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With Pongal round the corner, bulls and bull tamers flex their muscles alike, getting ready for the game.

We are at the Vilangudi tank brimming with water and the Ayyanar temple on its bank has suddenly become a scene of action. There’s a small crowd gathered to look at Maran, Mayandi, Arul, Ramu and Anbu show their mettle in swimming. They stand tethered to trees, their eyes glinting; they seem vigilant and wary of the onlookers. “These are some of my star bulls that have won laurels in many jallikattu events,” says S Deepak, who owns 16 adult bulls and eight calves. As if in response, five-year-old Maran gives a nerve-rattling grunt and people back off in caution.

Meet the stars of jallikattu

In the colour of the night sky, sporting a pair of razor-sharp horns, Maran stands an impressive five feet, his hump towering over him. Kicking his hooves back and forth, he keeps grunting, signalling to strangers to stay away. But Deepak refers to the fearsome bull as his baby. “He’s just a kid and yet to grow into a veteran. However, in the past two years he has participated in over 40 jallikattus and won in nearly 35 of them,” beams Deepak, also a bull tamer. “The bulls are like my brothers and I have named them all after ancestors or deities. At home, they are docile and sober but when it comes to the game, they have to be watched out for.”

Except Arul, a three-year-old bull that’s a cross breed between Kannapuram and Poorni breeds, all of Deepak’s bulls belong to the Pulikulam breed, known for its agile build and medium size making it a perfect choice for jallikattu. “Traditionally, it was the Pulikulam breed, native to the Madurai region, that was used for the sport. For instance, the large and hefty Kangayam breed is not suitable for jallikattu and hence only rekla races are done using Kangayam bulls,” says 43-year-old Deepak, who has been a bull tamer for two decades now. “Apart from the breed, the bulls are classified based on the skin colour and pattern and are locally referred to with names like karisal (grey), macham(mole-like marks on the skin), kaari (black), mayilai (stripes), sevalai or kuraal (with a pink or red tinge to the skin tone).”

S Deepak with his bull Mayandi

S Deepak with his bull Mayandi   | Photo Credit: S James

Unleashing Maran, Deepak leads him to the water and the bull happily gets in and puts up a good show of swimming, keeping his horns and head above the water surface, breathing out through his flared nostrils. Two other bulls follow suit and swim about with the help of their trainers. Mayandi the bull seems calm; but once he’s lead on to a patch of soil, he just charges forth on to the ground, fiercely poking his horns into the earth and throwing up mud. “This is referred to as mannu kuthal and often misconceived that the bull is being trained to be violent, but this is an exercise that helps strengthen the spine and neck bones,” says Deepak.

There are different formats of the game for which the bulls are trained specifically. Games like erudhukattu, vadam, velivirattu and manjuvirattu are some other forms of jallikattu conducted in Southern Tamil Nadu. While the popular vaadivasal jallikattu takes place in eight districts, the vadam sport is held year round in Madurai, Dindigul, Sivagangai, Ramnad and Tiruchi districts. Some of these events are organised for church festivals as well. “In vadam, the bull is kept tethered with a 40 metre rope and a team of nine men try to embrace the animal within a closed area,” says Deepak. “I have trained five of my bulls for vadam, two for velivirattu while nine are jallikattu players.”

“Depending on off-season and the peak-season for jallikattu, we train the bulls like athletes. Apart from hour-long swimming sessions, we do cross-fit training with slow and fast jogging. On alternate days, the bulls are made to stomp clay for strengthening of thigh muscles and to plough sand for shaping up the shoulders,” explains Deepak. The animals are also given a nutritious meal that’s composed of cotton seeds, wheat dust, ground pulses such as urad and thuvar dal. Only during off-season, the bulls are fed rice while during jallikattu period, their diet is protein-rich. “The player’s diet also includes honey, figs, and dates,a kilo each daily. We also offer them home-made traditional medicines made of ginger, garlic and onions to build immunity,” he adds.

Bulls aged over 15 years are considered jallikattu veterans and become sought-after as breed males. Ramu, the oldest of Deepak’s bulls is 17-years-old and is a star in the surrounding areas. Some, such as Nondi even attain celebrity status and become viral on online platforms like YouTube.

This article has been produced from JANUARY 11, 2019 15:11 IST.

The original can be accessed at  :

Jallikattu: Tamil Nadu allows bull-taming sport in three places in Madurai next month

It will be held in Avaniayapuram on January 15, Palamedu on January 16 and Alanganallur the next day.

Jallikattu: Tamil Nadu allows bull-taming sport in three places in Madurai next month

The Tamil Nadu government has issued a government order to conduct bull taming sport jallikattu in three places in Madurai in January.

“Under Section 2 of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, the Tamil Nadu governor hereby notifies that jallikattu may be conducted on selected days in the places specified,” the order dated December 24 read, according to The Times of India.

Shilpa Nair@NairShilpa1308

Tamil Nadu govt issues order to conduct in three places in Madurai from 15-17th of January. The event will be conducted in Avaniayapuram, Palamedu and Alanganallur.

The traditional sport involves a bull charging into an arena where participants attempt to encircle it and grab its hump. The participant who is able to cling on to the animal is declared the winner.

But for around a decade now, the sport has been embroiled in a legal tangle. After a campaign against jallikattu by animal rights groups such as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Supreme Court bannedthe sport in 2014. In January 2016, though, yielding to popular pressure, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government published a notification allowing bulls to be used in the sport. Animal rights groups challenged this, prompting the Supreme Court to quash the notification a few days later.

One year on, in January 2017, lakhs of Tamil Nadu residents poured ontoChennai’s Marina beach, protesting the ban on jallikattu. Several students, members of the youth wings of political parties and IT employeesparticipated. Holding placards and demanding that the ban should be lifted, these protestors claimed that the jallikattu was necessary both to preserve a cultural tradition and because the bouts helped identify the most robust bulls necessary for breeding native species of cattle.

But the legal challenge to jallikattu has not been put to rest entirely. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals challenged the amendment, and the Supreme Court has said a constitutional bench will examinewhether jallikattu is a cultural right.

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This article has been reproduced from dated Dec 27, 2018.

The original can be accessed  at :

PETA not taking legal action in US against bullriding sport similar to Jallikattu


People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to stop Jallikattu, is not taking similar legal action against bullriding, a sport with similarities to the Tamil event.
IANS | New York | 

PETA, Legal action, US, Bullriding, Jallikattu

People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which petitioned the Indian Supreme Court to stop Jallikattu, is not taking similar legal action against bullriding, a sport with similarities to the Tamil event.

Three days of bullriding organised by Professional Bullriders started on Friday at the Madison Square Garden here without a legal challenge or active protest from PETA in contrast to its actions in India against Jallikattu.

While people run after a bull and try to hold on to its hump in Jallikattu, in bullriding a person gets on it and tries to hold on to it while the animal tries to throw off the rider.

Unlike in Tamil Nadu, where Jallikattu is a traditional cultural event held around the Pongal annual harvest festival, bullriding is a commercial sports activity backed by major US companies and even the US government’s Border Patrol. Cheapest tickets for the Madison Square Garden event cost $59.

PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement to IANS, “Events like those held by the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) are rare in today’s civilised society and despised by the vast majority of people all over the world.”

“PETA US, which is a separate entity from PETA India, will protest this cruel spectacle and expects it to go the way of bullfights, which have been banned in more than 100 cities in Spain as a direct result of action by PETA and its affiliates,” she added.

PETA did not respond to a question from IANS why it was not taking legal action against bullriding as it has in India.

Despite Newkirk’s claim that events like PBR’s “are rare in today’s civilised society,” 81 bullriding events are being organised across the US this year by the PBR alone and some are also to be televised by CBS, a major national network.

The bloody sport of bullfighting, in which the animals are killed unlike in either jalliattu or bullriding, continues to be held in Spain where a constitutional court overturned Catalonia province’s ban in 2016.

A global bullriding championship is scheduled to be held next month in the US with teams from the US, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico participating.

PBR’s list of partners include automobile manufacturer Ford, construction equipment maker Caterpillar, Wrangler jeans company, and Jack Daniels whiskey distiller.

It also lists the US government’s Border Patrol as a partner.

Some of the PBR events make a show of patriotism with spectators waving American flags, which are also paraded in the arenas, and feature military bands.

The Madison Square Garden, which seats more than 18,000 spectators and bills itself as “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” hosts sporting events, concerts and political events. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rally for Indians was held there during his 2014 events.

India’s Supreme Court banned Jallikattu in 2014 in response to a case spearheaded by PETA alleging the event inflicted cruelty on bulls.

After protests in 2017 in Tamil Nadu against the ban on the centuries-old cultural event, the laws on preventing cruelty to animals were amended to allow limited Jallkattu events with strict regulations.

PETA and other organisations have filed another appeal to the Supreme Court for a total ban on Jallikattu and a constitutional bench is to consider whether Tamil Nadu can retain the event as a “cultural right.”

This article has been reproduced from The Statesman dated January 5, 2019. The original can be accessed at :

Jallikattu: Tug of war over bull-taming festival in Tamil Nadu continues

Trained bulls are lead through a restricted path; locals jump onto hump of bulls and try conquer it

Gireesh Babu  |  Chennai January 10, 2017 Last Updated at 17:38 IST

jallikattu, bull, bull fight
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

With Pongal, the biggest agriculture-related festival of being round the corner, the controversy on Jallikattu, a bull-taming sport celebrated in Pongal, has once again come to the fore.


What has been a tug of war between the traditional Tamil culture and a group of animal lovers, has also been intertwined with court cases and political discussions in the state and the centre.


The 2000-year-old traditional practice of taming a bull, which is linked with the cultural tradition of as a popular sport among warriors since the “Sangam era” finds a mention in the ancient Tamil text “Silapathigaram”.


The specially trained bulls are lead through a small gate to a restricted path, where the local lads try to conquer it by jumping and holding onto the hump of the bulls. Accidents, both minor and major, often occur as the panicked throngs its way through the gate into the crowd.


The State Chief Minister O Panneerselvam, in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, describes the game as: “It is inextricably linked to rural, agrarian customs and has religious significance, with families donating bulls to temples in fulfilment of vows. also addresses the cause of conservation of native germplasm since bulls with excellent physical attributes are reared. Further, bulls are not harmed or physically tortured during Jallikattu”.


The government has now sought the central government to consider issuing an ordinance to enable people in the state to conduct Jallikattu.


This is at a time when animal lovers link the game with the fight in Spain, where the is brutally killed for the pleasure of the viewers. In a judgement on May 7, 2014, the Supreme Court of India, banned the conduct of in the State of and also held that bulls cannot be used as performing either for events or for bullock cart races in the states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.


“The ban on has caused widespread resentment and general disappointment among the people of Tamil Nadu, particularly in rural areas, since is intertwined with religious and social cultural ethos of Tamil society,” says Panneerselvam.


The centre is against since allowing the game could be a political gain for the ruling party in the centre. In January 2015, the government of had requested Modi’s personal intervention to enable the conduct of events in by denotifying bulls from the list of performing in a notification dated July 11, 2011, issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India.


The centre has also issued a notification on January 7, 2016, which was expected to enable the groups to conduct during Pongal, which falls in the middle of January.


However, it was stayed by the Supreme Court and the game was not conducted legally during these years, though in some places, people tried to conduct it without the approval of the administration.


A review petition was filed by the government of on May 19, 2015, and the Supreme Court refused to review its earlier judgement, dismissed the review petition on December 16, 2016.


The state government has now demanded that the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests, should clearly denotify bulls “as performing animals” from the notification issued on July 11, 2011, and suitably amend Section 11(3) of the Prevention of Cruelty to Act, 1960 by introducing a new clause in sub-section (3) of Section 11 specifically exempting in addition to other exemptions already provided in the Act.


The traditional game of has its own business nurtured over a period of time, Organisers and locals say the ban will have a direct impact on thousands of and his family, who depend on this breed cattle for livelihood. According to organisers, a can fetch as high as Rs 2 lakh to a farmer and it would cost about Rs 20 lakh in one major village.


had been organised in 24 places between January 14 and January 17 in Tamil Nadu. An event can raise upto Rs 15 lakh in a village apart from the prizes, said Balakumar Somu, one of the ardent follower of earlier. Somu, an IT professional quit a job in Singapore, relocated to Coimbatore and started a website supporting this sport.


According to him, a farmer invests around Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 to buy a calf and the entire family spends money and energy for 1.5 years to grow the calf into a healthy bull. They use as a platform to find a buyer and the bulls which wins can stretch around Rs 1.5-2 lakh to the owners.


The buyers, who are mainly rich people buy these bulls as a matter of pride, employee around 5-6 people to maintain it. The people who are employed, mostly women, get about Rs 800-900 per week as salary.


Thousands of artisans also get affected as in many villages, a major source of income has been creating decorative items, including specialised ropes for the bulls and for the race.


may be a three-day sports festival, but it has been the source of income for throughout the year, said Somu.


The organisers spend anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 20 lakh to organise it depends on the village.


The money will be spent on preparing the ground for Jallikattu, deposit money, gifts including, motorcycles, gold coins, bicycles, steels almirahs and sheep and goats. The money is mobilised through sponsors and advertisers, most of them being local brands. These take space in t-shirts, which players wear on the ground and also merchandise including, coffee mugs, posters, coasters, pens, bedsheets.


This will also affect the special breeds used in Jallikattu, including the Kangeyam breed of bulls. Already, the number of Kangeyam bulls has come down from lakhs to tens of thousands.


“The banning of and the demand for banning of other rural sports like rekhla race will ultimately result in the vanishing of native species and ultimately result in the country turning into import dependent on bovine animals,” says Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, managing trustee, Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation (SKCRF).


The foundation breeds Kangayam bulls and cows and also works on the preservation of native breeds. According to him while the Kangayam cow costs around Rs 25,000-35,000 the is available for Rs 10,000 only.


Sivasenapathy said the population of Kangayam variety has come down to one lakh from 11 lakh in 1990. People with total disconnect with livestock, rural life or villages are ones who claim that do not love animals, whereas, farm are part of the rural household. He said cattle farming in India is part of the household activity and not a corporate activity.