Despite a ban imposed by the Supreme Court, four temple bulls were released on Monday at Alanganallur town in Tamil Nadu’s Madurai district for Jallikattu, the traditional bull-taming sport held every year as a part of Pongal celebrations.
However, the sport was stopped midway after local police intervened.
On Tuesday the cops detained around 200 people for protesting against the ban across Tamil Nadu and stopping of yesterday’s event.
Here is everything you need to know about Jallikattu:
1. The term “Jallikattu” is a combination of two Tamil words – “Salli” [coins] and “Kattu” [tied] – referring to the silver or gold coins tied to the horns of the bulls as prizes. Later the word “Jalli” replaced “Salli”.
2. It is believed that the sport is as old as 2,500 years; proof being an ancient cave painting, depicting a man trying to control a bull, that was found near Madhurai.
3. There are three variants of this sport. One variant is called “vaṭi viraṭṭu”, where the prize can be won after holding on to the bull for predetermined distance or time.
The second one is “vēli viraṭṭu” where participants try to tame the bull on an open ground. The third variant is called “vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu” where the participants try to tame a bull that is tied to a 50-foot rope.
4. Calves are especially trained for this sport where they don’t allow strangers near them.
5. Generally, temple bulls are used in this sport as they are considered to be the head of all cattle in that particular village.
6. Post the sport, tamed bulls are used in agriculture and domestic purpose, while untamable ones are used for breeding activities.
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7. Jallikattu is considered as one of the bloodiest sport due to the injuries and deaths associated with it. According to a Zee News report, between 2010 and 2014, at least 17 people died and around 1,100 others were injured in Jallikattu events that are so popular in Tamil Nadu villages.
8. Since 2004, it is animal welfare organisations Federation of India Animal Protection Agencies (FIAPO) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India who are raising their voices against the “blood sport” citing animal cruelty and threat to public safety.
9. The Supreme Court banned Jallikattu in May 2014 but the order was reversed after the Centre exempted performances sans bulls. The apex court upheld the ban on Jan 14 that sparked protests across Tamil Nadu.
10. Jallikattu has featured in many Tamil films like “Virumaandi”, “Murattu Kaalai”, “Cheran Pandiyan”, “Mirugam”, and “Ilami”, where the respective heroes were shown as gallant men to be able to subdue the strongest and untamable bulls.
Sreya is based in Kolkata. She is a Senior Editor of Big Wire.