This is an ancient festival sport, practised spiritedly in Tamil Nadu, particularly in Madurai and surrounding districts, during Pongal celebrations (mid-Jan). Alanganallur and Palamedu villages near Madurai are popular centres for this sport of taming of the bull, performed on the second day of Pongal, known as Maattu Pongal. Maadu in Tamil refers to the cattle.

During these events, specially bred bulls are let loose in the arena watched by thousands of spectators. Aspiring youths scream and rush into the ring and take on the ferocious animal in a nerve-racking, long-drawn-out fight. The one who brings the frenzied bull to a halt with all his might, amidst cheering and jeering by the crowds, is declared the winner and is offered a handsome reward. The villagers hail him as their hero. In olden times, the winner used to be declared the bridegroom for the bride-in-waiting.

Jallikattu is somewhat similar to the Spanish bull fight. While in the Spanish contest, the bull finally gets killed by use of lances, barbed sticks and swords, in Jallikattu, the village youths chase and mount the bull and tame it after an enduring fight, but without using any weapon. Beginning Pongal, this rural sport continues for a few months amidst great fanfare. There has been a raging controversy over Jallikattu, with animal welfare activists raising their voice against “cruelty to animals” and taking the issue to the court, and Jallikattu enthusiasts claiming that the animals are only tamed and not killed or harmed.


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03 Jan 2015

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