India is an agriculture based country in which cattle farming plays a major role. In several states of India, cows and bulls are considered part of the family. The southern state of Tamil Nadu celebrates festivals during harvest season. Bull taming sport plays an important role in such festivals. One such event is the famous “ Jallikattu – Taming of the bull ”.
Photo by VinothChandar
Pongal and Jallikattu
The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu is celebrated during the Tamil month of ‘Thai’. Cows are decorated as a part of this festival, as they are the heroes for farmers. There is an exclusive festival called “maatu pongal” during which cows are remembered and thanked for their help. Bulls also play a major role and they enjoy an equal status in a farmer’s family.
Bull taming sport Jallikattu plays an important role in Pongal, the festival of harvest. The game takes place in a mud ground covered with injury-proof material. The Tamil province of Alanganallur is highly famous for hosting Jallikattu for centuries. The game is conducted in other parts of Tamil Nadu as well.
Bulls are made to enter the field through a gate which is known as “Vaadi vaasal”. A set of players try to control the bull and if it surrenders for a few seconds, the player is declared as winner. If the bull does not surrender to anyone, it is declared as the winner and the bull owner is awarded.
Before the advent of tractors, bulls were extensively used in ploughing. They assisted famers with several tasks and hence enjoyed an equal status as that of a family member. When the crops wait to mature, cow supports the family with its milk. Hence cattle farming acted as an alternate source of income in many families.
There are several breeds of bull, native to Tamil Nadu since ancient times. Though many breeds are extinct, current farmers strive to protect the existing breeds. Jallikattu is not just a sport – there is a concept of breeding behind it. Farmers grow cow for milk and bull for ploughing. To enable the female to reproduce and supply milk, male animals are brought up. To encourage the owners of native breed male animals, such sports were introduced.
The animal is prepared for Jallikattu throughout the year. With regular practice, it gains strength and stability. When it copulates, it brings a healthy offspring with the same strength inherited. All native breeds have good strength and generally immune to diseases. Their milk has a rich supply of nutrients. When a bull wins, it is brought under the breeding circle and when it fails, it is used for ploughing the field.
Man and bull
During ancient times, fathers wished to give their daughter’s hand only to a Jallikattu winner. Men practised along with the bull to win the sport. Most of the wedding photographs of the previous century included the bride, the groom and – the bull!
These practises strengthened the community with the availability of native cattle breeds and their nutrient rich milk. When farming practices were taken over by machines, the significance of bull farming slowly declined and hence hormone induced cows started filling the gap.
Boon and ban
When Jallikattu was accused as a game which hurts animals, tamil people protested back and justified this theory. The ban was lifted in 2017 but this ban was the main reason for spreading awareness on native cattle breeding. Thanks to the ban politics, Jallikattu became popular worldwide and gained support, fund and popularity.
Taking forward to next generation
Milk plays a major role in the diet of Indians. Milk, ghee, butter, curd etc. are widely used daily for food. Dairy products are healthy, but nowadays cows are induced chemically to increase milk supply. To maintain a balance between demand and supply, native breed should be protected. Jallikattu should be continued, with good standards for protection, to bring up a healthy generation.
The traditional sport of Tamil Nadu strives to preserve its resources. Proper understanding and safe practices mutually benefits humans and animals.