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Ayodhya Hills Tourism gets a boost with unique marathon ‘Run for Tribals’ – GetBengal story

2 March, 2024 10:25:33
Ayodhya Hills Tourism gets a boost with unique marathon ‘Run for Tribals’ – GetBengal story

"Run for Tribals", a marathon organised by Kushal Educational Foundation, Ayodhya Hilltop, Purulia

Purulia's Ayodhya Hills is an amazingly serene place. Nestled in the heart of nature, this off-grid gem boasts breathtaking views of the vast undulating landscape and nothing is comparable to the tranquil charm of its hills, small valleys, forests, lakes, waterfalls, and the astonishingly azure skies. Domestic and foreign tourists flock here to embrace the serene and wooded scenery that envelops the hills, small valleys, forests, lakes and waterfalls and wake up to the songs of birds and breathe in the fresh air. Come spring, and the land turns crimson with radiant Palash or ‘Flame of the Forest’ flowers covering the red laterite soil like a vast carpet. Tall evergreen trees like Sal, Shimul (cotton tree) and Palash stand erect on both sides of long, pitch-dark roads that seem to wind its way to eternity.

On February 25 (Sunday), Ayodhya Hill’s tourism got a boost following the success of ‘Run for Tribals,’ a marathon held at Purulia's Ayodhya Hilltop under the supervision of Kushal Palli, a tourism organization, based in the region. The event was hosted by Kushal Educational Foundation, a local organization working for the upliftment of tribals on different spheres including sports, culture, education and tourism at the grassroots level. The event was held to highlight the overall development of tribal areas in the Ayodhya hills and was projected as ‘a race of progress.’ It created quite a stir and around 1600 enthusiasts participated in the marathon. Among the 1600 competitors, 850 tribals were from the adjoining villages and athletes from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Jharkhand also joined in the fray. The participants ran on the asphalt road that meanders through the heart of the hill. There were three separate events to choose from 5, 10 and 21 km marathon. The organizers had arranged separate Tee-shirts for the athletes to distinguish them from the enthusiastic bystanders. Throughout the 21 kilometer stretch, makeshift stages were set on both sides of the road where folk artists from different states performed to encourage the contestants participating in the Run for Tribals. They performed with gusto and spectators joined in the jamboree watching Chou dance, Rajasthani dance, Bhangra with a variety of percussion players playing Punjabi dhol and dhak of Bengal. Multiple medical booths were set up en route to address medical emergencies during the event. 


The prize money was quite alluring to encourage the runners. The winner in the 21 kilometer event was given Rs. 51 thousand and for the 10 km race, the prize was Rs 31 thousand. There was another bonus attraction for those who finished the 21 km. route within 70 minutes. The organizers took it upon themselves to sponsor them for training and provide all expenses and assistance to the winners to participate in the marathon in South Africa. In fact, Naresh Agarwal, chairman of Kushal Educational Foundation and organizer of the event was categorical that the goal of this event is to train all the successful contestants so that they can get a chance to participate on a bigger stage like the Olympics. 

Only a decade ago, a young girl from a small hamlet in Purulia had made her mark in the country’s track and field world. She was the ‘Golden girl’ of Purulia, Pinki Pramanik, who specialises in the 400 metres and 800 metres races. Pramanik had success with the national 4×400 metres relay team, winning silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, gold at the 2006 Asian Games, and gold at the 2005 Asian Indoor Games. She was an inspiration for many budding athletes, but a vacuum was created after she left. When the organizers of Run for Tribals approached her and requested her to train the local athletes, she was more than happy to oblige. She went and joined the participants in January and trained them at the pre-run to prepare them for the marathon. Every morning Pinki used to run on this long undulating hilly road with other enthusiasts from nearby Ayodhya Hills, Baghmundi and tiny villages located on the foothills of Ayodhya Hills joining her. 

The participants were asked to report at the venue at the crack of dawn at 5.30 am to collect their chest numbers. An electronic chip was attached to monitor and record the athletes and see if they had taken the correct route to reach the specific destination. In the evening, 10 distinguished indigenous recipients of the coveted Padma Shri Awards along with families of two deceased Padma Shri recipients were honoured. Padama Shri awardee Gulabo Sapera of Rajasthan performed the traditional folk dance Kalbelia on the occasion.

Mr. Naresh Agarwal, chairman of Kushal Educational Foundation, with former Mohunbagan player José Marcio Ramirez Barreto aka 'Sobuj Tota'

The mega event was attended by a host of celebrities from both Bollywood and Tollywood film industry, state ministers, bureaucrats, public representatives and star players. Brazilian footballer and former Mohun Bagan player José Marcio Ramirez Barreto (fondly nicknamed ‘Sobuj Tota’ or Green Parrot by his former club, Mohun Bagan FC players and fans) was there along with Pinki Pramanik to cheer the athletes. Bollywood actor and celebrity runner, Rannvijay Singh, who was present at the event, added more colour to it. He also participated in the 5 km run after he witnessed the enthusiasm among the locals. This marathon acted as a catalyst to promote tourism at Ayodhya Hills among travel enthusiasts in the country as well as abroad.

Kushal Agarwal, trustee of Kushal Educational Foundation pledged to award Padma Shri Gambhir Singh Mura Scholarships to those local youngsters from the hills who distinguish in different fields, including sports and studies. This really calls for celebration and the mood is upbeat as locals dream of a better future and “Happy days are here again”, chirp the birds of Jangalmahal.

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