Jallikattu bulls for sale

TNN | May 14, 2014, 04.14 AM IST

TRICHY: Ever since the Supreme Court ordered for the ban on Jallikattu, the famous bull taming sport that is held across the districts during the Pongal season the villages here have been constantly creating tension by holding out protests condemning the verdict of the apex court. On Tuesday, several Jallikattu bulls were lined up at the Manapparai shanty that was waiting to be sold.

The Manapparai shanty that is open twice in a week conducts the evening market where several livestock are sold, however on Tuesday evening the Jallikattu bulls surprised everyone that were brought from several villages in and around. Karuppu, Kangeyan and several other bulls that were once ruling the arena were waiting to be sold at the market. Kumaran S from Poigaikudi in Pudukottai a bull owner said that with the court ruling, there is no chance of Jallikattu to be held this year and keeping them will only result in loss, so many have decided to sell them.

The owners said that the bulls that were on fetching Rs 2-3 lakhs by their credits and souvenirs they earn in the arena are selling at a maximum of Rs 50,000 based on their size. Periyakuppan S said that he was stunned to see Jallikattu bulls coming to the market, which are sent to Kerala for meat.

Meanwhile, the Keeranur village along the Trichy- Pudukottai road in the district of Pudukottai that hold Jallikattu during Pongal, the harvest season on Tuesday held a protest by erecting black flags in front of their houses and tying black flags top of the bulls.

Huge posters were erected in the village that contained message condemning the act of Supreme Court. Suresh S a villager and an owner of three bulls said that bulls going to Jallikattu need exclusive food and will take at least Rs 400- 500 a day for its feed alone.

The Keeranur district alone has about 400- 500 bulls that are reared exclusively for the Jallikattu that visits several districts during the Jallikattu season. The bull tamers and the owners are all disappointed that the bulls that were bought for Rs 2-3 lakhs from several places will go under the butcher’s knife if the verdict goes unopposed.

Kannan N, another village said all the necessary arrangements and the guidelines of the animal welfare group are followed, however they have a set of agenda of their own that has resulted in the SC banning the game completely.

The villagers are urging the Tamil Nadu government and other groups to come forward and file a review petition to bring back the sport again. The villagers who painted the horns of the bulls in black threatened that the ration cards and the voter identity cards will be surrendered back to the state government if their demands are not met. Several of the villager, however have decided to sell of their cows in the nearby markets.


This news article has been reproduced from “The Times of India” (Online edition) – dated  May 14, 2014.

Bulls heading for abattoir

DC | S. Thirunavukarasu | May 14, 2014, 05.05 am IST

Several owners are contemplating ‘panic sale’ of their bulls following the Supreme Court ban on the ‘sport of valour’ Several owners are contemplating ‘panic sale’ of their bulls following the Supreme Court ban on the ‘sport of valour’

Madurai: Jallikattu bulls are heading for slaughterhouses. Several owners are contemplating ‘panic sale’ of their bulls following the Supreme Court ban on the ‘sport of valour’ after animal rights activists alleged that it hurt the animals, according to P. Rajasekaran, president, Tamil Nadu Jallikattu committee here.

“We have been raising these bulls only for the purpose of Jallikattu. We spend a lot of money on their feed and training. There is no other use for the bulls; they cannot be used in the fields as tractors have replaced animals long time back. And there are no more any bullock carts on the roads,” he said, explaining the ‘crisis’.

He said the specially prepared muscular bulls were earlier sold at the sandhai (weekly market) for prices ranging between Rs 50,000 and `one lakh to be run in the jallikattu at any of the 175 government-notified venues across the state. “But now there is panic after the court ban on our traditional sport. I heard that Gandhi of Alanganallur took his bull to the Vaadipatti santhai today and sold it for Rs8000. He broke down saying he cannot afford to feed his bull anymore,” Rajasekaran told this newspaper.

Jallikattu bull owners say that the buyers at the santhai (local market) would invariably drive the animals to the slaughterhouses in Kerala.

“About 50 bulls were traded at Manapparai market (Trichy district) just today.

They will all move to Kerala tomorrow. It would be nice if the animal rights activists also take up the issue of the butchers and their agents transporting the bulls and buffalos in over-crowded trucks in such terrible conditions that some of the animals even die in transit,” said Rajasekaran.

He said while the court ban had cast a spell of gloom on the Jallikattu players, there was still hope that the sport would be restored “because all the political leaders, led by the chief minister, have opposed the ban.”

This news article has been reproduced from “The Deccan Chronicle” (Online edition) – dated  May 14, 2014.

Ban on ‘jallikattu:’ Alanganallur heartbroken

MADURAI, May 11, 2014    Updated: May 11, 2014 12:48 IST

G.L. Renugaeswari with the bull her family rears at Alanganallur. Photo: R. AshokG.L. Renugaeswari with the bull her family rears at Alanganallur. Photo: R. Ashok

Thirty seven-year-old P. Raman nearly lost his voice after a bull’s horn pierced through his throat at a ‘jallikattu’ five years ago.

“I was bedridden for six months and had to take liquid food all the while. There is not a single part in my body that has not been injured in jallikattu,” said Mr. Raman in his hoarse voice. Yet, he participated in ‘jallikattu’ every year. “I have been participating for 20 years. I took one year break because of my throat injury. I will participate in the sport until I am healthy. I am sure the ban on ‘jallikattu’ will be lifted,” said the bull tamer.

Every house in Alanganallur has a bull tamer and 75 per cent of them have sustained injuries during the sport, villagers said. Not less than 100 bulls are being reared in the village.

“We spend around Rs.400 a day to feed and take care of our bulls. They are like our children. Why would we harm them?” asks R. Stalin Raja, a villager.

“The Naatu Maadu was used for agricultural activities and ‘jallikattu’ in the ancient times. Now that we use machineries for agriculture, the bull variety is used only in ‘jallikattu.’ The variety will become extinct, if the ban is not lifted,” said R. Govindaraj, who rears two bulls.

“Because the bulls are like our children, we will not abandon them even if the ban remains. The bulls are attached to us emotionally,” his wife G.L. Renugaeswari added. “When there is no ban on slaughter of cows in several States, the ban on ‘jallikattu’ is shocking,” said R. Kumarasamy, whose family has been rearing bulls for several generations.

“The temple bulls I have been rearing have caused me injuries on several occasions, yet I love them and the villagers worship their bulls. It is absolutely false that it is said we ill treat the bulls,” said A. Alagu, who has been rearing the temple bull for 25 years.

This news article has been reproduced from “The Hindu” (Online edition) – dated  May 11, 2014.

Centre allows use of bull in Jallikattu, sets guidelines

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | April 9, 2014 2:16 am

Emphasising on the “historic, cultural and religious significance of the event”, the central government has decided to allow use of bulls in south India’s ‘Jallikattu’ festivals by amending the list of animals prohibited from being trained for performances.

In its latest affidavit, the Centre has told the Supreme Court that it has removed the ‘bull’ from the list of animals not to be exhibited or trained as performing animals. The list was issued in accordance with a notification in July 2011.

“In order to strike a balance and to safeguard the interest of all stakeholders including the animals, while keeping in mind the historic, cultural and religious significance of the event and with a view to ensure that no unnecessary pain or suffering is caused to the animals, participants and spectators, the government of India proposes to exempt ‘bulls’ participating in ‘Jallikattu’ in the state of Tamil Nadu from the purview of the 2011 notification,” stated the affidavit.

The affidavit, which has been filed by M Geetanjali, secretary of Ministry of Environment and Forest, will be taken up by a bench led by Justice K S Radhakrishnan on Wednesday. Along with revisiting the list of animals, the government has also proposed guidelines for the organisers of the event of ‘Jallikattu’ by asking the district authorities and administration to take extreme care to ensure that no unnecessary harm was caused to the animals.

In those places which had witnessed casualty or injuries in preceding year, the organisers have now been told to deposit Rs 5 lakh for each casualty and Rs 2 lakh for each serious injury. The amount would be returned in case no such untoward incident took place.

Besides putting in barricades and enclosure, it has also directed to ensure that proper physical examination of the animals was undertaken before the event. It has also been ordered that to ensure that no performance enhancement drug was administered to the animal.

The animal welfare activists are up in arms against Jallikattu for the past several years. They want the age-old sport to be banned for what they call it as massive cruelties to animals.

After a single judge of the Madras High Court had banned the sport few years ago, the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, where a batch of petitions are now pending for final disposal.

The SC had also once noted that Jallikattu was nothing but a sport inflicting massive cruelty to animals but allowed it under stringent conditions on vehement request by the Tamil Nadu government.

This news article has been reproduced from The New Indian Express (Online Edition)



Sakkudi lives up to the Hype!

For most part of that night, I could not sleep. It was due to the excitement of going to Sakkudi for the much-awaited Jallikattu happening the next day. Sakkudi is the native village of Dr. P. Rajasekar, President, Tamilnadu Jallikattu Peravai – the man who has saved jallikattu from extinction and is still striving to restore it to its past glory – and also the last of the ‘big’ jallikattu events. Hence it is usually a mega event. I had been informed by my friends that this would be one of the largest communion of Jallikattu lovers, bulls and sportsmen. My phone was constantly ringing asking me about my whereabouts, friends informing me that they had already arrived at the venue with their bull and sportsmen enquiring whether I would be present to take pictures of them! I managed to catch some sleep late into the night.

Although Sakkudi was just about 10 kms from the hotel where I stayed, I had planned to start very early to beat the crowd. The receptionist was fast asleep when I woke him up. He did not even seem to notice me when I handed him the room key. I could feel a gush of fresh cool breeze blow across my face as I stepped outside the hotel. All along the way, I could see mini-trucks transporting bulls along with their keepers making their way to the Jallikattu. I could not help appreciate the fact that the Tamilnadu Goverment has laid out clearly defined stringent rules not just for the venue and games, but also on the mode of transport of the bull. Great emphasis is being paid to ensure that the bulls are not stressed, harmed or abused in any manner which has improved the quality of the game tremendously.

Arriving early for Jallikattu
Arriving early for Jallikattu

Along the way I stopped for a coffee break. Unlike Coimbatore where I live, Madurai does not seem to have flashy ‘bakeries’ or coffee shops. Madurai is still a traditional city with not many modern eateries around, especially beyond the city limits. Being adventurous with food, I love to try all kinds of food and make it a point to eat local food wherever my travel takes me. The shop-owner made me a wonderful cup of coffee. The shop was filled with the sweet aroma of what the locals called ‘appam‘ being fried. Although I was hesitant to eat a fried snack the first thing in the morning, the temptation was too much to resist. The shop owner handed me an appam placed on a piece of newspaper. I noticed a guy taking an appam, placing it in-between two sheets of newspaper and pressing it with all his might as if he was literally squeezing the life out of the appam. I knew that he was squeezing out the excess oil from the appam. Although I am used to seeing this being done, very sight of this being done to a sibling of the one in my hand made me wonder if I should risk my health eating such a snack. Not willing to eat it or throw it away, I brought it back to my car and left it there.

After a few minutes, the sweet “appam” aroma that now filled my car was tempting me again. Out of sight is out of mind! I took a bite of the appam and, oh dear, was it delicious! It was crunchy with mild sweetness and just melted in my mouth. I wished I had bought a few more.

As I turned my car into the single-lane road leading to Sakkudi, I noticed several policemen already on duty. One of them directed me to the parking area. As I drove by, I saw scores of mini-trucks, some of them off-loading their ‘cargo’ and some of them parked had already shed their ‘cargo’. I could see more number of mini-trucks arriving bursting on the seams with beaming faces of young men, boisterously calling out to others whom they seem to know. It was just beginning to dawn and already Sakkudi had come alive!

Am in too..
Am in too..

My friend, Mr. Balaji, had requested me several times that I arrive early so that he can receive me and find me a place in the Press Gallery. I had initially planned to go around the village grounds, looking for bulls that would be secured and relaxing, waiting for their turn to join the queue. I was quite taken back by surprise at the crowd already present at the venue and decided that I better go and get myself a good spot in the press gallery. The progress to the venue was excruciatingly slow as every Tom, Dick and Harry seemed to be rushing to the venue. The bulls also had to take the same route. I could see people rushing as if they were going to catch a plane; some having breakfast at the roadside eateries; kids running around; women peeping at us through their windows, families trudging along with boisterous kids. The whole place was just bursting with activity. The Sun also seemed to want a slice of the action as it was already out, giving me enough lighting to capture the hustle and bustle with my camera. It was a very interesting trek with so many things to see and absorb.

The lane abruptly opened up into a vast open field which was now littered with fire-engines, ambulances, animal-ambulances, police vehicles and a few private cars of VIPs. I could see a large contingent of policemen and police-women all over the place, some of them wearing their riot-control gear. With several politicians, including Ministers, and over a hundred-thousand spectators expected, presence of such a large police team was justified. The whole scene was intimidating. Most areas around the Stage, Vadivasal (entry point for bulls) and the VIP Galleries were already barricaded and secured. I was so relieved when Balaji came looking for me within minutes after I informed him of my arrival. After exchanging pleasantries, he wasted no time in taking me up to the press gallery. He rushed off to continue with his duties as soon as he saw me gain entry.

Thalaivar Dr. P. Rajasekar welcoming the gathering.
Thalaivar Dr. P. Rajasekar welcoming the gathering.

One quick glance around and I realised that most of the spectator galleries were already packed. The local TV channels and video channels were given separate platforms. Some videographers had already arrived and were testing their equipment. Suddenly there was a big roar from the crowd and we were surprised to see an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle with a video camera on board. A local TV channel had pressed into service an UAV for the first time and it was a sight to see. Most of the spectators were spellbound as it flew in the arena, hovering over the vadivasal and other select areas. As providence would have it, it suddenly crashed to the ground! The ground being covered with a few inches of coir pith, seemed to have softened the impact and the UAV seemed intact. I heard a comment going off, “Thats what happens if you show off too much!”.

Latest Technologies at work covering the World's oldest sport !
Latest Technologies at work covering the World’s oldest sport !

The event started with Thalaivar Dr. Rajasekar declaring the event open. The first one to come in is usually the local Temple Bull. A small puja was done for the bull and the bull was let in. The Temple Bull was a real beauty – Pure speckless white with a reddish nose. The sportsmen are not allowed to embrace the bull. Being a temple bull, most sportsmen tried to touch it with their palms and then press the palms to their eyes in a traditional Hindu way of getting blessings.

This holy bull was followed by temple bulls from other temples and churches of the region – Yes, Churches! Jallikattu is a Tamil traditional game sans religions. Almost one-third of all Jallikattus being conducted today are on behalf of Churches and Churches of Tamilnadu also have the tradition of having temple bulls. In the past Jallikattus were held during Christmas celebrations also. But the new Jallikattu Act allows the event to be held only from January to May.

Sakkudi being known for excellent prizes for winners, usually attarcts a huge number of sportsmen and bulls. But what came as a surprise to me was the fact that over 600 sportsmen and 900 bulls were expected to participate that day. As the bulls were sent in one by one, the sportsmen tried to embrace the bull. The rules of the game were very simple – embrace the bull by its hump only for a length of 50 feet or for about 10 seconds, if the bull does stands still and cross the line. Holding on to its tail, horns, neck or legs or beating the bull were strictly prohibited and would invite instant disqualification.

Flip and turn!
Flip and turn!

Most of the bulls ran away with the prize during the first few minutes prompting the compere to taunt the sportsmen about their capabilities. He was a boisterous, quick-witted and energetic person. He won applause from the crowd for his instant wits, harmless taunts and timely comments. Seemingly taking cue from the compere, some bulls also stayed in the arena and taunted the sportsmen. Especially a bull with wide horns which seemed to just ‘flip’ anybody trying to touch its hump. It was so confident that it just stood there tauting the sportsmen to try and touch it. After sending several boys flying and somersaulting into the sky, it decided to walk off. What a majestic animal! It is always a sight to behold when a bull ‘plays’ in the arena and it is still better to see its keepers – who care for it 24×7, 365 days a year – celebrating the win!

Suddenly the compere announced that the forthcoming bull had a cash prize of Rs. 35,000 and a refrigerator! The whole venue was abuzz! The spectators lunged forward to catch a glimpse of the bull, the press people were on high alert and the sportsmen were fighting over each other to find a suitable place to confront the bull. Next the compere announced the name of the bull and its owner. There was another buzz now. This was purportedly a famous bull. Instantly the not-so-confident sportsmen moved to the barricades. They positioned themselves with one hand on the barricade and were ready to climb on to it if the bull charged! The centre of the arena was sparsely populated with ony a few daring boys out there. The compere was constantly taunting the boys to come in. The bull was let in to a thunderous applause. And lo! What a magnificent animal! It strode in fast, turned around to see if anyone is approaching, then went around seemingly taunting the boys. He seemed to know what he was doing and what he was capable of. A few sportsmen attempted to embrace the bull. Just a sudden turn and a start sent the boy scurrying. And when one or two managed to touch it, he just flipped them by just shirking his body. What a sight it was. Its keepers were frantically signaling to him to come out by waving their towels in the air. After a few rounds of taunting, he followed his keepers out. He walked out slowly and majestically as if he knew he was the star of the day. He walked out with the refrigerator and the huge cash prize of 35, 000 rupees.

Hmm... Looks like nobody wants to play!
Hmm… Looks like nobody wants to play!

The prizes given included cash, cycles, refrigerators, Goats, cell phones, kitchen utensils and gift-boxes.

After a few hours, I slipped out of the gallery as I wanted to record the happenings at the collection point – where the bulls are let out of the arena, Medical checkup for bulls, other festivities and other relaxing bulls. The first thing did after I got out was to have a glass of cool Jigardanda – a Madurai speciality. This was a small relief from the scorching heat. I saw that the whole village was celebrating. Vendors selling everything from ice-creams, jigardandas, sarbath, sugar-cane juice and other cool drinks to packed food. I could get a considerable number of interesting pictures around the venue and decided to call it a day.

A kid and his bull! We can give up anything to keep them smiling...
A kid and his bull! We can give up anything to keep them smiling…

Being a regular at most Jallikattus, I have seen, firsthand, the bond shared by the bull and its keepers. The keepers treat the bull as one of their family members. If we can share a close bond with a dog, a cat or even a ferret, what is wrong in these people loving their bulls. One can see kids playing with bulls, hugging them, kissing them and sharing their love. I cannot digest the fact that the wonderful bulls would have ended up in slaughter houses if not for Jallikattu events like these. Thousands of bulls have already been slaughtered, due to the drastic fall in the number of Jallikattu events and the stringent rules preventing organisers from getting permission to conduct a Jallikattu. From over 3000 events a year before 2006, it has now reduced to just about 25! Lack of Jallikattu events results in the fall of interest in the upkeep of bulls, which is an expensive affair for a rural household, leading them to sell their beloved bull off which eventually ends up at the slaughter houses!

As I drove back, I could forget the magnificient animal that walked calmly alongside its celebrating keepers. At the same time, I shudder to think what would be the fate of all these wonderful bulls if not for these few Jallikattu events still happening!