Jallikattu (Tamil: சல்லிகட்டு, challikaṭṭtu) also known Eruthazhuvuthal (Tamil: ஏறுதழுவல், ērutazhuval) or Manju virattu (Tamil: மஞ்சு விரட்டு), is an event held in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations onMattu Pongal day. Bulls are bred specifically by people of the village for the event and attended mainly by many villages’ temple bulls (kovil kaalai). A temple bull is like the head of all cattle in a village; special rituals will be performed for this temple bull during important days.
Jallikattu has been known to be practised during the Tamil classical period. It was common among the ancient tribes who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. The event often results in major injuries and deaths with over 200 deaths over the past two decades. Animal activists and PETA India have protested against the practice over the years. Along with human injuries and fatalities, the bulls themselves often sustain serious injuries.
In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues. On 8 January, 2016, the Government of India passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls can not be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, on 14 January, 2016, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.
Jallikattu originated from the Tamil words Jalli and Kattu, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns.
Bull baiting was common among the ancient tribes who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for entertainment. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 1,500 years old.
These include vaṭi viraṭṭu where a bull being released from an enclosure need to be held on to for a predetermined distance or time to win the prize, vēli viraṭṭu where a bull is released in an open ground with participants trying to subdue the animal and vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu where a bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and a team of players attempt to subdue the bull within a specific time.
Training and preparation
The calves that are reared to become bulls are fed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong and sturdy animals. The calves, once they reach adolescence are taken to small events to familiarize them with the atmosphere and specific training is given based on the variant of the event it is meant for. It is claimed that before the bulls are released, they are subjected to medical tests including tests for alcohol and substance that will aggravate the bulls. These tests are said to be conducted by a team of government vets under the supervision of the district collector. However, it has been argued that since Jallikattu was itself declared illegal, no test standards can be legally set. The human participants in the Jallikattu event are said to undergo medical tests and are tested for alcohol. For the people who raise these bulls, the animals are alleged to be sacred to them.
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