In the recent past, there has been a surge in the agitation against the ban of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. Superstar Kamal Hassan is the latest celebrity to join the bandwagon agitating against the ban. He urged people to not confuse Jallikattu with bull-fighting in Spain.
Stressing on the fact that there is no similarity between the Spanish sport of bullfighting and Jallikattu, Kamal Hassan said the bulls were harmed and killed in the sport festival in Spain but to the contrary, the bulls are treated like gods in Tamil Nadu. “It is all about taming and embracing the bull and not causing them physical harm by breaking its horns or other parts,” he had said.
Kamal Hassan also asked those who think that the sport is cruel to animals should also give up biryani. I’m a big fan of Jallikattu. I’m probably one of few actors who’ve embraced Jallikattu. I am a proud Tamilian and this is our culture”, said Kamal Hassan, who seemed to strike a chord with the hue and cry around Jallikattu ban.
Jallikattu, a 2000-year old sport has been an integral part of the Tamil culture. It’s roots date back to the age of Indus Valley Civilization and finds references in the ancient Tamil poetry, known as Sangam literature. In the olden age, gold coins, wrapped in a piece of cloth were tied to the horns of the bull, which was supposed to be untied by the tackler by clinging onto the hump of the bull.
During the Pongal celebrations, bulls are traditionally worshiped on Maatu Pongal day as an accolade to their integral part in helping the farmers cultivate crops on their fields. Jallikattu, also a part of the accolade to bulls, encourages human to embrace the bulls. On completion of the event, tamed and weak bulls are used for agriculture and other domestic activities while the strong untamed bulls are used for breeding the cows.
In 2014, the Supreme Court of India outlawed the sport after opposition from few animal rights activists like PETA who consider the sport to be cruel. But, on 8 January 2016, the GOI effectively reversed the ban by passing an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls cannot be used.
However, on 14 January 2016, Supreme Court again imposed a ban on the sport which has led to widespread protests all over Tamil Nadu.
The supporters claim that the native cattle breeds in the southern Indian state would face extinction if the ban is not revoked.
“In Tamil Nadu, we used to have six native breeds. One breed called Alambadi has been officially declared extinct and this ban is going to kill other breeds as well,” says Jallikattu supporter Balakumaran Somu.
There were more than 130 cattle breeds in India 100 years ago which have now been decimated to mere 37 breeds.
The farmers also suggest that bull fighting and bullock cart racing maintains a healthy male-to-female ratio of native cattle in the region. “We had over one million Kangayam bulls in 1990. The population has fallen to 15,000 now.”, says Karthikeyan Siva Senaapathy who is among the very few breeders of pure Kangayam cattle.
“We used to have a cow-to-bull ratio of 4:1. But now it has gone to 8:1 and it is going to slip further due to this ban. Farmers can’t afford to have big bulls as pets.”, adds in another farmer affected by the ban.
With the major festival of the Tamils, Pongal less than a week away, only an ordinance passed by Government of India revoking the ban can bring cheerfulness to the festivities. The farmers and the people of Tamil Nadu remain hopeful of participating and witnessing the 2000-year-old cultural sport in the coming Pongal season.
For the people of Tamil Nadu, Jallikattu is not only an integral part of the culture but also an identity.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are author’s own.