Jallikattu – a symbol of heritage or animal abuse?

India is indeed incredible when it comes to rich heritage of culture and diversity in nature. At every few kilometers, we have a different people living in different way and eating different food and worshipping different gods. We know how to respect one another and we also easily adjust ourselves towards cultural shift. It is our unity in diversity that binds us together and keeps us moving. Every culture has pros and cons and India being multicultural nation, it has many! So many cultural events have been questioned by social welfare activists for defaming human sentiments or sometimes considering them as animal torture. Sacrifice of Goats in religious rituals, Jallikattu, torturing of elephants in temples are some examples of same.


History of Jallikattu

This particular festival is part of Dravid culture of India since Tamil classic period which is considered to be in existence between 400-100 BC. The name Jallikattu has two components, Jalli also known as ‘salli’ or ‘kasu’, which translates into coins, and Kattu which means bundle or pouch. This is an indication to a yellow pouch of coins, which is tied to the bull’s horn. The sport is also called as Eruthazhuvuthal, which means ‘hugging the bull’. A cave painting found near Madurai depicts a man involved in Jallikattu game, which gives a strong reason to consider this particular ritual at least 2500 years old.


Jallikattu Concept and festival celebration

The festival is majorly celebrated in ‘Tamilnadu’ state of India and majorly used breeds of bulls for same are ‘Kangayam’ and ‘Pulikulam’. The sport is played on the third day of Pongal (Majorly on 15th January or sometimes 16th January). A bull is kept in arena at the time of festival. Groups of people enter this arena and try and tame the bull with bare hands. The participants try to do this by holding the bull by its tail or horns. At some places, participants are asked either to hold the bulls hump for 30 seconds or for 15 meters (49 ft).If the contestant is thrown by the bull or falls, they lose. Sometimes only one contestant is allowed at a time. If two people grab the hump, then neither person wins. The bulls are specially prepared for this events by various farmers. The bulls are often taken for swims to strengthen its legs, and various measures are taken to make the bull strong and healthy.


Controversies with Jallikattu

Bulls are treated with cruelty not only while preparing them but also in the practice of event. Before event, bulls are prodded with pointed sticks and their tails are bent on extreme verge that it might get fractured. At the time of event, if the bull does not show enough aggression, then owners also don’t mind rubbing chilli peppers into their eyes. Sometimes when bull is not kept in properly closed area, then they may run to the traffic areas and become victim of accident.

An investigation by the Animal Welfare Board of India concluded that “jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals”. Animal welfare organizations, The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) and PETA India have protested against the practice.


Verdicts on Jallikattu – Ban, Protest and Government rules

The Government verdict on this issue can be seen through following chart.


Social Media Reactions

Many film actors, politicians, cricketers & other sportsmen, social activists, and authors supported the Jallikattu protest in various manner. Spiritual leaders like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Sadhuguru Jaggi Vasudev also spoke in support of the sport. The politicians of Tamil Nadu tried to participate in the protest but, protesters didn’t allow them at Marina. The protestors rejected any attempt for leadership by the celebrities and wished to remain a leaderless mass movement. On 19 January 2017, composer AR Rahman has announced that he will observe a day-long fast in support of the protesters, and for ‘Tamil Nadu’s spirit’.


The legal situation surrounding Jallikattu is as yet not clearly resolved. Some, such as Ministry of External Affairs cabinet minister Salman Khurshid, have stated that the matter will only be truly resolved if the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act is modified as local regulations and state laws cannot outplay Indian federal law.

Well, it is obvious that sentiments of people are attached to this particular event but there is no logic in harming a dumb animal for the sake of saving a nonsense culture. The supporters also claim that Jallikattu  gives economical benefits to the owners of ‘Zebu’ breed of bulls which are used in the event and very rare in India. If Jallikattu festival stops then there is a risk that we may lose ‘Zebu’ bulls. But again, no logic can explain how harassing bulls and killing them in event will save them from vanishing ! So, no doubt it is tough for people to understand and accept  that they are practicing a wrong approach but it is better to be awake late than continuing insensitive sleep.


Thank you !


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