Jallikattu also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu is an event held in the state of Tamil Nadu as a part of the Pongal celebrations on the Mattu Pongal day (3rd day of the 4 day Pongal festival). The bulls participating in the event are specifically bred by the villagers. The event is attended by the thousands of villagers with the temple bulls (koil kaalai).
Jallikattu is derived from the words ‘calli’ (coins) and ‘kattu’ (tie), which means a bundle of coins is tied to the bull’s horns. In older times, the tamer sought to remove this bundle from the animal’s head to win gold or silver. Jallikattu has been practiced since the 400-100 BC in Tamil Nadu. It was a common practice among the ancient people (Ayars) who lived in the ‘Mullai’ region of ancient Tamil country. It is believed that the temple bull represents the head of all cattle in a village and is worshiped, with special rituals performed on this day.
The calves are selected for Jallikattu events. The bulls are fed a nutritious diet so they become strong and sturdy beasts. They are made to swim and are specifically trained. Once the calves reach the adolescence stage, they are taken to small Jallikattu events so as to familiarize them with the atmosphere. Three versions of Jallikattu exist:
Manju Virattu, Vaeli Virattu and the Vadam Manju Virattu
At the event, the bull is set free into a crowd of people while the participants attempt to grab the bull’s hump and try to ride on it, as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. Sometimes the participants must ride long enough to remove flags affixed to the bull’s horns. Prizes are announced to encourage the youth to participate. After the event is over, the tamed and weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture; meanwhile, the untamed ones or the strong ones are used for breeding.
The sport is a much awaited event and has become an intrinsic part of the Tamil culture. People of all religions, caste and creed participate in this sport, that is usually held once a year in a village to celebrate a local temple or church festival.
The Jallikattu Ban:
Recently, the animal activists and PETA, India have protested against Jallikattu that has been practiced over the years. Along with human injuries and casualty, sometimes bulls themselves sustain injuries which people believe as a bad sign for the village. In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues.The Government of India passed an order on 8 January, 2016 exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used, effectively reversing the ban. On 14 January 2016, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.
Factors Against the Ban:
- Jallikattu is an ancient sport which has continued since colonial times. So it is an ancient tradition which should be preserved and not banned.
- In Jallikattu, the objective is to obtain the ‘Jallikattu’ a pouch which contains the reward coins called ‘Jalli’ tied to the horns of the bulls. While the players are not allowed to carry weapons of any kind or wear protective gears, the bulls on the other hand will not have nose rings or ropes.
- They’re equipped with a pair of sharp horns which can gore a human within seconds. So it’s actually the bull which has the upper hand in this match.
- Jallikattu is what’s keeping the native breed of cows from going extinct, according to some local people which is a huge problem for western cattle industry.
Arguments Favoring the Ban:
- During Jallikattu, bulls are purposefully scared and petrified and then made to run across the crowd, destroying anything that would come in their way. Various cruel means are adopted to scare and anger the bull like pinching, nailing, stabbing with sticks that have nails at the edges, twisting their tails and even forcefully making them drink alcohol and other drugs. The ropes around their nose are painfully yanked and then they are dragged into the crowd of people who further anger the bull.
- According to the documents by PETA, these bulls also break their bones in order to escape from the crowd continuously trying to torture them. Casualty and death of humans are also alarmingly high during this game.
- What started as a simple act of bravado has become an act of cruelty towards animals.
- The bulls are kept in the waiting area for hours, subjecting it to the scorching sun. The bulls used in the sport are also denied food and water.
- Due to this sport, innumerable human lives, both of the participants and the audience, have also been lost, as the bulls try to flee from the pain.