'Jallikattu' kicks off amid fanfare in TN, 62 men hurt

Yougsters try to tame a bull during Avaniyapuram Jallikattu in Madurai, Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. (PTI Photo)

Jallikattu, the popular bull-taming sport of Tamil Nadu lived up to its reputation of being a huge crowd-puller as the contest unfolded on Thursday at Palamedu here and Suriyur in Tiruchirappalli district.

As thousands of spectators continued to flock both the events, the tamers were awed by several bulls which were determined to not allow anyone to even come anywhere near them. Interestingly, at Suriyur, a huge bull not only allowed none to go near it but also stood boldly on the sporting arena for a while refusing to move on.

When a team of men arrived on a mini-truck to drive it away, it kept charging towards the vehicle. Despite gentle prodding and honking, the animal did not budge and kept staring at tamers several of whom climbed the barricade to avoid the bull's fury.

Eventually, a man well trained in cattle-rearing managed to throw a rope around its neck and led it away. At Palamedu, which is more popular, announcements of a variety of prizes like gold coins, gift packs, cycles, and vessels kept the participants on their toes to dominate the animals and emerge victoriously. Bull owners were also anxious that their animals should evade the tamers and run over to the endpoint so that they could bag prizes.

Perfect nail-biting moments were witnessed when a tamer who hung over the hump of a fierce bull that proved to be a running machine- slid through its shoulder and fell right in front of its legs. As luck would have it, the participant escaped unhurt as the animal effortlessly jumped across and sped past.

Not all were however so lucky and some sustained injuries at both Palamedu and Suriyur. But, no bull was harmed, according to officials. A slew of sponsors right from smartphone retailers, vessel merchants to consumer durable retail chains showed the event's popularity here.

Also, many firms jostled for space to put up their advertisements in the form of banners in and around the sporting arena. Approximately, 600 bulls and an equal number of tamers took part at the Palamedu event which was inaugurated by Revenue Minister R B Udhayakumar and participants took an oath to stick to rules and not do anything that may harm the animals. In Suriyur, it was 610 bulls and 345 participants and a woman spectator sustained injuries when a bull hit her near the exit point. Jallikattu was held at Avaniapuram here on Wednesday marking the start of the annual events.

A key highlight of the ongoing sporting season is the Alanganallur Jallikattu and it will be held tomorrow here. The bull-taming events had in the past courted several controversies with stiff opposition from animal rights activists who alleged violence against bovines. In 2015 and the following year, the sport remained banned following a Supreme Court order in May 2014. The apex court had held Jallikattu as violative of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act (PCA Act), 1960.

However, in January 2017, widespread protests peaked across Tamil Nadu seeking nod for holding Jallikattu. Defying the ban, the sport was held in a number of places and slowly the protests took the shape of a mass movement and the vast expanse of the Marina beach in Chennai emerged as the epicentre of the stir. All political parties, including the ruling AIADMK and main opposition DMK, supported the demand for permission to hold the sport. Amid continuing protests, Tamil Nadu Assembly on Jan 23, 2017, unanimously passed an amendment bill for conducting the bull-taming sport without any hindrances.

The Bill to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act was unanimously adopted after members of all parties spoke welcoming it. The Bill defined Jallikattu as an event involving bulls and conducted from January to May and it includes similar events like 'manjuviratu', 'vadamadu' and 'erudhuvidum' festivals. It exempted Jallikattu from the purview of the PCA Act, considering the "vital role of Jallikattu in preserving and promoting tradition and culture and ensuring the survival and continuance of native breeds of bulls."

The ancient name of Jallikattu is 'Yeruthazhuvuthal,' which meant embracing the bull and later it came to be known as Jallikattu. It is generally accepted that the word 'Jallikattu,' evolved from 'salli kasu kattu.' While salli kasu meant coins, kattu was a reference to the pouch of coins -the prize money- tied to the horns of the bulls in olden times

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