The sands of the longest natural urban beach Marina is sandwiched between the turbulent Bay of Bengal and the colonial era buildings in southern Tamil Nadu, where Jallikattu, the bull- taming sports which is held in the weeks after Pongal.
Jallikattu which has propagated from a traditional sport in the culture of Tamil Nadu to a mass protest against the ban on the sport. This can be seen as the boiling of the Tamilian pride , their belief that the people sitting inside air conditioned rooms cannot determine which sport is healthy for the Tamilian people.
Jallikattu: A heritage sport
Jallikattu is a highly ancient sport which has deterministically stood against the corrosive effect of time. It is a bold sport, for the brave hearted and only the most virile , agile and rigorous can stand against the raging bull and empower it not only with their physical strength but also with the valour of their minds and respect towards the animal.
During the era of the Kings, a small bag of coins were tied to the horns of the bull and the tackler has to hang on the hump of the bull and untie the bag to claim the prize. Hence the name Jalli which means ‘coins’ and Kattu which means ‘tied’.
Jallikattu is celebrated in the following manner. A large crowd of people assemble together in an extensively elaborate space with their sunken cheeks and a hopeful smile in anticipating for the great event.
The owners of the bulls are bragging about the strength and the masculinity of their bulls , swollen up with pride challenging the tacklers about the horrors they would be facing in case they confront their bull. The cloth is now tied to the horn of the bull accompanied with the cheering of the crowd and frantic bystanders.
The sport might seem a bit too extravagant especially for people not accustomed with the culture of Jallikattu . The bull charges out from the vaadi vasaal or the entrance and charges wildly towards to open space. The unmatched speed of the bull is too strong for his enemies and after this gallant run either the bull escapes the arena or is successfully held by the most vigorous tackler who eventually claims the prize and the pride of the whole village. Strange as it may seem , the bull never harms any person in a fatal way and the only injuries that happen are very minor and is taken in a healthy way by the people.
This shows that Jallikattu is a strong determinant in determining the history and culture of our country and we might loose our stronghold if such blanket bans are continued. The issue demands serious debates and consideration and not blatant seizure to our cultural sport.
Why Jallikattu matters?
With the advent of industrialization of agriculture and a serious infusion of globalisation, tractors have taken the place of bulls ploughing the fields and even if bulls are required they are imported because of their high abilities and usage rate.
Tamil Nadu has six cattle breeds and it has already lost Alambadi breed. The remaining breeds are Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu. Native breeds have evolved perfectly in harmony with humans , and they are intricate in farming activities and important for the farmers as well. However, it is very costly for a poor farmer to take care of the bull after the harvesting season , or bulls that are weak enough to not be able to indulge into heavy farming activities. So after the harvesting season the farmers prepare their bulls for this festive sport, keep them sturdy and those who cannot take care of their bulls send them to a common temple in the village where the bulls are fed and kept healthy. These bulls then participate under the name of their owners and bring pride to the whole family.
So what happens to the bulls if Jallikattu is not happening?
The farmers that cannot take care of their bulls sell them off to slaughter houses for as cheap as Rs.500. If a calf is a male, then the farmer has no use of it and eventually it becomes a liability. IF the number of male bulls decrease , farmers tend to adopt methods such as artificial insemination which messes up the evolution and breeding of the bulls. From a festival that respects and takes care of the bulls , this can completely destroy a whole breed and the ones trying to save the animals will eventually become the perpetrators for their slaughter.
Why the opposition then?
Firstly there is a strong psychic disconnect between the cultural orientation of the tamilian population and the urban orchestrators who have ordered the ban or the people who are in support of the ban. The locals claim that those who are not attached with the festival cannot determine how and what they play and enjoy as a sport. Moreover, our constant diet of media has given this issue a noticeable uprising and it’s no surprise that everyone is talking about it.
Secondly, the factor that the beef exporters and dairy lobbyist desperately want events such as Jallikattu to stop since that gives a reason to farmers to sell their cattle at a very cheap price.
Another very important argument that is proclaimed by supporters of the ban is that this sport is the result of a patriarchal need of the people in a very sublime form who cannot satisfy their primal chauvinism by hurting other or hunting animals.
This combat which involves humans and animal is an act of showing supremacy and boasting the alpha male ego where the most aggressive bulls are allowed to impregnate the local cows for delivering a superior breed. If our government succumbs to the frenzy of the mob or the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (1960) were to be weakened then goat throwing in Karnataka, buffalo fighting in Assam and bulbul fights will also come back in a bloodier, more violent manner.
Opposition also claims that there are videos that explicitly show people intoxicating the bulls to pump up their adrenaline for better performance and aggressive behaviour. If this is true then such intoxications can really mess up with the hormone system of the animal and they start acting in a frenzy way. Our pleasure might just turn into their horror.
There can be no defined conclusion to this issue as the matter is still debatable, however it is always invited and suggested that the supporters of jallikattu should look for innovative and more healthy ways to bring back the bulls to farms and involve them into agricultural activities. And those who are in support of the ban should remove their blanket and look into this matter in a more empathetic way and not simply ask for a ban into matter they don’t understand. This sport is the result of “ EMBRACING THE BULL” and not taming it, it involves a healthy amalgamation of human and animal which results in respecting each other. Jallikattu should not turn into an intoxicated bull fighting festival satisfying the primitive masochism of a certain few.