Jallikattu: A Sport, A Ban and An Angry Tamil!

An old quote by Thomas Wolfe reads, “Culture is the Arts elevated to a set of Beliefs.”

The recent ban on “Jallikattu” a sport that has often been equated to the exuberance of the ancient Tamil culture and a symbol of Tamil pride has evoked a wide range of comments from arm chair thinkers, self – proclaimed animal activists and more. A lot of debates sparked and we also had a set of peaceful protests around Tamil Nadu until Today!

Being a Tamilian and someone who is vociferous about her culture I was asked why I had not spoken about this issue. As a woman who comes from a Kshatriyan bloodline the idea of a sport causing so much chaos is completely novel to me. Jallikattu has been mentioned right from the time the Sangam Literature was written, a fact that Francois Gautier also endorses in his book: A Western Journalist in India: The Ferengi’s Columns. Somehow, the idea of a 2500 year old sport coming in to the limelight is in bad taste specially because not many are aware of the finer details of the sport and deliver judgments on half baked knowledge, media sensation and meaningless trivia.

Before I go ahead some quick facts:

  1. Jallikattu means bull embracing
  2. Special bos indicus bulls are bred and trained for the sport. So you cannot just use any bull for the game.
  3. It is mandatory for contestants to hold the bull by its hump ONLY. Holding by the neck, horns or tail results in disqualification, (hence: biting off its tail? has to be a major question)
  4. A written permission is sought from the district collector as early as 30 days in advance before the actual fight.
  5. Not just that its even more interesting to note that the Final preparation before the event also includes a complete testing by the authorities of the Animal Husbandry Department, to make absolutely sure that performance enhancement drugs, liquor or other irritants are not used on the bulls.

 

Last but not least its only held in certain pockets of Tamil Nadu notably Alanganallur near Madurai, so its not like there are raging bulls running all over Tamil Nadu on the streets on Pongal the way they make it sound in the media.

And these are just the general facts. Jallikattu has its variants as well : Vadi majuviraṭṭu, Vēli viraṭṭu, Vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu; all this apart from the fact that there are also specific areas where it is conducted and care is taken to erect barricades to stop any untoward incidences. In Ancient times, Two bullfighting and bull-racing sports were conducted: 1.Manjuvirattu and 2. Yeruthazhuval to keep the people’s temperament always fit and ready for the war at any time. Each has its own techniques and rules.

Now one of the points raised was the fact that apart from animals even humans are dying. However, what they forgot to add is the fact that for the Tamils participating this is no news. They are aware of the consequences if they fail. Men woo their women over fights like these. Call it barbaric or primitive or whatever else, the fact remains that Jallikattu was, is and will be a symbol of Tamil pride and patriarchy similar to its equivalent in Spain.

As for laws, a legislator can only ensure pen to paper process but the executioners are a different lot and the defiance of the executioners ensures that any law implemented or seeking to be implemented will only meet its own fate.

The Tamils have never questioned the cultures in North India. They have ensured that they have preserved theirs and they have respected the cultures of the others.

And as for the poor old bull: well the bull’s ancestors would probably give better testimony that they too don’t go down without a fight. So all this nonsense about banning the sport in all practicality will never work.

Instead of trying to tame an angry mob that indulges in Jallikattu later it is far safer to permit the sport with guidelines. Yes I too believe that knives and other instruments/ weapons must not be used. This can be easily taken care of by the presiding officials. Make laws that will at least be followed.

And the only reason I have been forced to pen down this piece is because it is the sheer callousness of the governmental machinery that the protest is now taking an ugly turn. It is for those who care enough to decide:Which is the lesser of the two devils: Managing an angry bull or Managing a human mob that could very well lead to further unfortunate series of incidents.

The Tamil race is strictly non- interfering when it comes to the preservation of other cultures and today demands the same respect that it has given to others. You really want to raise issues; raise pertinent ones. Babies are thrown from heights in the name of religion. They can’t even speak for themselves. How about helping them? Farmers are dying. Anyone interested? Quite visibly, No. And injury to humans: please check Sports that have no animals involved. The injury list is long, painful and sometimes even fatal.

Making an issue of a non-issue should be the law enforced in my honest opinion.

The Tamils are a race that is best known for its brains.The lesser known fact has just been shown on T.V screens in the past few days; the hand that can hold the pen can stand on the street for their rights with equal ease. Jallikattu is a matter of identity not madness. You can debate on T.V channels for TRPs 24/7, 365 days a year and all that you will have is an unending series of discussions and more people making their debut on  Television screens.

PETA can go chest thumping to the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu and no one will hear them out. The Tamil Identity is not slave to an organisation, its a matter of holding on to a set of beliefs that our ancestors have handed down, generation to generation. And as a pure bred Tamil, I believe Jallikattu needs to continue to ensure our identity is protected.

If you have an issue with that pick a different holiday spot on Pongal!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

Katherine Abraham

Katherine Abraham is an Author of 'Some Days are Forever' and 'Silenced by Love', Director, The Lighthouse Project for Indo-Pak Peace. She tweets at @Katie_Abraham

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