Varieties of traditions have existed in all cultures across the world and many of these traditions continue to be practiced to this date.
The significance and value of these traditional practices or festivals or rituals is very deep rooted; often with thousands of years of history behind them besides close links to the religious beliefs and faiths. It is frequently deemed as the cultural identity of the community group.
Jallikattu is one such tradition being celebrated in Tamil Nadu, for probably last three thousand years. The article covers Myths and Facts about Jallikattu
History & Facts about Jallikattu
Fact 1: The rock carvings and paintings found in the ancient caves in various excavation sites there have made the historians infer that Jallikattu was popular in those times as well. On particular day of every year i.e. during Pongal festivities (or Makar sankranti as known in North India) which falls around middle of January, this rural sport and cultural event is being celebrated for centuries.
Fact 2: On the third day of the four day long Pongal celebrations ( called Mattu Pongal), the young men in the village try to tame the bull. The word Jallikattu is made from two words Jalli (meaning gold or silver coins) and kattu (means package).
Fact 3: The broad rule is that any person in the crowd can try to embrace the hump of the bull for some time while the bull is moving/running in the open ground and bring it to stop or hold the hump as long as possible to be declared the winner. In case, no person in the crowd is successful then the bull is declared the winner.
Fact 4: There are some variants in this sport rules which vary slightly in different regions as per the local customs but some ground rules are common like only one person can try to embrace the bull’s hump (not neck, horn or tail) at a time, the bull should not be tortured to provoke, no contestant should hit or hurt the bull, etc.
Fact 5: Like most ancient sports, the challenge is to display the courage and valor of man to tame the unruly bull which is considered as symbol of strength.
Fact 6: Besides the fact that the bull is revered in the religious minds of the populace, it is known to play an important role in the village ecosystem.
Fact 7: It serves to mate the cows to propagate strong breed of bovine population which is the mainstay of rural agricultural life and economy.
Fact 8: The Kangayam breed of bull, reckoned to be the most suitable type for mating cows for healthy progeny, is traditionally used in Jallikattu celebrations.
Fact 9: Many social experts argue that feeding and caring for a bull would not serve any purpose for the ordinary village household as it would be economically unviable. Through this custom, the villagers were encouraged to take good care of this breed of bull family and preserve it for very important purpose to mate with their domestic cows and consequently ensure uninterrupted chain of healthy cow or bullock population.
Fact 10: The Ministry of Forest and Environment (MoEF) in 2011 introduced certain guidelines. Prior permission from District Authorities is essential before organizing the event. Presence of Animal Welfare Board representative at the event is necessary to ensure that no cruelty was inflicted on the bull.
However, in 2016, Supreme Court negated these administrative reform measures and reinforced the ban which led to massive protests in Tamil Nadu.
Main Reasons for banning Jallikattu
The seeds of controversy on this traditional celebration of Jallikattu arose when some animal welfare groups approached Supreme Court to ban this practice in 2011. Few of the main reasons for banning the Jallikattu put forth by the animal rights activists before the court were:
Reason 1: This tradition inflicted cruelty to the bulls and was in contravention of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act in law.
Reason 2: The sport is dangerous and risk to human life for the participants also is high. They cited yearly statistics to support their contention.
Reason 3: There are many instances of accidental injury to humans as well as bulls; many of them are permanent in nature.
Reason 4: The bull is from bovine family and is not suitable for sports unlike horses.
Reason 5: There were examples of betting and other illegitimate activities in the name of sport
Reason 6: The loss of human life of people in the gathered crowd at the event location or bystanders during the event.
Reason 7: Based on the presentations and evidences of the Animal Rights Groups like PETA India, who also included thousands of citizens in their signature campaign in support for the ban besides celebrities; the court ruled that such events inflicted cruelty to bulls and was against the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 thus the use of bulls in Jallikattu was outlawed.
The Tamil people against the ban of Jallikattu celebrations viewed this differently.
1) Tamil youth and protestors rejected claims of cruelty on bulls in Jallikattu celebrations
2) It was viewed as an infringement on their customs and traditions
3) Bulls and the entire cow family are hugely revered by populace and inflicting damage to them was inconceivable
4) They were agitated on the role of Animal Rights Groups like PETA and alleged that these groups were undermining the genetic pool resources available in the country.
5) The progeny of Kangayam bulls gives A2 variety of milk which was acknowledged as healthy and its superior quality is confirmed by scientists around the world.
6) The claims were made that the population of Kangayam bulls shall come down if there is no incentive for the farmers to keep them healthy for this annual sport event.
7) People who indulge in cruelty to bulls should be punished under the law and stringent regulatory or safety measures should be brought in rather than putting blanket ban on traditions.
In view of the massive, spontaneous uprising in the various parts of Tamil Nadu against the Jallikattu ban (which was very peaceful and non violent) and the public sentiments; the Central Government was compelled to issue an Ordinance revoking the ban which clears the way for celebration of Jallikattu with bull this year.
The larger debate which continues in the public domain however raises certain pertinent issues which have to be carefully dealt with in times to come. Can Tradition be above Law? Should public sentiment be put into context before any judicial ruling? In large multi cultural society like India, should we expect politicians to set higher standards of leadership instead of scoring brownie points over each other?