What is Jallikattu?
This term “Jallikattu” has become more popular term all over India, just like “Kolaveri Di” Song. Most of the times its misrepresented or misunderstood for Bull Fighting or Hurting Bulls or barbaric sport etc., The fact is actually different, most of the time the information is promoted or written by someone who has no association with Tamil Nadu or someone who’s sitting in the AC cabins without knowing the ground reality & facts, most of their information is biased or based on Google search.
Before entering into further details about why Tamil people are protesting against the ban on “Jallikattu”, let me give you a brief intro on what this sport / tradition is all about. This is one of the oldest sport dated back 5000 BC. The “Jallikattu” is new name, the original name for this sport was “Yeru thazhuvuthal” roughly translates as “Bull Embracing”, by the origin of the word itself we can make out it was not meant to be a hurting sport rather it’s a fun sport for humans/animals alike. (you might think what’s fun for the animals, I will explain that below). I am not going to use the proper word “Yeru thazhuvuthal” in rest of the article mainly because it’s difficult to pronounce for non-tamilians.
It’s an integral part of the Pongal Festival (very much like the Thanks Giving in US), which is a traditional harvest festival of farmers to thank everyone; nature, bulls, cows, workers and who so ever has been the integral part of the harvest. Apart from Pongal at certain Temple events also “Jallikattu” is conducted by the temple authorities (which is very rare a now a days).
The Name “Jallikattu” is derived from two words, “Salli” means Coins and “Kattu” means Bounty or Package. For this game the owners of the bull will tie the price money or bounty on the bull’s horns, and it’s up to the player to get it from there. There are three versions of this game.
- Vadi Manju Virattu
For this type of game, there is an arena built, which has an entry point and exit point, the bulls will be released from one end of the arena (called “Vadi Vasal”) and the bulls will be collected at the exit point by the corresponding owners. The players will try to hold off the bull by holding their hump, and how far the player holds the bull is the determining factor for the prize.
- Vaeli Virattu
For this type of game, there is no arena built, the bull is left at the open ground like the harvest land, with the bounty on it (either tied on the neck or horns) the player has to claim that bounty from the bull, whatever is there in the bounty belongs to the player.
- Vadam Manju Virattu
For this type of game, no arena is built, the bull is tied on a 50 Ft or 100 Ft rope, the players need to subdue the bull within 10 mins or 20 mins as rules set by the conducting party, this is the determining factor for the winner. This type of game is not very popular one, these are mostly for the newbies or the villages with limited spaces or you can say this is modified version conduct the game in limited spaces.
Do you use all your bulls for the “Jallikattu” ?
No is the answer. Let me explain a brief about the “Jallikattu” and the bulls used for this sport. All the bulls used for this sports belongs to indigenous breed of cattle. What is indigenous breed? Basically indigenous breeds are wild cattle domesticated over a period of time. There are around 40+ indigenous cattle breed in India, in that around 7-8 are basically of Tamil Nadu origin. Most of these indigenous cattle in Tamil Origin are not in the “Milch” (ie., Milking) group, as these breeds give only 4-5 liters a day, at the most 10 ltrs not more than that.
The common breeds of Tamil Origin are as follows
In this Palamalai and Alambadi cattle breeds are on the verge of extinction.
These breeds are used either for farming related activities like ploughing or cart pulling and sports like “Jallikattu”. Now a day since there are tractors available, these animals are no-longer used for ploughing, and the availability of small trucks cut them off from the transportation also. The reason today these breeds exist is due to the sport, and their cows gives milk which can satisfy the family milk needs, but cannot make a milk selling business out of it.
Why these breeds are used for “Jallikattu”?
These cattle generally graze over on the wild in large herds (100-300). Naturally the breed is aggressive, as its their natural instinct to protect the herd (cows/calf) from wild animals like wolf, leopards etc., They connect well with the family which is raising them, in most of the case the bulls are raised by the women in the family. They are aloof with strangers; they are also territorial / ferocious / aggressive this makes them the apt for the “Jallikattu” sport.
These bulls are feed with high quality food, exercised & trained regularly. They are raised like any other family pet; you need to actually interact or see the farmer in reality to analyze their relationship with their bull. All the bulls of “Jallikattu” are stud bulls, this sport show cases the agility / virility of the bull, the performance of the bull in the arena will be determining factor for stud services. If the bull gets hurt during the “Jallikattu” it’s a loss for the farmer, leave along the agony that they share with the bull, it will also affect the stud services as well as future sport events which is the only revenue generation which helps the farmer to maintain / raise these bulls. Why would someone purposely want to hurt their pet and in term affect his finances also?
So if the game is not there, these breeds will be extinct over next few years.
Why was the ban implemented then?
Like any game there are bad seeds in this game also. There are some organizers who wants to add more bloodiness to the sport use to provoke the animals with various means. Some of them are
- Putting chill powder in their eyes
- Poke them with nail studded stick
- Put slice of lime inside the bull’s eyes
- Biting the tail of the bull before release
These misdeeds are documented with video / photographic evidence by PETA / AWBI / Blue Cross etc., and this information was presented to corresponding courts to remove indigenous bulls from the show case list in the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animal Act. I wouldn’t question the authority of these NGO or nor the stand by Supreme Court on this ban. What they have decided is on the basis of the evidence submitted to them, and if any humane person sees that videos / evidence they would see that as a barbaric sport.
If Supreme Court was right, now why this protest?
We cannot evaluate the entire sport based on couple of misdeeds, if there was a match fixing in cricket even if everything is proved, you don’t ban the sport because there was match fixing. If one cricketer died on the field doesn’t mean, we will ban cricket or stop playing cricket. Instead we evolve, we make more stringent measures to avoid mishaps during the game.
Unlike cricket , “Jallikattu” is an ancient game, there are very limited set of rules, the animal husbandry & bodies like AWBI should jolt out a plan , analyze the ground reality of how the game is played, what can be done to prevent the animal exploitations during the game, get a strong penal code by which the non-abiding participants / bull owners can be prosecuted / jailed and fined for their misdeeds and they will also loose the livestock in case if there was any misdeeds etc.,
The people of Tamil Nadu are law abiding citizens, if they want they could have conducted the “Jallikattu” at their own terms even with the ban. Instead they choose a path where by their tradition is not killed in the name of law, and at the same time they want their rights to practice the game to be restored with whatever stringent rules to make it a win-win situation for everyone.
This is my bit of story, feel free to drop your comments & suggestions. I hope I haven’t offended anyone with this article. This was meant only for informative purpose, not to hurt anyone’s sentiments. If you feel any part of article needs to be corrected, feel free to reach out to me on the comments session. (Note: The copy rights of the pictures are of the corresponding owners / copyright holders)
A typical “Jallikattu” will look like this.