Hussain Ali, Nauroz Ali, Muhammad Taqi Khan, Mian Jan, Dil, Changa Husain Ali Beg, Ahmad Hussain. None of those men is now alive.

These were the people who perfected the sport of cock-fighting in Lucknow but nowadays I think that interest in the sport is greatest in Hyderabad Deccan. Many noble men land owners and officers are devotees. They have an unequalled stock of game-cocks and give great care to breeding.



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