The Importance of Jallikattu 

Tamil Nadu (Literally “The land of Tamilians) is one of the 29 states in India. It is the eleventh-largest state in India by area and the sixth-most populous. The state was ranked sixth among states in India according to the Human Development Index in 2011, with the second-largest state economy after Maharashtra. Tamil Nadu has the second largest state economy in India with $71 billion in gross domestic product. Tamil Nadu was ranked as one of the top seven developed states in India based on a “Multidimensional Development Index” in a 2013 report published by the Reserve Bank of India. It’s official language is Tamil, which is one of the longest-surviving classical languages in the world. 

Tamil Nadu is home to many natural resources. In addition, its people have developed and continue classical arts, classical music, and classical literature. Historic buildings and religious sites include Hindu temples of Tamil architecture, hill stations, beach resorts, multi-religious pilgrimage sites, and eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Yet there is a threat to one of Tamil Nadu’s greatest accomplishments; the sport of jallikattu. To understand the importance of this sport, one should first know what Jallikattu is all about.

Jallikattu, also known as ‘eru thazhuvuthal’ and ‘manju virattu’, is a sport is practiced on one of the days of Pongal, Mattu pongal. Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC).It was common among the ancient people, Aayars, who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. 

Photo : Flickr – VinodChandar

There are many different takes on this sport. The most common version of this sport is when an eru bull, latin name bos indicus, is released into a crowd of people, and multiple participants attempt to grab the peculiarly large hump of the bull and attempt to hang on to it with both arms for as long as possible, to bring the rampaging bull to a stop. Other versions include releasing the bull into the middle of the village and having it tear through the neighborhoods for ten miles, while brave youths attempt to hold on to the bull and take the necklace it is adorned with. At the end of ten miles, the bull stops and whirls around, daring anyone, with it’s firm stance, to approach it again. When the bull makes this symbolic pose, the sport is over. In other cases, participants must hold on to the bull long enough to remove brightly-colored flags from its horns. 

In May 7, 2014, the supreme court of India, goaded on by PETA India and other various animal right’s groups banned Jallikattu, claiming it to be “animal cruelty.” They claimed that the Bos Indicus had to be drunk and aggravated to make it’s stampede. They claimed that the farmers who bred the bulls pumped them up on drugs to give them muscles. They claimed that the bulls were manhandled and tortured into the sport. They claimed the sport was meaningless. All these claims, however, were meaningless statements. 

But who knows better about the value of the bulls and the rich culture of Jallikattu than the farmers? Let me tell you one famous version of the story behind Jallikattu. 

Before tractors in Ancient India, they used bulls to plough the land. Before the ploughing and seeding season starts, the bulls were allowed to mate with the cows, Then they would start working hard to plough the land.

Photo : wikipedia commons

After the ploughing was done, the seeding began, and there was no need for the cattle to be in the farm, as they would accidentally trespass and graze on the cash crops. So the farmers let the pregnant cows & the bulls loose to graze lands away from the farm.When they let them loose, they would remove the nose rings & ropes of the animals to prevent them being abducted.At this time, the cows would give birth to their offspring.

But after harvest, the cattle were needed back in the farm to graze on the leftovers on the field during which they excreted manure which was good for the soil. Besides, the bulls would have to transport the bountiful harvest. When the farmers set out to bring back the cattle to their farms, it was easy for them to get the cows & the calves back, since they’re naturally docile and have a good relationship with humans. The naturally aggressive bulls, however, didn’t like to give away the freedom they had enjoyed for the past few months. Hence they resisted.

So all the youngsters in the village got together to go on a mission to bring back the bulls. Since there was no nose rope or ring to easily control the animals, they caught them by clinging on to their humps, and using their legs to stop the bull from running, finally putting the rope back on and bringing them home. And since this was a highly risky business, the bull owners put bounties on the bulls’ heads when they let them loose to encourage & reward the ones who capture their bulls for them. This is where the name ‘Jallikattu’ comes from; cash coins (jalli) tied in a bag (kattu). 

There aren’t any cruel intentions to the capture, no weapon, no gore. But on the course of time, when tractors replaced our bulls, this cycle of letting the bull free and catching it back got interrupted, and worse, both the bulls and the art of bull catching started to go extinct. Hence, as an antidote this art of catching bulls was transformed into a tradition, a sport, Jallikattu. This arrangement saved these costly bulls from the slaughterhouse, and the art of catching the bulls from going extinct. 

Yet this wasn’t the only use of the sport. The bull that couldn’t be caught be anyone was deemed to be the strongest. All the cows in the village were brought to mate with the champion. This made both the offspring strong, and made the cow’s milk extremely healthy. Finding of life sciences has proved that milk of these cows contain an amino acid, proline, which is strongly bonded to another amino acid, isoleucine. Such milk, called as A2 milk, has the capability to fight against diseases and disorders of human body like obesity, joint pain, asthma, mental problems, and much, much, more. 

A2 milk contains high levels of Omega 3 that cleans the cholesterol deposits of blood vessels. Cerebrosides present in A2 milk increases brain power. Strontium of A2 milk enhances the body’s immunity, and protects it from harmful radiation. In essence, this milk was strong and a landmine for vitamins and minerals. Anyone who drank this miraculous substance was practically guaranteed a long, healthy life. This milk was enjoyed by all citizens of the village, and leftovers were exported to Gujarat, where the milk was churned into butter, cheese, etc., and sold it to other places in North India. 

Photo : wikipedia commons

The farmers who raise the special bulls for jallikattu treat them like their children, with much care and respect. They don’t eat beef. The expenses to raise the bull for the farmers are mountainous, yet they spare all costs for the precious cattle. Hindus consider cows as their mothers. They even have a festival dedicated to celebrate and show respect to our bulls, ‘Maattu Pongal’ which is when jallikattu is observed. This sport is what’s keeping our native breed of cows from going extinct, and keeps India’s next generation healthy. 

Here’s where foreigners from the western cattle industry come in. They want to make money by taking our precious, traditional milk. They sell us cheap Jersey Bulls to compensate. These bulls don’t adapt to India’s climate, and are sickly. As a result, their mates produced weak milk and more sickly offspring. This milk,type A1, supposedly “enriched” by milk powders released by Coco-Cola and other brands, are clinically proven to cause cancer and up infertility rates and hormonal issues in females. And what of the bulls? 

For the three years this sport was banned, these bos indicus bulls were sent to slaughterhouses, as the farmers couldn’t afford to keep them without Jallikattu money. Is using an animal for sport, which in turn ensure it’s survival, worse than murdering an animal for meat? Our Desi bulls are becoming extremely rare in India, and India’s future leaders are being fed the Jersey milk as foreigners enjoy our enriched, ancestral milk.

Source: Janani Photo: Facebook, Flickr-VinodChandar , Wikimediacommons

About Janani

Janani (13 year old) lives in De pere, Wisconsin, USA. She is a native of Coimbatore. Now She is in her 7th grade in USA. She is interested in writing poems and articles. Her hobbies are reading, travelling, pottery and writing poems.

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VOICM wishes Ms. Janani on her well-articulated content with rich Indian Tamil culture. Also, we encourage her to write more and more in her near future.

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