Posted on: 13 January 2017

Jallikattu - its historical and cultural relevance
By Sparsh Sharma

Jalli in #Jallikattu means gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns. Kettu means to tie.

Brave matadors were eligible bachelors in the olden days. This is the reason why men used to display dare devilry.

The Spanish bullfighting is a mostly a cowardly version, where the bull has a ZILCH chance. In Jalikattu, the bull does NOT die, nor is it injured.

The Supreme Court has imposed a blanket ban on all traditional cultural practices and rural sports all over India, that involved ‘bulls’, including Jallikattu, Manjuvirattu, Vadam, Eruthukattum Thiruvizha, Rekla and Bullock-cart races of Tamilnadu, Sethali, Kaalapoottu in Kerala, Bailgada in Maharashtra and bullock-cart races all over India.

In one sweeping order, the Supreme Court has brought to an end thousands of years of evolution of the Indian Native Cattle, the farmer’s best friend ever since it was domesticated by man. We should understand that these breeds have evolved according to the terrain, climate, locally available feed, and have co-existed peacefully with humans who reared them and took care of them as his/her own kin. The cattle, in return, helped man with his farm work, providing the much-required muscle power, and dung, urine.

This is a special relationship that every farmer understands, which, unfortunately, the Supreme Court seems have no clue of, even after a decade after the Jallikattu case entered the Supreme Court.

One of the observations made by the Supreme Court was that Jallikattu is an ‘entertainment sport’ and ‘why should you not play a video game of Jallikattu?

Is Jallikattu a mere entertainment sport? Jallikattu is NOT an entertainment sport and cannot be conducted for entertainment. A Jallikattu can be organised only once a year in a village and that too ONLY during the annual village temple festival. It is organised by the Village Temple Committee and not by any sports/entertainment club. There are no tournaments for Jallikattu. Unlike other sports that are organised for entertainment, there is no first place, second place winner. For each and every bull that enters the arena, either the sportsman is declared the winner if he successfully embraces the bull or the bull is declared the winner. Jallikattu is no sport at all; it is a cattle-show to showcase the magnificence of the village stud bulls.

Although Jallikattu is widely known only as a bull-embracing sport, it is actually an ancient cattle show and a stage for the village youth to demonstrate their valour, all rolled into one. In fact, it is an exemplary example of ancient Indian wisdom of cattle breeding science, branding and marketing.

Jallikattu involves selection of the best of the breed, improvement of cattle breeds, cattle shows, creating a brand value for the cattle of the village/region and then marketing the same, thus commanding high prices for their produce (cattle). This exceptional system developed by Tamils thousands of years ago is still in vogue in Tamilnadu. It has continued non-stop even under Muslim rulers and the British Raj, except during times of great famine and epidemics like plague when the people voluntarily suspended it.

To understand how Jallikattu is a part and parcel of Hindu Religion, we should understand the ancient ‘Temple Bull System’ which is still in vogue in Tamilnadu.

The Temple bull is not restrained in any manner. It is allowed to roam around the village and does not even have a nose rope. It has the right to walk into any field and graze. Superstitions were created around the Temple bull, so that people collectively care for it. For example, people believe that if the temple bull grazes from one’s farm, then that family would have a bountiful harvest. If the temple bull visits one’s house seeking water or feed, then that household would receive some good news etc. The whole village pampers the temple bull; its only task is to provide free stud service to the village cows.

Jallikattu is all about an unarmed man embracing the bull by its hump for a maximum of 30 seconds! And that is all there is to it. Just 30 seconds of embracing the bull by its hump.

For a bull, an unarmed human is like a pin in a bowling game. Yet the bull does not chase a sportsman down and attack him. Not a single fatality has been recorded in the Jallikattu arena post - 2009.

Jallikattu has been a part and parcel of the Hindu traditional practices of Tamils for thousands of years. It is conducted as a thanks-giving to the local village deity to which the village bulls are betrothed. The occasion is used to honour bulls belonging to the temple and the village.

If you travel around Tamilnadu, you can see statues of Jallikattu bulls and Temple bulls, erected inside temples. Pujas are performed for the bulls along with the puja for the deity. In fact, the statues of the Temple bulls sport the real horn of the bull. The temple bull services the village cows during its youth and when it is old, the village lovingly cares for the bull till its last breath. When a temple or Jallikattu bull passes away, it is given a grand ceremonial burial after performing its last rites similar to that of the village head. It is usually buried in the temple grounds or farm of the owner. After one year, the horns are exhumed and placed on the statue built in the village Temple. The Temple bull is considered sacred during its lifetime and considered as a village Guardian God (grama devata) after its death. Daily pujas are conducted for the Temple bull statue along with the puja for the deity.

For Tamils, Jallikattu is a symbol of the wisdom of their civilization; an inseparable part of their culture.

Tamils would not give up their traditional practice of Jallikattu.

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Jallikattu ban - What's the real deal? #GlobalDairy #VS #IndianDairy By Akanksha Damini Joshi To put #Jallikattu in context, we need to first look at a little website, Genus ABS India dot com. Genus Breeding India aka ABS India, is a part of the world’s largest breeding company, Genus Global, running its operations in over 60 countries of the world. ABS or American Breeding Services is the first Bovine Genetics Company of its kind, founded in 1947. It has offices in 30 countries and five continents with its research laboratory in Madison, USA. ABS currently owns over 30 of the top 100 bulls in the USA. OWNS? Yes. You read it right. The company owns the germ-plasm, living biological material - like bull semen - used for breeding. -- If you care to glance through their web site you will find many #Bulls. They go by the names of Profit, Champion, Bravo, MoneyMaker, Dollar, Charm, Freedom, Innovation, Terminator, Macho. These are actually not bulls but frozen bull semen sourced from its "world class semen stations" which is used to impregnated the cows through artificial insemination. Alongside each of these will be many numbers. Big Data. A description of how much milk their daughter cows will produce on an avg, what the fat content will be, in percent, per kg, and much else. This company is just about 5-6 year old in India. But it recently created history. After a JV with Chitale Dairy (Pune, Maharashtra) in August 2016 it imported 13 Bulls from US to India. "The best Holstein bulls ever available in India and also one of the top ones even in the USA. The bulls possess high genetic merit for production traits like milk, fat, protein etc. They have been carefully selected for long productive life in animals that are the need of the hour for the Indian dairy farmers." They say, "Though India produces the highest amount of milk in the world, per animal productivity is very low compared the USA and other western countries." And they promise, "to reduce the genetic lag between India and USA as dairy farmers in India can access same genetics as their counterparts in America between India and US". -- So, what is this 'genetic lag' and this tearing 'need of the hour'? For this let us look these facts grabbed from an 2010 FAO article. 1. The average milk production of dairy animals in US is 23 Liters per day. India is just 4 litres of milk per farm/day. 2. Yet, India is the world’s largest milk-producing country. Some 75 million dairy farming households, with an average of 1.5 adult female cows or buffaloes per farm. 3. India has always been 100 per cent self-sufficient in milk, with total imports/exports of only 0.3 million tons per annum; it may thus be considered as almost unconnected with the world dairy market. 4. The predominant dairy production systems may be classified as low-input/low-yield systems (956 litres/cow/year). 5. Feeding is based mainly on crop residues such as straw and green fodder, supplemented by small quantities of lowcost compound feed. 6. Milking is done by hand and the milk transported to village collection centres or collected by local milkmen. 7. About 45 per cent of the milk is used by the farming households and only 15 to 20 per cent is delivered to formal milk processors. -- So, repeat, what is this Genetic Lag? From the global dairy/ breeding company's vision its low productivity. Now, i am no expert, but if you see this and if you have traveled around the milk producing areas in India like i have, you will recognise, India ... it seems to be working on a model quite different from the global dairy business. While the latter is high input, high out put. Big in, Big out. Ours is small in, small out. USA is 8400 litres per cow/year compared with India's 956! This Indian model is - small farms but many, many, decentralised. In Gujarat i have been to villages where every home that can afford a cow or a buffalo has one. One, One, One ... soon they become many. That is India's way. Not centralised, controlled structures. But many homegrown, decentralised ones. -- THIS is where #Jallikattu comes in. The method of selection of the genetics is not lab driven, organised, stamped, sealed and copyrighted, and OWNED. No. It is in community spaces, with celebration, with worship. It is in cattle fairs. It is in small farms. Like it has been in most ancient cultures. Its language is not modern, sanitised, 'technology' and 'science'. Its language is pride, emotion and courage. More gut driven, less mind play. Kangayams and Pulikulams breeds of bulls are played with in Jallikattu. They function only as stud bulls for mating and reproducing. Many small farmers keep them, feed them, and then trade them in cattle fairs. Farmer to farmer. Small. Contrast this with the 13 Holstein bulls flown in from USA, via Lufthanasa. -- There are many more dimensions to this story than meets the eyes. Do check out the links. Follow them, add, correct. As long as we are all enquiring - again, with humility - I'll be happy to learn. -- Links Jallikattu photos courtesy:

Appeal to tradition is a fallacy in a logical argument.

True - ancient sport - no harm in conducting - times have changed we may not have men enough to take on a bull alone now - let us make some rules as somebody mentioned - make it an organized sport - have a proper enclosure - circle of sufficient diameter - only allow a team of say five or six men at a time - NO PULLING OR TWISTING TAIL.- have 10 mts or 15 mts rounds - have scores for hanging on - holding by the horns - ETC - let the best team win - the present pattern is just chaos . Somebody who KNOWS the sport can organise it well. EVEN PETA OR COURT CANNOT OBJECT

Personally, I don't think this is the forum for this discussion. I'm all up for tradition. I work in museums and heritage projects but sometimes we drift as narratives and cultures change. What we identify as a tradition and then do in modern day society with all of its various attentions and needs to compete with digital distractions sometimes are not the same thing. They build. Become augmented. Would Diwali look the same thousands of years ago or has electric light cheaply imported from China helped create something with a different focus? Does Holi still involve the leaves of plants for colour or has cheap and sometimes toxic paints changed the focus of this festival into a colour party? With bhang. My point here is that what this well written article presents is a memory of a tradition. How it started and what it truly represents. My second point is that what happens in modern India is not Jallikattu as it was. It's a new and painful way for crowds to enjoy not a tradition but a spectacle. And it's the bulls that pay the price.

If Jallikattu could be banned why not horse races at the race course where wealthy bet millions on their horses and fancy turf clubs of elite?

This is the correct form. Only one man is trying to tame the bull, not ten persons jumping and trampling the bull as is done at present.

It's our tradtion. More than that people who participate in this sport are the ones who are closest to Bulls and only once a year they push these Bulls to their limits like we push humans to their limits in sports. We should stop sports in humans if we have to stop this sport amongst animals. People who don't care abut what adulterated milk they drink care about what Bulls are in real life. That's how Bulls become week and we get weaker offspring. This sport is science to build better species f Bulls and crate stronger Bulls for times to come. Stupid supreme court.

Wow a picture of an ancient "nadukaall", with manju virattu embossed. This is a rare picture. Thanks for sharing open minded people can read about"nadukaall and veerakall"

When Indian Philosophy says that contradictions be rather embraced than dismissed as impossible, the Western intellectuals will call it a bunch of woo-woo, a play of words, of which they accuse Eastern minds quite often. The point is that the Ancient Indians, had worked a lot towards awakening their "Vivek", and were not solely dependent on their "intellect", which is that part of our brain in which "logic" is embedded. We come from a culture where logic is not central to life and philosophy. It IS in the West. #notaboutjallikattu.

I hope people of Tamil lands r not cowed down by this height of lack of wisdom on part of judges, who r there not because of merit alone, but more because of unique club called collegium ! So secretive and possibly compromised too ! Pray that SC takes right decision and backs off from interfering in this where none is injured involuntarily and Bull is given good food etc.,, it's not a justice thing it's a civilisation thing ! Else I won't blame those village folks if they choose to defy such 'corrective' diktats from people who though r in chairs of wisdom, are suspect in whether deserving or just plain 'Networking' ??

தமிழகத்தின் ஒரு சில இடங்களில் மட்டுமே நடந்த ஜல்லிக்கட்டு நடக்காவிட்டால் மொத்த இந்தியாவின் பாரம்பரிய காளையினங்கள் அனைத்தும் அழிந்து விடுமாம். இந்தியாவில் பசும் பாலை விட எருமைப் பாலே அதிகம் பயன்படுத்தப்படுகிறது. எருமை (ஆண்) கடாக்களுக்காக ஜல்லிக்கட்டு ஏதும் இல்லை. ஆனாலும் எமதர்மன் காலத்தில் இருந்து இருக்கும் எருமையினம் ஏனோ அழிந்து விடவில்லை. உஷ்... சொல்லாதே யாரும் கேட்டால், எல்லோரும் தாங்க மாட்டார்!

வரலாறு காணாத வறட்சியால் நூற்றுக்கும் மேற்பட்ட விவசாயிகள் தற்கொலை. தினமும் தொடரும் அவலம். வருத்தம் தெரிவிக்க, கருப்பு பொங்கல் அனுஷ்டிக்க ஆளில்லை. ஜல்லிக்கட்டு விளையாட்டுக்காக மாபெரும் எழுச்சி ஆர்ப்பாட்டம். வாழ்க தமிழ்! வளர்க தமிழுணர்வு!

My point:Mere Politics. Just for the survival in business, some unknown foundation they are just going to slaughter any obstacle put in front of them. One such thing is Jallikattu. May be there are many more to follow in upcoming years

There is no more tradition or people are following principles in it. It just business and politics. Same tamil people will eat beef and it is culture.

Highly revealing. I think it is important to make sure that people who represented the case need to be equipped with these kinds of facts.

Thanks for the narrative and the detailed information.The Supreme Court can reconsider its decision as per the laid down norms.

Enlightening. But are we sure that it is this kind of custom which is followed: unarmed man embracing bull for 30 seconds only? Some customs evolve to become different from thrir original forms. If it is not banned, is it likely that other, cruel, actions will creep in along with this traditional form? The reverse of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Good. It is a factual narration of a traditional one time festivity .unfortunately certain unwanted practises of intoxication of bulls ,making it ferocious unnecessarily due to egos of men / groups and some sort of torture to animals do take place. That is why SC allowed with certain conditions to be monitored by District Magistrate level. This is a traditional and cultural aspect of the land and hence SC should understand that to pass orders to lift the ban and allow it even by prescribing conditions. But it should allow it

It may be followed as per ancient traditions by selected youth who could tame the bull single handedly or better keep the gathering as a bull fare.

Thanks a lot Sparsh Sharma ji for the article. Well written points

Thank you Mr. Sharma. Very well explained about Jallikattu.

Maybe u can post an entire video of Jallikattu, as is practised now; that may help others understand the whole concept. People like me are totally ignorant about the whole thing as is practised today. Enlightenment will surely help us all.

And I read that it was Salli kattu earlier,Sona Chandi,tied to the bull's horns.Later became Jalli kattu. The one that caught the bull by the horns claimed the gold and silver.

Jallikattu is our culture our tradition. We can't give up. As a Tamilian I respect our culture and tradition.

People who talk of cruelty to animals, I just wish to know what they have for lunch every Sunday without fail. Whats done on Bakrid day. Why no voice raises about cruelty etc. Fear!

S Suchindranath Aiyer Sir (just thought you would like it)

Jallikattu, the traditional sport of Tamilnadu has been organised with safety measures, further it was conducted in the presence of the collector and sp of the district. It will clear If you see the video footage of past events . The event was conducted smoothly with out hindrances from any body. But now, it has been banned on the petition filed by some AC chamber wanderers. It is unfortunate even the apex court without analysing the issue and with out considering 3000 years of traditional practice has passed an order against the jallikattu. The supreme court too has failed to observe the fact that " India is a union of states...... "

Please raise the voice against these ban. It's culture of India where no animals were harmed, if they think this is cruelty against the animals then what about slaughter house's, @# Peta India

Manjiri Bhat Chattopadhyay thanks for understanding our historical and tradition Thou your follower of Bengali culture. That's called unity in diversity

The honourable court ordered to stop jallikattu--- that it is harmful to man & animals. True, the court should also order to stop every culture involved in oozing of blood from body, passing of needles through body etc. Then INDIA is really great

Parts of the article says Jallikattu is a part of Hinduism, which is technically incorrect. It's Tamil and remains as Tami culture and traditions. Rest of the article in temple bull is correct otherwise.

Yes, it is part of our tradition... & the ban of jallikattu is not a ban on jallikattu itself, but an effort to end our tradition.... Half baked minds are favouring it in the name of PETA

The attack on our traditional and scientifically developed cultural practices should not be accepted at any cost. I am with you my fellow citizens of Tamilnadu. Continue with this.

On Farmer's day which is actually Pongal no one talks about farmer's suicide and their problems. But about Jallikattu and pride. 99 percent would have enjoyed the holidays , watched TV and not Jallikattu and bash anybody who says any opposite view. This is really a comedy show in the name of pride.

I support Jalliksttu because it is a traditional cultural event and one of conservation practices of local and traditional bull species in the country. Why do cow-protectors not support to Jallikattu ever in the national interest and culture protection.

Your tamil launguage has chaged many years is not tamil....but they took the word tamil....even in tamilnadu there is war happened for that they slowly occiped tamil launguge and culture....true tamilians will not accept this launugae has tamil