Jallikattu (Bull Taming) an ancient sport of Tamils
Saravanaraj writes from Madurai: The sport of taming bulls known as Jallikattu is an ancient sport of the Tamils that has survived for more than 1500 years. There is historic evidence that bull taming was practiced in Tamilnadu 1500 years before and there are cave drawings and inscriptions found in various places in Tamilnadu that dates atleast 1500 years. In ancient time it was considered as a sport to display men’s valor and bravery. Mostly to win a bride for them. Though it may sound similar to the bull fighting in spain, both are completely different. In Jallikattu, the bull tamers are not armed and the bulls are not killed.
The tamers are the ones at risk and only the men with proper experience and training could survive. Some years back there were deaths reported during Jallikattu and many got injured. But now there are many precautionary steps taken by the government officials that have stopped the deaths of the bull tamers.
A few years back animal activists made much hype on the cruelty caused to animals and public safety and filed cases at the High court to ban the sport. This caused severe dissent among the Tamils all over the world and now the court had permitted the sport with many conditions for the safety of the bulls and the tamers. Each year the district collector along with police, doctors and officials from the district administration oversee the adherence of the courts conditions by the organizers. The modern version of the sport has strict rules to allow only registered tamers into the arena and the bulls coming for the event have to be registered days ahead and will be checked by a team of doctors.
During Jallikattu, the bulls are assembled in a ground behind the Vaadi Vaasal(the gate) and when their names are called as per the tokens, they are let out through the Vaadi Vaasal into the arena where the bull tamers wait for their turn to tame the bull. A bull is considered to have been tamed if the tamer manage to cling on to the hump of the bull and ride it till a specified distance marked by a flag. Fierce bulls jump and try to shrug the tamer off their back by trying to toss him off or injuring with his horns. A bull would also be announced tamed only if one tamer rides the bull. If two men cling to the bull they are not awarded with any prize. Usually the organizers and the bulls owner announce prizes like cash, silk dhoti’s, vessels, electronic appliances, cycles and even gold coins for bulls with a good reputation. Just like an F1 car coming to the race track, a bull coming to a jallikattu will be accompanied by a team of men in a lorry from far away villages. Alanganallur village hosts the most popular bull taming event in Tamilnadu and attracts large number of tourists. There are separate galleries built by the tourism department for foreign tourists. The debate continues if this amounts to animal cruelty but the popularity increases year after year and more safety measures are put in place for both the bulls and their tamers.