Jallikattu – Blood Money
January 15, 2013 7 Comments
Jallikattu is bull-baiting or bull fighting sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations, usually on Mattu Pongal day. Jallikattu events are held from January to July, every year. The first event is held in Palamedu village near Madurai on January 15 followed by the world-famous Alanganallur Jallikattu in Alanganallur village ,also near Madurai on 16 January
Jallikattu is one of the oldest living ancient sports seen in the modern era.It is derived from an ancient Tamil tradition called , popular amongst warriors during the Sangam Age.In those days the game was used by women to choose their husbands from amongst the successful “matadors”.
The term Jallikattu is the Anglicized version of the term Salli Kaasu (coins) and Kattu (meaning a bundle) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money.
Although Jallikattu is frequently compared with the Spanish running of the bulls,there are significant differences. In Jallikattu, the bull is not killed.There are rarely any casualties suffered by the bulls. In fact Jallikattu is loaded against the matadors, unlike in Spain bullfighting. For instance, the bull’s horns are sharpened and the matador cannot use any weapons.
There are three versions of Jallikattu:
- Vadi manju virattu - This version takes place in the districts of Madurai, Trichy, Pudukkottai, Dindigul, Theni, Thanjavur and Salem. In this version the bull is released from an enclosure with an opening. As the bull comes out of the enclosure, one person clings to the hump of the bull. The bull in its attempt to shake him off will bolt in most cases but sometimes the bull will hook the person with its horns and throw him off. The person has to hold on to the running bull for a predetermined distance to win the prize. Mostly only one person is supposed to attempt to catch the bull.
- Vaeli virattu - This version is popular in the Sivagangai, and Madurai. The bull is released in an open ground. The bulls are not restricted in any way . The bulls once released just run away from the field in any direction that they prefer. Most don’t even come close to any human, but there are a few bulls that don’t run but stand their ground and attack anyone who tries to come near them. These bulls will “play” for some time ranging from a few minutes to a couple of hours, providing a spectacle for viewers, players and owners alike.
- Vadam manjuvirattu - “vadam” means rope in Tamil. The bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope and is free to move within this space. A team of 7 or 9 members must attempt to subdue the bull within 30 minutes. This version is very safe for spectators as the bull is tied and the spectators are shielded by barricades.
In each case,the “matadors” throw themselves on top of the animals in an effort to “tame” them and claim the prize.If the bull remains undefeated,the bull owner takes the prize.In addition to money,gold,home appliances,vehicles etc, are offered to the winners by the organizers.
The majority of Jallikattu bulls belong to the Pulikulam breed of cattle. These cattle are reared in huge herds numbering in the hundreds with a few cowherds tending to them. These cattle are for all practical comparisons wild, and only the cowherds can mingle with them without any fear of being attacked. It is from these herds that calves with good characteristics and body conformation are selected and reared to become Jallikattu bulls. Other breeds of cattle that are suitable for Jallikattu are the Palingu(or naatu) maadu, the Umblachery and the Malai maadu. The bulls of these breeds are naturally aggressive.The calves that are chosen to become Jallikattu bulls are fed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong, sturdy beasts. the bulls are made to swim for exercise. The calves, once they reach adolescence are taken to small Jallikattu events to familiarize them with the atmosphere. Specific training is given to vadam manju virattu bulls to understand the restraints of the rope.Apart from this, no other training is provided to the Jallikattu bulls. Once the bulls are released, instinct takes over.
Most Jallikattu bulls are used as studs in the local areas and prized bulls are often worth over a lack of rupees each.