Forget about Pajeros or even the humbler Boleros, village heads in rural Bihar are doling out hundreds of thousands of rupees to acquire steeds as prized symbols of status in a society still mired in feudalism.
Since November 27, when Asia’s largest cattle fair began in Sonepur, more than 60 horses have been sold. And in a first of sorts, most have been bought by village heads, or mukhiyas as they are known.
“Yes, I purchased a horse. It is a symbol of possessing something different,” said Doman Rai, a mukhiya from a panchayat in Samastipur district.
Shiv Dayal Rai, a mukhiya (village head), from neighbouring Vaishali district, said most horses this time had been bought by mukhiyas, some spending as much as Rs 10 lakh to Rs 11 lakh.
“It is more than the cost of a Bolero. Some of them purchased two horses, which is no less than what a Pajero would cost,” Rai said.
“If this trend is anything to go by, the number of horses sold at the fair will touch over 100,” said Jitendra Kumar, who sold two white horses, both to mukhiyas.
While Amrendra Yadav, who has sold three horses, said, “It appears that mukhiyas this time are crazy about purchasing horses.” Another horse trader, Naresh Kumar, estimates that more than a dozen white horses have gone to village heads this time.
According to Hindu priest Sushil Kumar Shastri, the demand for white horses is high because they are associated with age-old religious rituals. “White horses are a symbol of prosperity, well-being and power,” he said.
The reason why mukhiya Sher Singh bought a white horse? He was advised by an astrologer to keep a white horse for material and political gains.
A few years ago, the fair hit the headlines when Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s horse Pawan, earlier bought by a farmer for Rs 1.01 lakh was resold to Bihar’s ruling Janata Dal-United legislator Anant Singh for Rs 1.11 lakh.