The Maut Ka Kuwa in Rajkot

by Siddharth Kaneria

Living on less (Issue I/2023)


Tuned cars are racing around the so-called “Fountain of Death” at the Janmashtami festival in the Indian city of Rajkot. Photo: Siddarth Kaneria

The “Well of Death”, in Hindi “Maut Ka Kuwa”, is a wooden construction that is constructed every year in September in my hometown Rajkot in the Indian state of Gujarat. 

The occasion is the Hindu Janmashtami festival, when believers celebrate the birth of the god Krishna. Ever since I can remember, these celebrations have included a stunt show. 

In the “Well of Death”, death-defying stuntmen race their cars along the almost vertical plank walls.

“The crazy idea of using cars first emerged in India”

They do not wear seatbelts and even lean far out of the open window while driving at full speed and wave to the audience. The “Well of Death” was originally invented in the USA and Great Britain. There, however, it was mostly was bicycles - and later motorbikes - that whizzed around the wooden structure. 

The crazy idea of using cars first emerged in India. The cars are tuned to be extra loud and the spectators, who travel even from remote villages to witness the event live, shout, clap and celebrate.

Particularly brave fans even press a banknote into the drivers' hands as they speed past. I myself have known the stunt show since I was a child. I've been documenting it professionally since 2017 and have even stood in the middle of the drum to take photos. It was so scary - it gave me goosebumps. 

I have  spent many days with the stunt people who come to town every year for their performance. They practise for months and risk their lives for the spectacle.

As told to Jess Smee

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