Jallikattu: 10 facts about the ancient bull taming sport

Interesting facts about Jallikattu, the centuries old sport, now under the cloud of legal controversy and stormy public support

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Thousands of people in Chennai and much of the Tamil diaspora across the globe have come out in protest against the Supreme Court's ban on Jallikattu. Youngsters and seniors alike, close to 5,000 people, gathered to condemn the crackdown on 'peaceful' protestors at Madurai in support of the 'traditional sport'.

All you need to know about Jallikattu

The Supreme Court on January 3 rejected a plea urging it to pass judgment on bull taming sport Jallikattu before the harvest festival of Pongal. The decision triggered widespread protests across Tamil Nadu with students hold pro-Jallikattu demonstration.

Here's are some interesting facts:

1. The practice of Jallikattu, also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, is traditionally held annually in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on the Mattu Pongal day which is widely known as Makar Sakranti.

2. The term 'Jallikattu' originates from the Tamil words Salli and Kattu, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls' horns.

3. Jallikattu is believed to have been practiced at least 2,500 years ago, after an ancient cave painting was discovered near Madurai, which depicted a lone man trying to tame a bull.

4. As such, the main objective of Jallikattu is taming the bull. This cane be done in a number of ways: vati virattu, where the bull after getting released from an enclosure needs to be held on to for a predetermined distance or time to win the prize or veli virattu: in this participants attempt to subdue the bull in an open ground and vatam manjuvirattu: in which the animal is tied to a 50-foot-long rope with players attempting to overpower it within a specific time limit.

5. Certain calves are specially reared to grow into strong bulls for Jallikattu, and these animals are trained to not allow strangers to approach them.

6. Temple bulls are prepared reared for Jallikattu, since they are considered the head of all cattle in a village; special rituals will be performed for them during important days.

7. Animal welfare organisations like PETA India have protested against Jallikattu since 2004, with the Supreme Court banning it in May 2014. This ban was reversed after the Government of India passed an order exempting it from all performances where bulls can not be used. But, the SC upheld the ban on 14 January, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.

8. Being a popular tradition, Jallikattu has been shown in many Tamil films over the years including, Virumaandi, Murattu Kaalai, Cheran Pandiyan, Mirugam and Ilami among others. The leading men in these films were depicted as being able to gallantly subdue the bull.

9. After the event, tamed weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture, meanwhile the untameable strong bulls are used for breeding the cows.

10. Over 20,000 students and youngsters conducted a rally at Chennai's Marina Beach on 8th January this year, to urge the government to restore the practice of Jallikattu.

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