Jallikattu aka Sallikattu, Eruthaluvuthal, Manju Virattu – Traditional Game of Taming Bulls
A crucial issue which is creating an unexpected protest in recent years is Jallikattu, a traditional game of Tamil Nadu People. Jallikattu or Bullfighting or Bull taming is played with Bulls (“Kaalai” in Tamil) and stands to be an important ancient sports act for many centuries. At present, Jallikattu is not happening in Tamil Nadu and is banned by the Supreme Court. All this happened for the safety and security of Dravidian People. But, the ban of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu is not welcomed by Tamil People. A serious step towards bringing back our traditional game is continuously happening here and there in Tamil Nadu. Herewith, Dravidian explains about Jallikattu, the proud history, the story of banning Jallikattu, and finally the appeal against the banning. I hope so the forthcoming words will surely give you a good knowledge of Jallikattu and make you realize the importance and support our traditional play.
Jallikattu is a traditional and oldest cattle game played in Tamil Nadu. It is played by men so as to show off their manliness. The name “Jallikattu” is derived from the word “calli kacu” meaning ‘coins’ and “kattu” means a strong tie to the bulls’ horns in Tamil. Let us now see a detailed note on how Jallikattu came into existence and the procedure followed in our ancient period.
In medieval times, this play was popular among the Forest region (“Mulai” in Tamil) and it is personally related to the Bishops’ marriages. Even though Jallikattu was the proud game of Mulai region people, it was played with a keen interest in Madurai of Tamil Nadu. Jallikattu was celebrated as a cultural festival for commemorating the heroic spirit of Dravidian. In Sangam literature, all the specialties and facts about Jallikattu are clearly defined. In Kalithogai, an ancient Tamil book featuring the forest regions, Jallikattu was mentioned in many songs. The People of Kurinji land (Land of Hills) and Mullai land (Land of Forests) used to cheerfully conduct bullfight with their respective oxen. This symbolizes the fight between the two groups of people. The winning bull will give victory and Happiness to its respective land people.
Marriage Promise by the bishops
On the day before or on the day of the Bullfight, an event called “Kuravaikuthu” will be carried out. The event is conducted to appreciate or encourage the bullfighter by singing songs. If the event happens a day before Jallikattu, women will sing encouraging songs so as to win the game. If not, Kuravaikuthu will be performed in the evening. This time, women will sing songs to praise the victory. During Jallikattu, strong and powerful men will climb on top or make moves to get control of the bull. The man who wins the game will be married to a girl wearing jasmine on her hair. They believe that the masculinity of man can be finely interpreted through this game. The game play Jallikattu is said to be in practice since 2000 years ago. But it is believed that it must have come to appearance long before thousands of years. Bishops wearing a garland of flowers like Jasmine, Malabar Glory Lily will make a promise to everyone. According to the promise, their daughter should get married to the winner of Jallikattu. Following that, the bishops will sharpen the horns of the bull like the weapon of Lord Shiva. After that, the bulls will be taken to the ground to commence the program. The women whose fathers have promised will be made to stand or sit in order for watching the event.
Bullfighting and its consequences
Before starting with Jallikattu, the participants will pray to god for good results. Everybody will be made ready and the slot will be open. The bull enters with a great force. Anybody can get hold of the bull from any side. Most people climb and take control of the bull. While doing that, there are chances for the bull to tear the skin of the person. Even many deaths have occurred as a consequence of the happening.
In spite of having so many risks in this play, it is considered as our heroic play amongst Dravidians. A man who doesn’t win Jallikattu cannot be allowed to marry any bishop lady. So, the Tamils consider this game to be an ethnic symbol of their tradition. Although the play happened with several changes in terms of people and social conditions, there is no doubt that it depends on the culture.
“Jallikattu” is a bull taming game played in Tamil Nadu on the day of “Maatu Pongal”. It is mainly held in the Tamil Nadu villages as a cultural event. Every year, the festivals of Jallikattu are conducted from January to July. The major place of celebration is at Alanganallur near Madurai. Alanganallur Jallikattu is the most popular one amongst all.
Generally, Prey animals and herd animals have the habit of running away at unnecessary conditions. There are about 42 different types of bulls in existence. But Jallikattu bulls are exceptional ones which belong to a particular cattle breed descended from Kangeyam. They are pugnacious by nature and are usually gathered in hundreds. It is so fearful and mingles well only with their group of animals well. This cattle breed from Kangeyam is selected for Jallikattu festival. These bulls fight not because they are agitated or frightened, but because of their nature. Jallikattu is known by different names at different places. Some of the names include “Yeruthazhuvuthal”, “Yerukol”, “Madu Pidithal”, “Manju Virattu” and “Pollerudhu Pidithal”. All the words resemble the same meaning which is “taming of Bulls” or “chasing the Bull”. Bullfighting is basically categorized into three according to the place of play. They are discussed as follows:
a)Vadi Manju Virattu which takes place mostly in the districts of Madurai, Thanjavur, and Salem. In this category, the bull is released from a closed space. This is the common one where the bullfighter will try to catch the hump of the bull in order to win the award. Only one person is allowed at a time to attempt.
b)Vaeli Virattu is a popular play in the districts of Sivagangai, and Madurai. Here, the approach is slightly different where the bull is released into an open ground. There are chances for many bulls to run away from the ground. But there are bulls which stand still and fight with the Bullfighter. The rule is the same, that is, the fighter needs to cling on to the Bull’s hump for a particular period of time to achieve the prize.
c)Vadam Manju Virattu is a game play played with a rope. “Vadam” means rope in Tamil. Here, the bull will be tied to a 50 ft long rope. There are no restrictions for the bull and hence it can move freely anywhere. The maximum time period given is 30 minutes. A team of 7 to 9 members can attempt to seal the bull. A specialty of this game is the usage of rope which makes it possible for the spectators to watch without fear.
How is Bull Fight training given to the bulls?
First of all, Kangeyam calves will be selectively chosen for Jallikattu. From the early age itself, Nutritious diet will be fed to those Jallikattu bulls so as to become strong and sturdy beasts. Even, the bulls are made to do swimming exercises. The training continues till it reaches the adolescence age. After that, the bulls are taken to Jallikattu events to play. The bulls which play well will get a big fame amongst the crowd. Special training will be given to Vadam Manju Virattu bulls since the rules of the fight are different. Other than this, no training will be provided to the Jallikattu bulls.
Jallikattu is the most popular game and is emotionally connected with the village people especially the farmers. Jallikattu events are conducted as a gameplay and Bulls play a vital role. Many deaths have been encountered and also many injuries were held. In spite of that Tamils consider Alanganallur Jallikattu to be the symbol of cultural heritage and Tradition. Jallikattu is no longer into existence now because of the ban on May 7th, 2014. A major case was filed in the Supreme Court of India against Jallikattu. The step was taken by the Animal Welfare Board of India for an outright ban on Jallikattu. The reasons they kept before are animal cruelty and the threat to public safety. The court considered the reports of Jallikattu held from 2010 to 2014 which stated that there were more than 1100 injuries and 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu. In the past twenty years, more than 200 deaths happened which was taken into account by the court. Following that, the court banned Jallikattu completely and stated it as an offense under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The Supreme Court also highlighted that any pan out against this judgment will meet with a severe penalty as per the act of 1960. The court also asked the Indian Government to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit.
Jallikattu is our traditional sport played to benefit both the cattle and the human. There are two main misconceptions which resulted in Jallikattu Ban.
The first one is that many consider Jallikattu to be a sport which is just been conducted for an entertainment purpose. But it is absolutely not. Indian farmers are best friends of the cattle. They take care of cattle like their own child. From the childhood, cattle are grown up with loads of love and concern. Special care is given for Jallikattu Kangeyam Kaalai (Bull) from the beginning when it is a small calf. It is grown to become a Jallikattu bull and finally after the adolescent age, it is made to participate in the events. By this way, a farmer can able to make more money and also can take care of their bull in an efficient manner. That is a good time for both the man and the bull because it is the time of breeding. At this time, the bull will be very tough and strong by nature. The owners will tie coins to the horns of the bull and ask people to seal the bull. The one who wins can get the reward coins for themselves. This is a sport which is played to make the particular breed cattle live long.
The second misconception is “Humans are showing cruelty to the animal”. I obviously say “NO” to this because there is no harm done to the bull during the game. Also, no weapon is used to take control of the Jallikattu bulls. The only thing done is that people will climb on the bull to seal it and win the prize. There are certain risks in Jallikattu too. Chances are very high for the bull to tear man’s body. But it is not so frequently happening case. Jallikattu bull is the hero of the match. Only the bull can decide in which way it has to go. There is no restriction at all. Bullfighter, on the other hand, needs to be careful in order to keep them uninjured. Both the bull and the bullfighter are given training before they get into the game. They know how to get rid of the bull’s hit easily. Similarly, the bull knows what to do and how to escape from the bull tamers. This is a well known and a very fair sport.
Jallikattu or Bullfighting belongs to Tamils and is on follow for the past 2000 years. Our ancestors are not fools to keep this as a sport for so many centuries. There are certain reasons which made Alanganallur Jallikattu survive for these many years. Jallikattu is mainly played to show off a man’s courage and heroic spirit. Bull taming is a very important game which played a vital role in lives of people and their marriages. A common man cannot get into Alanganallur Jallikattu. Proper rules and regulations are there for a man to participate in this Bullfight. One who knows about Jallikattu alone can win the trophy. In the same way, the bulls which participate are not the ones which used to roam here and there. But, the bulls are very much trained and are totally dedicated to this sport.
Unfortunately, there have been cases so far where the bull gores man’s body and take off his life. Many people even got injured by the bulls. Taking this reason into account and also the animal cruelty, Supreme Court took a very big decision. A possible solution for the problems is to increase the safety measures for both the bullfighters and the spectators. But ignoring and putting an end to the traditional game Jallikattu is totally unfair. The court’s judgment needs a sheer opposition. As Tamils, we need to realize our cultural heritage and strive hard to bring back our Alanganallur Jallikattu into existence. The remaining cultural heritage components among the people have to be included in the next generation with the help of Jallikattu. As a Dravidian, this is a small step taken by me to bring back our Jallikattu game. Don’t let our tradition disappear. Join hands to support Jallikattu.
We do Support for Jallikattu. hope we will conduct our traditional game play on Mattu Pongal ( 3rd Day of Thai Pongal)