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Jallikattu protest leader Balakumar Somu calls ban an insult to Tamil sentiments

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Exclusive: Jallikattu protest leader Balakumar Somu calls ban an insult to Tamil sentiments

 Take a look at this exclusive interview to understand the mass Tamil protest against the Jallikattu ban

Sunday story: Locked Horns

Written in The Indian Express by Arun Janardhanan Updated: Jan 17, 2016, 7:40

With the SC refusing to vacate the stay on Jallikattu, Arun Janardhanan visits a cattle shelter in Coimbatore, home to over 200 stud bulls. The goshala and its inmates tell the story of a rural tradition that is fast ceding space to new realities.

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The velliangiri goshala in coimbatore has some 1,400cattle, including 204 Jallikattu bulls. (Photos by Arun Janardhanan)

Karappu Ram has done it all — jumped over eight-foot-high double barricades and spun his hapless opponents around as they tried to hang on to his huge, dark hump. Almost always, Ram left the vaadivasal, the entrance to the Jallikattu bull-fight arena, with a shake of his head — sign that he had won.

Ram, his shiny black coat earning him the ‘karappu (black)’ in his name, was the designated temple bull of Rangarajapuram village near Alaganallur in Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. As stud bull, he was much in demand for servicing the cows of the village and those of neighbouring villages. Since, traditionally, temple bulls are changed once in three years to prevent inbreeding, Ram was relieved of his duties as temple bull in 2014. K Suresh, his owner who is also a farmer and bull tamer, had sold Ram to his friend N Karthick, who later sold him to the Velliangiri goshala on the foothills of Siruvani hills, about 40 km from Coimbatore and many more kilometres from his home in Madurai.

At the Velliangiri shelter, Ram is now one of 204 bulls, all native breeds who spend their day tethered to two ropes, munching on hay and fodder. In a little over a year, life had changed drastically for Ram.

In May 2014, after the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu, distress sales of bulls followed in Madurai and other districts. Farmers sold their bulls for as little as
Rs 20,000 each against the asking price of Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh. That’s when P Siva Ganesh, who owns a textile shop in the city, decided to “rescue them from ending up in the slaughter houses of Kerala” and bring them to his Velliangiri goshala.

Most of the Jallikattu bulls in Tamil Nadu belong to the Kangayam breed, one of the five existing pure breeds of the state. They are stud bulls like Ram, considered the most virile and now used only for mating and during Jallikattu. These native breeds were once sturdy farm hands, used for ploughing the land before the machines replaced them.

Tamil Nadu’s five native breeds are all work animals. While the bulls served as temple animals and the oxen ploughed the farms, the cows were reared for household use and for breeding. The cows, though, yield less milk, barely a litre or two, unlike north Indian and central Indian breeds that yield up to 15 litres of milk a day. For some years now, with modernisation and farm mechanisation, the native breeds have been under threat. The ban on Jallikattu, say activists who are working to restore the sport and those working to save native breeds, will complete the rout.

“Despite being a water-starved state, if farmer suicides did not shake up Tamil Nadu, it’s because we were livestock keepers. It was this livestock that sustained us. But when the tractors came in, most of the native breeds were gradually phased out. Though people had little other reason to keep them, Jallikattu was what inspired them. With the ban, that purpose too has been lost,” says Balakumar Somu, a Coimbatore-based animal rights activist and member of a Jallikattu organising committee in Madurai.

Somu says goshalas such as the one in Coimbatore is just not the place for stud bulls. “Goshalas have been taking away hundreds of bulls for a pittance from poor farmers, all in the name of conservation. Keeping them in sheds without letting them graze or mate itself is cruelty. No breed will sustain through such conservation methods,” he says.

Suresh, the first owner of Karappu Ram, says that for villagers like him, the Jallikattu bulls are “more than just animals, they are divine”.

“After we sold Ram to my friend and he sold it to the goshala, our village has been facing many setbacks. The village elders recently met and decided Ram should be brought back. We are still trying to get him back to our village temple,” he says.

After Ram was sold to the goshala, an unfortunate set of events followed in Rangarajapuram village — two bulls that succeeded Ram as temple bulls died in quick succession. The villagers saw this as some kind of divine warning so they decided to get Ram back. A group of villagers then travelled to the Coimbatore goshala, pleading for Ram to be returned. “The entire village has been asking for Ram to be brought back. I told the goshala owner that I can pay any amount for Ram. We also offered to give them two Jallikattu bulls in exchange for Ram. But they refused,” says Suresh, who even sought the police’s help to get his bull back.

“Look at the way Ram is being kept now. Tied so close to other bulls. They are not allowed to graze or mate. Wasn’t it better to send them to the slaughter houses?,” he asks.

Raja Manickam, a farm worker and bull tamer from a village near Palamedu in Madurai, says that owners often thought of their bulls as family.
“I sold my bull in 2014. Until then, he used to share the living quarters with us. The last few years were tough but some owners kept their bulls and fed them, hoping the ban will be lifted and their bulls will fight. Jallikattu bulls are a symbol of pride not just for their owners but for the villages they represent. If there’s no Jallikattu, I don’t know why people will keep these bulls,” he says.

It was this emotional support for Jallikattu that got the BJP to sense a political opportunity ahead of the upcoming Assembly elections this year. On January 8, a week before Pongal, the Centre issued a notification to allow the bull-taming sport. The Jallikattu belt of Tamil Nadu is dominated by OBC groups such as the politically powerful Thevars and the Maravars, who form a crucial vote bank.

Back at the Velliangiri goshala, Jayamani, 35, is among six workers from Madurai who came here about a year ago with his five bulls. “I sold all my bulls to the goshala and got a job too,” he says.

Jayamani knows the bulls by their names, their breeds and their villages. He walks up to ‘Virumaandi’ Ramu, the goshala’s ageing superstar. In the 2004 hit Virumaandi, Kamal Hasaan had hung onto Ramu’s hump in one of the movie’s most memorable scenes, shot live among charging bulls and bull-fighters. A decade later, Ramu, now 20, seems frail. “He is old now. A 20-year-old bull is as young or old as a 40-year-old man,” says Jayamani.

Then, there’s the “killer”. Jayamani doesn’t reveal his name. “He has killed at least seven people. He used to throw people up in the air. Nobody could hang on to his hump for even a second. And from the minute he started running through the vaadivasal, he wouldn’t pause even for a moment,” says Jayamani.

That was then. ‘Killer’ now stands beside Jayamani, calmly chewing on his cud. That’s all he does these days, sharing his row with with nine other stud bulls.
K Paramasivam, 60, who looks after the sprawling farm that houses over a thousand cattle, says the bulls are not allowed to graze or mate. “If we allow them to mate, they will turn violent. But it’s not as if we are denying them their freedom. Everyday, we take 20 of them in batches for swimming and walking,” he says.
Paramasivam’s nephew Siva Ganesh, the owner of the goshala, says that it was his “pure love for animals” that made him “rescue” Jallikattu bulls. “I have some 1,400 cattle in my goshala, including 204 Jallikattu bulls. I spend around Rs 27,300 a day on the Jallikattu bulls alone and spend Rs 1.5 lakh a day on running this farm. I don’t accept any donations. I run this goshala with money from my textile shop. I don’t know how I have been managing… It’s a miracle,” he says.
However, in August last year, Siva Ganesh was in the news when the Kerala Cattle Merchants’ Association announced a strike, alleging that his men were seizing animals from their trucks in the name of animal rights and taking them to private farms in Coimbatore.

They alleged that 14 loads (each load worth around Rs 4 lakh) of cows were “stolen” by his men from Tamil Nadu’s highways. Siva Ganesh dismisses those allegations, saying, “Most of the 1,400 cattle in my goshala have been rescued from markets and trucks. We have the support of the Animal Welfare Board of India,” he says.

He also dismisses allegations that he exports the semen of these native breeds. “I am a rich man. I don’t need money from such methods. I am only protecting them from the slaughter houses,” he says.

Conservationists and those seeking to revive Jallikattu, however, disagree with the Velliangiri model of ‘conservation’.

Himakiran Anugula, an organic farmer, entrepreneur and trustee of Senaapathy Kanngayam Cattle Research Foundation, says keeping stud bulls tied day and night is the “highest form of cruelty”. “They are stud bulls and they need their space and shouldn’t be tied so close to each other. They need to mate at least once a week, sometimes more. When the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu in 2014, several bulls were sold by farmers and bought by traders from Kerala. If the ban continues for one or two years, we are in great danger of losing native breeds such as Pulikulam forever,” he says.

Somu, the animal rights activist who is “striving to restore Jallikattu”, says, “When the Velliangiri goshala purchased these bulls from farmers in distress, their claim was conservation. They promised that they would return these bulls whenever the owners asked for them. But I have been trying to help these villagers get back their bulls for several weeks now, but strangely, the goshala has been refusing,” he says.

Goshala staff say that after the January 8 Central notification lifting the ban on Jallikattu, many people approached them for the bulls. “The villagers were ready to pay anything to take back their bulls. But we decided not to give them away as they could be again tortured,” says Nizamuddin, one of the caretakers of the goshala.

G Tamilvendan from Alaganallur village, 18 km from Madurai town, is glad he didn’t give away his bulls, Maruthu and Ramu. But he isn’t sure what the future holds for him and his bulls. “The tractor came and replaced our bulls from our farms. Now the court has banned Jallikattu. But we cannot replace our traditional festivals and beliefs with machines, can we? What do we do now?” he asks.

The Jallikattu Belt
Mainly the districts of Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai and Dindigul.

The game, gain 
Besides the pride involved in being the owner of the best bull, the bull owner who wins the duel gets a dhoti, towel, betel leaves, bananas and token cash — rarely more than Rs 101 — on a silver plate. Mixer-grinders, refrigerators and furniture have been added to the list of prizes over the years. Jallikattu events had come down from around 6,000 a decade ago to just two dozen in 2014, when the last Jallikattu happened.

The case so far
In 1991, the Environment Ministry had banned the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers and dogs. In 2011, the ministry issued a fresh notification, which specifically included “bulls”. In May 2014, a petition by animal rights organisation PETA and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) led the the Supreme Court to rule that “bulls cannot be allowed as performing animals, either for Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the state of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” By doing so, the SC upheld the Centre’s 2011 notification. In January 2016, the Centre, seeking to overturn the SC ban on Jallikattu, modified its 2011 order and issued a notification saying Jallikattu, a sport traditionally played in Tamil Nadu during Pongal, can be held this year. After animal rights groups and AWBI challenged the move in the SC, the court gave an interim stay, preventing Jallikattu.

The arguments
AGAINST: In their petition to court, AWBI and PETA had submitted photographs and video footage of animals being tortured and injured during Jallikattu events. They argued that bull taming events have no religious or cultural or historical significance in Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra.
FOR: Jallikattu supporters say that the sport encourages the conservation of native breeds. Jallikattu, they say, is part of rural tradition and that animals are rarely tortured.

This news article has been reproduced from The Indian Express (Online edition) – Written by Arun Janardhanan  dated: Jan 17, 2016

The original article can be accessed at : http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/sunday-story-locked-horns/#sthash.ms4IjzSd.dpuf

 

Jallikattu: Suffocation by Law

by Balakumar Somu on 12 Jan 2015

Animal Rights Activists are celebrating the Supreme Court of India’s recent ban on Jallikattu as if it is their greatest achievement. But the reality is Jallikattu was already dying a natural death and the ban was just the last nail in the coffin.

People of Tamil Nadu had already lost all hope and were reconciled to the fact that Jallikattu is set to die. The tradition had lost all its religious fervour, colour, pomp, ceremony and had been turned into a nightmare of sorts for farmers, bull owners, sportsmen, spectators and the bulls these activists want to ‘protect’. The number of events had dropped from over 3000 before 2006 to just about 24 in 2014. The number of pure-breed native stud bulls had dropped to less than 1000. The expenses to organise an event had shot up from almost nothing to anywhere between Rs 15 to 40 lakhs and was beyond the reach of most villages. The worst of all was the harassment by the authorities – police and bureaucrats.

This decimation was orchestrated by cunning manipulation by animal rights activists and executed by the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act (TNRJA) 2009. The very law enacted by the State government to protect its culture turned out to be its bane. Most of the regulations stipulated in the law were based on guidelines set by the Supreme Court at the instance of the animal rights activists. This law was suffocating Jallikattu to a slow death till the Supreme Court put it under the guillotine.

Section 3 of TNRJA 2009 endows almost all the powers relating to permission for organising an event to the District Collector.

What was essentially a village temple festival was turned into a bureaucratic circus placing the organisers and villagers at the mercy of the District Collector. Since the presence of at least a deputy collector and ALL the other authorities stipulated in the law is mandatory, most authorities viewed the event as an additional burden on their duties and tried to avoid giving permission to conduct the event, citing one reason or the other. Most villages organise the event only on one auspicious day during the year and hence if the authorities do not give permission for the event on that specific date, the villages cannot organise the event for that year. Moreover if 100 villages wish to organise the event, how can the authorities spare so many days to oversee the event? Hence the easiest way out for them was to deny permission.

Section 3-(2)-(1) restricts the events to be held only from January to May of each year.

Jallikattu was usually conducted only during auspicious temple festivals. It is not an entertainment activity and cannot be scheduled like a sport calendar. Most villages in Theni, Trichy, Pudukkottai and other adjoining districts conduct their temple festivals during the Tamil month Margazhi which falls in December. Many a village temple festival falls after May, automatically being rejected for conduct of the event. As a result, most villages stopped organising Jallikattu.

 

Section 3-(2) further states that:

(iii) the event should have been conducted during the past five years continuously;

(iv) the event shall be held at a place notified by the Collector in the District Gazette.

This means that only those villages mentioned in the district Gazette, by the Collector, can organise an event and that too if a Jallikattu event was held continuously during the past five years! So if a village is denied permission for a period of five years, that village loses its right to conduct the event, forever!

Restrictions on Time, number of events and related issues

Section 3-(3) states thus:

A permission granted under sub-section (1) shall be—

(a) valid for such area, for such period and for such purposes, as may be specified therein;

(b) subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be specified therein.

This section clearly puts the event under the mercy of the District Collector. The time permitted for the event depends on the District Collector! At most places it was from 8 am to 2 pm. However it is at the discretion of the authorities to stop the event at any time they please! There have been instances where a Collector started the event at 10 am and ended it at 12 pm, despite pleading by the organisers to let the remaining bulls participate!

Starting the event as early as 8 am led to the following new issues for sportsmen and bulls:

Problems introduced for sportsmen

  1. The sportsmen had to queue up as early as 6.30 am as they had to be screened for physical fitness, blood pressure, use of liquor etc.
  2. Once screened, the sportsmen were provided uniforms and not allowed to venture out. Thus they had no access to food till the end of the event at 2 pm. Only water was provided at most venues. Their relatives were banned by the authorities from providing them food or energy drink during the event for fear of malpractice.
  3. If the sportsman had to attend nature’s call, he had to remove his uniform t-shirt and give it to a policeman and was at the mercy of the policeman on return.
  4. Fearing harassment by the police, most sportsmen did not return once they left the arena.

Problems introduced for bulls

Since the number of events dwindled from over 3000 before 2006 to about 24 in 2014, an unusually large number of bulls were brought to these events for participation. This gave rise to a number of new issues for the organisers.

 

  1. The bulls were forced to stand in a long queue for health screening, putting unnecessary stress on the animals. Before this law came into effect, the bull would be relaxing at home and would be brought to the venue only when it was time to release it. This meant the bull was not stressed.
  2. Before 2006, numerous events were held and so mainly bulls from the village and nearby villages only participated. So most bulls were brought on foot for the event. The event would last for a few minutes in smaller villages and a few hours in larger ones. A few famous bulls, called ‘star’ bulls might be invited from other villages as an honour.
  3. Drastic reduction in the number of events meant that bulls had minimum opportunity to participate in the event. Hence bull owners had to transport the bulls to far away villages in the hope of getting admitted. A team of at least 7 to 10 persons had to accompany the bull. This put a strain on the bull owner as he had to shell out considerable money to bring the bull to the event. With no great prizes given out, and the pride being lost due to all the haggling, uncertainty of the event as well as admission, bull owners lost interest and just gave up rearing bulls.

 

Problems introduced for the Organisers

 

  1. Since there was a spurt in the number of bulls and restricted time, bulls were allowed on a first-come-first-serve basis called ‘token system’.
  2. A token was issued by the organisers to the bulls coming first which meant that one had to beat the queue. Hence bull owners had to queue up to get tokens. This led to issues of favoritism and resultant bad-blood between the organisers and bull owners.
  3. Although the TNJRA 2009 permits the District collector to provide sufficient time for the event, the authorities restricted the time for the event. This meant that all the bulls brought to the event could not participate, leading to haggling for admission ‘tokens’.
  4. In order to allow maximum number of bulls to participate, each bull was allotted an average of 30 seconds to 1 minute! This resulted in most bulls just entering the arena and running out without even being touched, spoiling the nature and spirit of the sport and transforming Jallikattu into not-so-interesting affair.
  5. Queuing up led to an outcry from the animal rights activists that there was a lot of stress on the animal and that the animal had to stand in dung and urine! Hence the queues were reduced to a maximum of 50 animals while the rest would be tied in stables around the village.

 

Section 4 of TNJRA 2009 caused spiralling costs

 Section 4-(ii) states that permission has to be sought 30 days prior to the event

 

Generally all arrangements stated in Section 4 have to be made before seeking permission. Hence the venue was prepared and sometimes it took months to get permission. So the mandatory and expensive 8-feet high double barricades with spectator galleries, river sand flooring with coir-pith spread, comfort-stations et al had to be in place for that period of time. This meant that the cost of organising the event spiraled and in most cases the barricades and other facilities could not be reused at another village since the first one was still waiting for permission.

 

Additionally, the organisers had to remit a deposit of minimum Rs 2 lakh for a small village to Rs. 5 lakh for a bigger event, to be disbursed to the injured as compensation. The cost of organising a Jallikattu event stood at anywhere between Rs 15 to 40 lakh. How many villages in India can afford such a cost and that too for a non-revenue generating religious tradition? People simply gave up!

 

Problems due to tampering with the arena

 

  1. The bulls are used to walking on firm ground! But authorities demanded that the arena be spread with sand and a layer of coir pith citing sportsmen safety. This was meant to provide cushioning effect for the sportsmen during a fall. But sometimes bulls would slip and fall due to the sand. This also added to the cost.
  2. Jallikattu was never meant to be a spectator sport. The TNRJA 2009 stipulates that double barricades and spectator galleries be provided. This rule led to the ill-designed arena seen today. The arena is supposed to be an ‘improvement’ over the traditional one. However the arena is designed with only one vadivasalrelease gate. With double barricades on both sides. The finish line that bulls have to cross is just 15 metres away, leaving a very small window of opportunity for sportsmen to embrace the bull. A typical bull crosses this distance in an average of 30 seconds! This meant that all the action took place only in the first 15 metres. The authorities, accompanied by their families, and the organisers occupied the best seats, followed by the press gallery and VIP gallery – for families and friends of the who’s who of the locality, leaving little room for the other spectators. This resulted in spectators losing interest in the sport, as most of them could not see the action taking place – those beyond 50 feet ended up seeing bulls being herded away only! Even if they were lucky to get a seat with a view, the sport turned boring as most bulls just ran away without being embraced.
  3. The sportsmen too, deprived of food and energy supplements, became tired after the first one or two hours and did not show much prowess later on.
  4. In most events, after the first two hours, most spectators were only bull owners and their families eagerly waiting to see their bull emerge out of the vadivasal and the mini truck drivers eagerly waiting to go home!

 

Blow to the ‘Kovil Kaalai’ system

 

The greatest damage that the TNJRA 2009 did was to the thousands of years old ‘Kovil Kaalai’ tradition of Tamil culture.

 

Most villagers due to their economic status were not able to afford a stud bull. Hence the whole village adopted a bull and designated it as the village temple ‘Kovil Kaalai’ (Temple bull). The whole purpose of this free ranging bull is to provide stud services to the village cows. The ‘kovil kaalai’ is never roped and is free to roam around the village. The villagers permitted the bull to graze from any field and provided water. In fact, they believe that they will get a bumper crop if the ‘Kovil Kaalai’ grazed from their field!

 

It was deemed a collective responsibility of the village to take care of the bull, and the bull was considered the holy representative of the temple deity. Every three years, the village would exchange the designated ‘kovil kaalai’ with a nearby village. Once old, the bull will be adopted by a village and looked after till its last. The last rites for a village bull are done as if for a fellow human being. After one year, the body will be exhumed and its horns removed. A statue honouring the ‘Kovil Kaalai’ will be built in its designated temple and the bull’s real horns placed as the horns of its statue.

 

The ‘Kovil Kaalai’ enjoyed the top most honour of entering the Jallikattu arena first. A special puja was done to the bull and sent into the arena. No spectator is allowed to ‘embrace’ the ‘Kovil Kaalai’ and they usually pay obeisance to the holy bull.

 

Blow to the Religious Festivities

 

Another great victim of this law was the religious festivities of the village. Jallikattu was never and is still not a competitive sport. Jallikattu was meant to honour the villagers who were willing to rear a stud bull which was used for mating purposes, usually free, of the village cattle. So bull owners were honoured with a traditional‘tambalam’ – consisting of a dhoti, towel, betel leaves, a bunch of bananas and sometimes token cash, say Rs.101. To accord top honours to the village bull keepers, Jallikattu was organised as the first event of the village temple festival.

 

The bulls were adorned with garlands, towels and jewels, if the owner could afford, and paraded with full honours to the temple. The festivities started with the performance of a special puja for the bulls and then the bulls were released into the arena. Since this is not a competitive sport, there were no winners or runners-up. All bulls were considered winners and awarded the same prize. Participating in a Jallikattu is considered the greatest honour accorded to a bull owner.

 

Registration of Bull as a performing animal and restriction on movement of bulls

 

All the bulls had to be registered with the Animal Welfare Board of India by paying a fee of Rs. 500 at least one month before the event and a veterinarian has to certify that the bull is free from communicable diseases.

 

The harassment of the mostly illiterate bull owners starts at the hands of the policemen who demand to ‘check’ the AWBI registration, veterinarian certificate and coin their own rules about transportation. The vehicle is allowed to pass through only after they are properly ‘satisfied’.

 

The day the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act 2009 was passed, Jallikattu was doomed. The authorities were determined to ensure that lesser number of events were conducted each following year and that nobody – the bulls, bull owners, sportsmen, organisers or the spectators – relished Jallikattu. Bull owners and sportsmen lost all the associated honour, the game turned into a boring event, spectators lost interest and religious leaders were ignored as the religious aspect was totally lost in the bureaucratic quagmire.

 

The biggest losers of all are the bulls, which the Animal Rights Activists purportedly wanted to save – they turned from royalty to pariah status. More and more of these majestic, loving animals had been sold off, ending up in slaughter houses of Kerala. After the animal rights activists entered the scene in 2006, the population of native cattle breeds of Tamil Nadu reduced steeply. Several breeds are facing extinction and the famous ‘Alambadi’ breed is considered extinct now.

 

With such a draconian law, Jallikattu was being suffocated to a slow death already. There was no need for a ban after all.

This news article has been reproduced from “Vijayvaani.com” (Online edition) – dated  12 January 2015 .
The original article can be accessed at : http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=3457

Ban on Jallikattu : PETA’s affront on Hinduism

righteous person follows ahimsa or non-violence to any living being by thought, word or deed and possesses tolerance towards others with an unperturbed mind even if they are antagonistic.” – Bhagavad Gita

Temple for bull
A temple built in honour of a temple bull in Pulankurichi, Sivagangai district, India.

 

Of late, It has become a fad to ridicule Hinduism. The oldest and most tolerant religion which never professes propagation is at the receiving end from every Tom, Dick and Harry who wants to make a fashion statement.

It has reached such a state today that anything associated with Hinduism is branded as ‘backward’, ‘superstitious’, ‘illiterate’ or even ‘barbaric’. Similar traditions and customs followed by the religious minorities are encouraged under the garb of ‘minority rights’ (read secularism). The very same self-professed, know-all intellectuals are scared to open their mouth about the customs and traditions of the minorities for fear of incurring their wrath.

Ingrained with the virtue of tolerance, Hindus just tolerate any kind of abuse thrown at them. With no single God, no single scripture and no single path to follow, Hinduism gives its followers maximum freedom to follow their chosen path. This benign aspect, considered a boon to its followers, is now their bane. They have been conditioned to tolerate anything thrown at them. If at all they make any noise, the intellectuals paint the issue as ‘caste’ based. ‘Caste’ being taboo, Hindus become reluctant to associate themselves with the issue.

One of the major assaults on Hinduism in recent times, is PETA’s affront on Hindus’ relationship with the Cow. Unlike the Western world which views its cows as walking hamburgers, the cow is considered sacred to Hindus. Cow is worshipped as ‘Kamadhenu’, the God that grants all wishes. ‘Nandi’, a bull, is Lord Shiva’s companion and stands in penance overlooking Lord Shiva in all his temples. Most Hindus are vegetarian and those who are not do not eat beef. Being predominantly farmers, their major relationship with the animal world has been with cattle. Cows have been reared for milk and bulls/ oxen, their work companions.

Woman and Bull
An Indian woman with her bull. A cow/bull is considered as a member of the family. The whole family showers its love and affection on it as if it were their own child.

Hindus celebrate several festivals throughout the year to honour their cattle. The most prominent among them being ‘Makar Sankranti’ celebrated all over India. It is celebrated as ‘Pongal’, the harvest festival, in Tamilnadu, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives and by Tamils all over the world.

Honouring the Cow, including bulls, oxen and calves, is a part of all Hindu religious festivals. They are decked with colourful garlands, horns painted and brought to temples for puja. A puja is also done to the cow. During a house-warming ceremony, a Cow and a calf are the first ones that enter into the house, as Hindus believe that Cow is the mother of all Gods. Temples in South India have statues of their temple bulls. There are even temples built for bulls. Hindus also honour the cow by having some innocuous activities associated with the temple festivals like ‘Jallikattu’, ‘Eruthottam’, bullock cart racing, bull racing, cattle shows etc.

One such sport, ‘Jallikattu’, is conducted in the Indian states Tamilnadu, Karnataka and Andhra pradesh, during local temple festivals, and also during Pongal. This is a harmless humal-animal contact sport that is conducted as a part of the temple festivities and not an individual sport conducted for entertainment. It has over 4000 years of recorded history. The bull is usually let loose on the temple grounds. The ‘prize’, if it can be called that, is usually a towel tied between its horns. Unarmed sportsmen who get hold of the towel will be declared victor. If the bulls returns home – the bull usually finds its way back home by itself – with the towel intact, the bull is considered the winner. Almost every temple in the 13 districts, constituting the ‘Jallikattu belt’, of Tamilnadu have permanent structures called ‘Vadi’ or the ‘starting gates’ for the bulls, standing evidence to the fact that this was indeed a part and parcel of Hindu tradition.

This historic sport is now the target of a sinister campaign by PETA which seems to have some hidden agenda in getting the sport banned. PETA has succeeded in getting this traditional sport banned by taking the legal route. PETA has been throwing all kinds of wild allegations against the innocuous temple tradition. PETA has been vilifying the harmless sport as ‘barbaric’ and has been further misleading the public, majority of whom have never visited or seen a Jallikattu, by equating this to spanish bull fights. Unlike bull fights taking place in other parts of the world, where the bull is tortured and killed, in Jallikattu the bull is not harmed at all. The tamil name ‘Aeru Thazhuvudal’ translates to ‘Embracing the Bull’! That is the true spirit of the game. The sportsman tries to embrace the bull by its hump – trying to hold the bull by its horns, neck, leg or tail will lead to disqualification – for a maximum of about 5 to 10 seconds.

Statue of Temple Bull
A statue built in a temple at Trichy for a temple bull. People worship a temple bull when alive and even after it passes away.

When travelling across the rural countryside of Tamilnadu, one would come across numerous statues of temple bulls built inside the temple premises. These statues are usually built about a year after the death of the temple bull. They usually sport the real horns of the bull, exhumed in an elaborate ceremony conducted after about a year. The Hindus worship these bulls as God – when alive and even after they die. Death of a temple bull is considered as a loss of a family member of the whole village. All the villagers gather and perform the last rites for the temple bull as they would do when their bretheren passes away. Religious and non-religious festivals like marriages are not celebrated for the next 16 days as the village goes into mourning.

Temple Vadi
A temple ‘Vadi’ or starting gate lying in a state of disuse and decay due to PETA’s assault of this Hindu temple tradition.

To achieve its goal of getting this Hindu religious activity banned, PETA has resorted to character assasination of not just the sport, but also Hindus and Tamils. One of the major allegation by PETA is that this tradition is not associated with Hinduism at all! PETA says it is not associated with religious activities. If this was true, then why do all these temples have permanent ‘Vadis’ (bull starting gates)? If it is not a Hindu religious practice, then why do all temple festivals include ‘Jallikattu’ as a part of the festivities? Why do all the temple festivals include honouring the bull? Why are there ‘Temple Bulls’ in the first place? Why are the ‘Temple Bulls’ given the honour of starting the ‘Jallikattu’?

PETA which is an American organisation, according to their own admission, kills over 4 million innocent puppies and kitten every year. What right does such a mass murderer like PETA have to preach Hindus on what traditions they should follow and what they should not?

Article by Balakumar Somu. The author can be reached at balasomu@jallikattu.in

Jallikattu bulls go for a pittance

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MADURAI, May 21, 2014                      Updated: May 21, 2014 03:05 IST

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A jallikattu bull being loaded onto a lorry at the Vadipatti shandi on Tuesday after it was sold for a meagre sum. Photo: S. James

They used to fetch their owners over Rs. 1 lakh before the sport was banned

The ferocious bulls of Madurai district, who stalked jallikattu arenas like champions, are now boarding goods vehicles on their way to slaughterhouses.

K. Karupasamy’s family of Ilamanur has been rearing jallikattu bulls for several generations. On Tuesday, Mr. Karupasamy sold his bull at the Vadipatti weekly shandy for a paltry Rs. 22,000.

The sale of these bulls normally fetched more than Rs. 1 lakh until the Supreme Court banned the traditional sport. Since then, the Vadipatti shandi has witnessed a surge in the number of jallikattu bulls, also called Naattu Maddu, being sold to agents, who take them to slaughterhouses. “My bull had won nearly 15 prizes in jallikattu held in Madurai and Tiruchi districts. When the future of the sport itself is bleak, what is the point of rearing bulls?” Mr. Karupasamy said, parting with his proud possession.

V. Veluchamy, a bull tamer from Sakkimangalam, sold the bull that he had been rearing for eight years for Rs. 25,000 on Tuesday.

“I had three bulls, and I have sold all of them after the Supreme Court’s order. It is distressing to sell them, given that they have done me proud, winning several prizes in manjuvirattu, (another form of bull taming). The only reason for selling the bulls is high rearing cost,” he said.

According to bull rearers, they have to spend between Rs. 300 and Rs. 500 on each bull every day for fodder and maintenance.

With jallikattu’s future uncertain, the rearers were reluctant to expend anything on the animals they dearly brought up, said R. Sundarapandian, a van driver, who has been transporting bulls to the shandi of late.

Agents like S. Annakodi bought bulls from rearers in villages of Madurai and brought them to the shandi for sale.

“The maximum amount that could be got from the sale of a jallikattu bull for slaughter is Rs. 35,000. No one has ever sold the bulls for slaughter when there was no ban,” he said.

The fierce bulls were seen being manhandled by agents and transporters at the shandy to get them to board the lorries. “Most of them would be taken to Kerala for slaughter. If there is no jallikattu, they will be of no use,” said C. Thirumalai Nambi Rajan, another agent.

This news article has been reproduced from “The Hindu” (Online edition) – dated  May 21, 2014.