December,26,2015: Parties are seeing the revival of jallikattu as an opportunity to tap into a vote bank.
This time last year, the political clamour for conducting jallikattu, the traditional bull-taming sport, was feeble. Fans and organisers of the sport at various places including the world famous Alanganallur and Palamedu in Madurai, felt let down by political parties.
However, this year, with the Assembly polls just months away, parties are seeing the revival of jallikattuas an opportunity to tap into a vote bank as the sport is imbibed in the culture of the farming community, especially the intermediate castes in southern districts.
While the DMK first announced a fasting at Alanganallur (since deferred) to seek the lifting of ban onjallikattu, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa sent her party MPs to meet Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar on the issue and later sought the Prime Minister’s intervention. The PMK had earlier called for amending the law during the winter session of Parliament to legalise jallikattu, which was banned by the Supreme Court in May 2014 citing a Central Government notification listing the bull as an animal that should not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal. State BJP leaders too are now vocally calling for such an action.
“Last year O. Panneerselvam was the Chief Minister. And the government failed to mount the required pressure on the Centre,” says an organiser of jallikattu in Madurai.
The popular notion is that the sport enjoys a huge support among the Thevars, a community with over 20 per cent of vote share in many constituencies in southern districts. For hundreds of bull rearers, the event is their last hope to protect the native breeds, and for thousands of youths who enthusiastically participate, the sport is an opportunity to test and exhibit their valour.
For the rural masses, including women, jallikattu is a good omen for the future. “Since it was not conducted last year, Madurai has not received enough rainfall even when many of other districts experienced floods,” believes P. Karthigairajan of Palamedu.
“Eru thazhuvuthal and manju viratuthal are age old practices. The domestic animals are let out on an open ground while celebrating the festival of harvest. Only during the late Nayak period, it was transformed into a gallery sport – the present day jallikattu. It became organised during the zamindari system,” says K.T. Gandhirajan, an art historian.
The patrons have also been changing. From chieftains to polygars to zamindars, jallikattu is now in the hands of the ruling party.
Meanwhile, bull owners are confident of jallikattu returning this year. P. Rajasekar of ‘Jallikattu Peravai’ has been camping in New Delhi meeting Union Ministers, MPs and officials since the winter session of Parliament began.
“Jallikattu is the only reason for farmers to rear bulls. All other uses of bulls, including in farming have almost ended. We need it for the survival of native breeds like pulikulam, kangeyam, nattu or malai which otherwise may go extinct,” he says.
Apart from being a pastime, bull taming has remained a symbol of Tamil culture. It was similar to ‘suyamvaram’ and also symbolised a cordial man-animal relationship. “For the owner, the bull was a member of the family. Native breeds used in bullfights ensured biodiversity and acted as geographical indicators,” says B. Thirumalai of Madurai.
Whenever a girl child was born in a family, the father bought a cow and a male calf. As the child grew up into a damsel the calf was nurtured to become a ferocious bull. The man who tamed it in a jallikattu won the woman as bride.
Bull taming had different names, till it metamorphosed into modern-day jallikattu (salli means coin andkattu is package tied to the bull’s horns) – erukol, eru thazhuval, eruthu kattu, kaalai anaiththal, maadu anaiththal and manju virattu.
Read Laws @ LatestLaws.in-
- Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, 2009
- Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960
Read Full Text of SC Ban Judgment here-