The term horse-trading instantly brings to mind seedy politics; of mlas being spirited away to resorts, out of the reach of rival political groups, and “persuaded”, with wads of cash, to change sides—or not. But Anthiyur village, 40 km from Erode, witnesses a very different kind of horse-trading every August. The horses have four legs, not two; and while politicians buy and sell here, they are neither bought nor sold.
The annual Anthiyur kuthirai santhai (horse market) takes place in a prosperous region, fed by the Bhavani and Cauvery rivers, lush with paddy, turmeric and sugarcane crops. Its context of rural prosperity explains the popularity of horse-trading in these parts. Owning a horse is an affordable luxury for many farmers here. It’s also de rigueur for local politicians, with their deep pockets, to have a Kathiawari or two hanging about their stables.