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Rural livelihoods ride on Jallikattu

T E Narasimhan  |  Chennai January 14, 2016 Last Updated at 00:21 IST, Business Standard

Photo: Amshudhagar/Wikipedia

Photo: Amshudhagar/Wikipedia

Organisers have said the Supreme Court’s refusal to revoke the ban on Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s bull taming sport, will affect thousands of farmers dependent on this breed of cattle for their livelihood. A winning bull can fetch a farmer as much as Rs 2 lakh.

The apex court has dismissed petitions supporting the sport, among the oldest in the world, for this week’s Pongal season. celebrated last week on news that the had been permitted. As preparations were on for Pongal, animal rights activists approached the seeking the ban be upheld. The court subsequently refused to stay its decision on a plea by the Tamil Nadu government.

is organised in 24 places between January 14 and January 17 in Tamil Nadu. An event can raise up to Rs 15 lakh in a village, says Balakumar Somu, a member of a Jallikattu organising committee. A technology professional, Somu quit a job in Singapore, relocated to Coimbatore and started a website supporting Jallikattu.

According to him, a farmer invests Rs 5,000-10,000 to buy a calf and his family nurtures it for 18 months into a healthy bull. Jallikattu is a platform to find buyers. Bulls that win can fetch their owners Rs 1.5-2 lakh. The buyers are rich people who employ 5-6 hands to maintain the bulls. These hands, mostly women, are paid Rs 800-900 a week.The other set of people affected are artisans. In many villages a major source of income comes from creating decorative items, including special ropes, for the bulls and for the race. Jallikattu may be a three-day festival, but it is a source of income for farmers throughout the year, Somu points out.

Organisers spend anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 20 lakh to organise a Jallikattu. The money is spent on preparing the ground, deposit money and gifts that include motorcycles, gold coins, bicycles, steel almirahs, sheep and goats. Local brands advertise at these events and the merchandise includes coffee mugs, posters, coasters and bedsheets.

A state government official says it is a myth that Jallikattu brings in tourism revenue. All shops and hotels are shut during the festival and most people at a Jallikattu event are from surrounding villages.

The ban will also affect special cattle breeds used in Jallikattu, including the Kangeyam bulls. “The banning of Jallikattu will ultimately result in the vanishing of native species and the country becoming import dependent for bovine animals,” says Karthikeya Sivasenapathy, managing trustee, Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation.

The foundation works on preservation of native cattle breeds. Sivasenapathy says the population of Kangayam cattle has come down from 1.1 million in 1990 to around 100,000 now.

This news article has been reproduced from Business Standard, Chennai (Online edition) . The original article can be accessed at :

Ban horse racing, dog shows too, demand Jallikattu supporters

KV Lakshmana, Hindustan Times, Chennai | Updated: Jan 13, 2016 13:00 IST

File photo showing participants trying to tame a bull during Jallikattu festival, organised as part of the Pongal festival, at Alanganallur near Madurai on Thursday (PTI)

After animal rights activists successfully torpedoed Jallikattu for this year, by obtaining a stay on holding of the bull taming sport in Tamil Nadu, its supporters have begun to question the elitist stance of the urban educated and affluent sections of the society that remains silent on horse racing.

Seeking a similar ban on horse racing on similar grounds of cruelty, Karithikeya Sivasenapathy, chief of the Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation (SKCRF) based in Tiruppur said that race horse breeders shoot and kill eight of the ten horse calves that do not make the grade of race steeds.

The same animal rights activists, Peta, People for Animals or even Animal Welfare Board of India do not speak one word against horse racing because of the huge sponsorships, big money and high profile people involved with the sport, he alleged and charged them with an elitist bias in targeting the farmers and villagers who are often poor and unorganized and inarticulate.

But the Jallikattu organisers are getting around this problem and have got themselves articulate English speaking faces. Software engineer Balakumar Somu is a member of the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Peravai, Madurai, that organizes the bull taming sport in the region and runs a twitter campaign , we want Jallikattu. He lives and works at Coimbatore, though.

Other youngsters like him are also coming around to articulate the feelings, sentiments, pains and problems of the farming community for whom Jallikattu is much more than a mere sport.

Balakumar is blunt in questioning the very elitist bias in ‘targetting of the Jallikattu”. He calls for a ban on all sports that involve animals – whether it is horse racing or dog shows. “Ban everything or do not ban anything,” is his punchline as he holds forth on the attack against the rural, agrarian society from the MNCs through animal rights bodies such as Peta and Animal Welfare Board of India.

Balakumar also has a problem with the media that dubs Jallikattu as barbaric and bloody. Has anyone seen the sport? They are just giving it a bad name and killing it, Balakumar said echoing the sentiments of several Jallikattu supporters.

The animal rights activists never question horse racing or dog shows, where corporate bigwigs participate, Balakumar said. The same PETA never talks about temple elephants, some of which go mad and kill people, because of the inhuman treatment meted out to them.

Balakumar or for that matter, Himakuran Anugula, author, researcher and cattle breeder based in Chennai, charge these elitist activists with targeting poor farmers and taking away their livelihood.

They are not corporate farmers, they are landless laborers grazing cattle, by hitting at Jallikattu.

This ancient sport is much more than a sport, he said, adding this is how the bulls are chosen for stud services. In villages, often the temple bull, chosen after Jallikattu, is used to service the village cows.

The Jallikattu ban thus attacks the rural life in many ways, which must not be allowed, he said.

Raja Marthandan, an XLRI management graduate and previously owning a transport business, has now completely moved into organic farming. Now 35, he has been into Jallikattu ever since he got a prized bull as a gift for getting 93 per cent in Plus Two examination, some 18 years ago.

He does not see conspiracy theories like others, who see a sinister design of MNCs through animal rights activists in destroying Jallikattu, Marthandan certainly agrees that it has become fashionable to declare self as an animal rights activist. “Oh I saved a puppy today,” kind of activists never understand the many faceted Jallikattu and what it means to the people, he said adding Jallikattu is an event held to identify best of the breed of bull – all breeds are bred across the world on selective breeding – and later used to service the cows. It is the progeny of the Jallikattu bull that are used for work.

Now the campaign for Jallikattu will become slicker, smarter and bigger, said another activist.

This news article has been reproduced from Hindustan Times, Chennai (Online edition) . The original article can be accessed at : 




Special Puja held for Rekla Bulls

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A special puja was held in Ponnapuram Shivan
temple, near

Dharapuram Rekla bulls. About 140 bulls and two thousand people, including about 250 sportsmen and rekla bull support staff, – not counting the thousands of cheering onlookers -participated in the event.

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The event took place on the pollachi-Charapuram road. The event started off with a two hour rally by the seventy rekla carts. Thousands of people gathered all along the route to cheer the rekla bulls on. The local people threw open their farms and provided fodder and water for the bulls and also provided refreshments to the sportsmen.
A ‘Gau Puja’ was held at the Shivan Temple followed by puja for the bulls. The bulls were sent to relax in a nearby coconut plantation to relax before starting off on their return journey. The return journey also turned into a procession where all the bulls were cheered on by an even larger crowd that had gathered on the roads.

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Special prayers were offered to Shiva praying that Jallikattu, Rekla and such events be allowed soon.
We hope more and more such events would be conducted all over Tamilnadu and the rest of India.
We will never give up the fight to reinstate Jallikattu, Bailgada and Rekla to its glory days again!

Jallikattu Supporters to go on One-Day fast in Coimbatore

By Balakumar Somu

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For the first time in its history, Coimbatore will go on record for supporting Jallikattu.

The City is set to witness a one-day fast on April 19, 2015 by supporters of Jallikattu, Manjuvirattu and Rekla Race, who are expected to gather in huge numbers to demand the State and Central Governments to take steps to allow rural Hindu traditions like Jallikattu and other rural sports like Manjuvirattu, Rekla race, Bailgada (Maharashtra) etc. Their demands include removal of ‘Bull’ from the list of animals that cannot be used as performing animals and to pass a special law to protect such religious traditions and rural sports.

Although Jallikattu has not been conducted in Coimbatore in recent times, there is huge support for the sport here. However Rekla race is a popular sport in these areas. Coimbatore, is the home of ‘Kangeyam’ breed of cattle which is a hardy draught animal famous for its load pulling capabilities, ploughing etc and is also used in Jallikattu.



Monday, 07 July 2014 | ADITYA REDDY | in Oped

Driven by exaggerated Western notions of animal rights, the Supreme Court’s ban on Jallikattu not only hurts the cultural mores of Tamil society but also puts the bulls, the court seems to care for so much, on the path to extinction, writes ADITYA REDDY

The Supreme Court’s recent ban on the traditional Tamil sport of Jallikattu sacrifices cultural sentiments for the exaggerated notions of animal rights. Also, the apex court has ruled on a whole gamut of issues upon which it has no independent expertise and with little or no reference to scientific data. For instance, without reference to a single piece of literature on the subject, the Supreme Court has held that Jallikattu was never a part of Tamil history. The judges naïvely suggest that because the literal meaning of the Tamil word yeru thazhuvuthal is ‘bull-embracing’, Tamil warriors in the Sangam era played a competitive sport  that only involved gently embracing bulls. While Jallikattu, in its current format, may have been introduced by Nayak rulers only four to five centuries ago, there is sufficient evidence, in the form of rock art sites and literature, that similar sports involving bull-chasing and bull-baiting were popular in Tamil Nadu for millennia. Similarly, after a lengthy exposition on bull psychology, the apex court says that bulls are herd animals and suffer from anxiety when left alone. Such conclusions do not take into account the difference in the behavioural pattern of wild bulls and domesticated ones, which almost always are reared alone.

Moreover, the court has gone on to recommend that animal rights should be elevated to the status of fundamental rights. It says Jallikattu is an example of speciesism — a term coined by American animal rights activists to describe the denial of equal moral rights to animals. The judges equated speciesism with casteism, racism and sexism, without noting that, unlike the latter practices which are universally accepted as social evils, there is a difference of opinion among scholars on whether speciesm is inherently bad. American judge Richard Posner argues that merely because animals and humans have the same sensitivities or preferences, it is wrong to expect man to treat an animal on par with another man. In his debate with animal rights activist Peter Singer, he explains, “If the only way of preventing a dog from biting the infant was to inflict severe pain on the dog — more pain, in fact, than the bite would inflict on the infant — should we let the dog bite?” The apex court has shown little grasp of such complexities in its understanding of animal rights.

The Supreme Court’s extreme views on animal rights ignore historic faultlines, that are especially stark in Tamil Nadu. As academic MSS Pandian points out, in Tamil Nadu, the term ‘strictly vegetarian’ connotes caste by other means. Vegetarianism is such a differentiator in Tamil society that Mani Shankar Aiyar had to attract non-Brahmin voters in Thanjavur by proclaiming his appetite for chicken biryani. On election eve in 2004, Ms J Jayalalithaa had to withdraw a ban on animal sacrifice in temples fearing a political backlash from backward communities. By telling such a people that animals should get fundamental rights similar to that of humans, and preaching to them the vices of speciesism, the Supreme Court has fortified its reputation as the proverbial Ivory Tower.

To hold Jallikattu illegal, the court had to first find that the sport causes pain to bulls and then that the sport itself is unnecessary. The Spanish Senate recently declared bull-fighting to be an integral part of Spanish heritage and granted it constitutional protection. Yet, unlike bull-fighting in the West, Jallikattu is bloodless. But the Supreme Court has not spared even one line in its lengthy judgement to discuss the rules of Jallikattu. In none of its three variants does Jallikattu require the bull to be hurt. In its most common form, a successful Jallikattu participant holds on to a running bull for a minimum of 15 metres or 30 seconds. Another important rule is that the bull should be caught only by its hump. It is believed that in the olden days, the bull owner would run along side the animal with a 10 foot-long stick to beat any participant who tried to grab the bull’s tail.

But the court only mechanically quotes extracts from reports prepared by the Animal Welfare Board of India which contain instances of abuse like cutting off the bull’s ears, fracturing and dislocating its tail bone, biting and twisting its tail, poking it with knives and sticks, forcing it to drink alcohol etc. None of these practices are inherent to Jallikattu. Such incidents have been reported in the past and the Supreme Court itself, in an earlier order, imposed stringent conditions to ensure the safety of bulls. In fact, with strict Government scrutiny, Jallikattu events dropped from around 750 a few years back to barely 30 in 2013. If the Court was concerned only about the suffering of the bulls, it could have directed the installation of cameras in the arena and in the Vadi Vasal (the gateway into the arena) to punish participants who injure or torture the animals. But it did not even consider the possibility of safeguarding the interests of the bulls while allowing the sport to go on.

The Supreme Court’s finding that Jallikattu is an unnecessary and “non-essential” activity is disturbing. It calls the sport mere “amusement and entertainment”. This demeans the emotional attachment that the people of Tamil Nadu have with the sport. Jallikattu is conducted in the auspicious days after the harvest festival of Pongal and it forms a part of temple festivities. But the Court says there is no evidence of the sport having any religious significance.

Fundamental Duties for citizens in the Constitution of India encourages the preservation of the country’s “Composite Culture”. The term means culture drawn from all the strands of Indian society. By labelling the cultural practice of one section of society as “amusement”, the Supreme Court has displayed apathy to cultures that are not necessarily familiar to those sitting in Delhi and religious beliefs that are not backed by mainstream religious sources such as holy books. Jallikattu is traditionally organised by some communities that take pride in their martial history. They believe that the sport inculcates the martial spirit in their youth. Nobody has the right to judge the worth of these sentiments.

No modern society should tolerate sadism. There may be sports or cultural habits that are inherently sadistic, but Jallikattu doesn’t fall in that category. Villagers can be educated against abusive practices and there can be enough legal safeguards to punish wrongdoers. But for a large majority of owners, Jallikattu bulls are more than prized possessions. They are treated with great dignity and love, looked after till their very end and given a ritual burial. Also, Jallikattu bulls are chosen exclusively from fast disappearing native breeds like Kangeyam and Pulikulam. Without Jallikattu, these breeds will most surely become extinct. If the Supreme Court had kept its eyes open to these realities also, it would not have been so unfair.

This news article has been reproduced from “The Pioneer” (Online edition) – dated  07 July 2014.
The original article can be accessed at