What is Jallikattu? 10 interesting facts about the bull taming sport

Updated: Jan 13, 2017, 08:46 IST | mid-day online correspondent |

A look at some interesting facts and trivia about Jallikattu, the annual bull taming practice traditionally held annually in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations 

The Supreme Court today rejected a plea urging it to pass judgment on bull taming sport Jallikattu before the harvest festival of Pongal on Saturday.

The decision triggered widespread protests across Tamil Nadu with students hold pro-Jallikattu demonstration.

The practice of Jallikattu, also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, is traditionally held annually in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Maatu Pongal day (the third day of Pongal festival). Here's a look at what ‘Jallikattu’ actually is, why there is a huge sentiment attached to this unusual sport...

Jallikattu facts and trivia
A bull runs through a crowd with a bull-fighter hanging from it's horns during Jallikattu in the village of Alanganallur some 500 kms south west of Madras, 16 January 2005. Pics/AFP

>> The term 'Jallikattu', originated from the Tamil words Salli and Kattu, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns.

>> Jallikattu is believed to have been practice at least 2,500 years ago, after an ancient cave painting was discovered near Madurai, which depicted a lone man trying to control a bull.

Jallikattu facts and trivia

>> The main objective of Jallikattu is taming the bull. There are 3 variants namely, vati virattu, where the bull after getting released from an enclosure needs to be held on to for a predetermined distance or time to win the prize, veli virattu, participants attempt to subdue the beast in an open ground and vatam manjuvirattu, in which the animal is tied to a 50-foot-long rope with players attempting to overpower it within a specific time limit.

>> Certain calves are specially reared to grow into strong bulls for Jallikattu, and these animals are trained to not allow strangers to approach them.

Jallikattu facts and trivia
Participants attempt to hold down a bull during Jallikattu festivities in Palamedu near Madurai, around 500km south of Chennai, on January 15, 2013

>> Temple bulls are prepared specially for Jallikattu, since they are considered the head of all cattle in a village; special rituals will be performed for them during important days.

>> Animal welfare organisations like PETA India have protested against Jallikattu since 2004, with the Supreme Court banning it in May 2014. This ban was reversed after the Government of India passed an order exempting it from all performances where bulls can not be used. But, the SC upheld the ban on 14 January, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.

Jallikattu facts and trivia, PeTA protests
PeTA demonstrators (above and below) protest wearing bull masks outside of the Embassy of India in Washington, on September 15, 2016, in support of the ban on bullfights, bull races, and jallikattu

Jallikattu facts and trivia, PeTA protests

>> Being a popular tradition, Jallikattu has been shown in many Tamil films over the years including, Virumaandi, Murattu Kaalai, Cheran Pandiyan, Mirugam, Ilami among others. The leading men in these films were depicted as being able to gallantly subdue the bull.

>> After the event, tamed weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture, meanwhile the untamable strong bulls are used for breeding the cows.

>> Over 20,000 students and youngsters conducted a rally at Chennai's Marina Beach on 8th January this year, to urge the government to restore the practice of Jallikattu.

Other similar and offbeat practices from around the world...
Bull leaping: Bull leaping is practiced in the south west of France, where it is traditionally known as the course landaise, although usually cows are used instead of bulls. It's a ritual, which consists of an acrobatic leap over a bull; when the leaper grasps the bull's horns, the bull will violently jerk his neck upwards giving the leaper the momentum necessary to perform somersaults and other acrobatic tricks or stunts.

Running of the bulls

Running of the Bulls: The Running of the Bulls is a practice in Spain, which involves running in front of a small group of cattle, typically six, of the toro bravo breed that have been let loose on a course of a sectioned-off subset of a town's streets. The most famous one is held during the eight-day festival of Sanfermines in honour of Saint Fermin in Pamplona.

Swimming with the bulls

Bull in the sea: The traditional "Bous a la mar" (Bull in the sea) is celebrated annually in July at Denia's harbour near Alicante, Spain, where participants jump into the port to avoid the beast, who jumped in after them.

Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.com

Subscribe
This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK