Jallikkatu – All You Need To Know


What is a Jallikkattu?

A traditional bull taming sport, Jallikkattu, is generally conducted on the occasion of Pongal in Tamil Nadu. It is being organized on the day of Mattu Pongal, the third day of Pongal. This is one of the most traditional and contentious sports played as part of the Sankranthi celebrations. The term Jallikkattu derived from words ‘Jalli’ which means coin and ‘kattu’ means tied. It basically represents to a package of coins that tied to the bull’s horn and the contestants attempt to get it. The men who participate in the sport must jump and catch the hump of the running bull in order to get that pouch of coins hung around the bull’s horn.

History of Jallikkattu

According to the history, Jallikattu was carried out dated back between BC 400 and BC 100. In the beginning, women used to choose their husbands who were bold and could tame the bull. It was eventually developed into a game in which young people could demonstrate their heroic adventures. Jalikattu has been practised since at least 2500 years mainly during the Indus-Valley Civilization. Archeologist found a cave painting which depicts a man trying to tame the bull which is estimated more than 2500 years old.

Jallikkattu Variants

Jallikkattu is done in three ways, ‘manju virattu, vatam minju varattu and veli virattu.’ In manju virattu, the bull comes out of an entrance called ‘vadivasal.’Then a bull tamer tries to catch it by holding on to its hump and travel till the bull crosses the finish line. In Veli varattu, the place to tame the bull is an open ground and vatam manju varattu is also same as Veli varattu but the bull will be tied to a 15 meter length rope.

Rules of the sport

The rules of the sport may vary from place to place and variant to variant, but the idea is same. No participant or the bull should get hurt in any manner in order to win the title. If no one is able to do that, the bull will be declared as the winner. The contestants will be disqualified if they hold on to the bull’s neck, horn or tail. And only one participant is allowed to tame it at a time.

Bull Breeds

For Jallikkattu, not all the breeds of bulls are used. Mainly native breeds are used. Now a days, only six breeds are used for this purpose. Pullikulam breed, Malamadu and Kangayam bulls are a few among that. They choose the bulls for jallikkattu by its birth and will be giving training for them. These breeds will not be used in any kind of domestic use. Good food and routine health check-ups also are there as a part of the regimen before jallikkattu.

Supreme Court Ban

During 2008 and 2014, the jallikattu incidents claimed the lives of 43 people and four bulls. In 2017, there were 23 deaths, over 2,500 human injuries, and many incidents of bull injury. Five people died as a result of their involvement in the event in 2020. Animal welfare association like PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) filed a probe in Supreme Court citing the game is an abuse to animal. They argued the bulls were force-fed with liquor, lemons squeezed in to bull’s eyes, chilly powder rubbed to their genitals and its tail being twisted or bitten during the game. Considering all these allegations, the Supreme Court banned this sport for a certain period time.

Anti-Ban Protests

In January 2017, youth movements across Tamil Nadu started pro-jallikkattu protests across the state to lift the ban on jallikkattu. The largely peaceful nature of protests happened at Marina beach won praises from many corners of the country. The protesters argued that the game is not designed to torture or kill a bull. It is to preserve native male bulls for the purpose breeding and this is the effective way to conserve them. Following these protests, the Govt. of Tamil Nadu legalize jallikkattu without any opposition.

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