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Taming the Bull- Bullfighting: A Cruel Tradition

Posted on November 16, 2009 in Society

Anshul Tewari

Bull fighting is often thought to be a Spanish or a Mexican tradition. Less do we know that it originated in India 2000 years ago, which makes it older than the tradition in Spain.

Some sources say that bull-fighting in India is about 400 years old. But actually bull-fighting (man against bull) goes back to pre-historic times in Europe.

Jallikattu, as it is known in India is being practiced in India, even after its ban.

A massive hoarding with a picture of a gigantic bull and an unarmed youngster who is trying to tame it greets those entering Alanganallur, an agrarian village near Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Here, farmers rear their sons and bulls with equal care, to fight in the annual taming event. The hoarding also thanks the thousands from within and outside the country, who throng the village during the harvest season to witness Jallikattu–the taming event in which rural men use their might to control specially reared and trained bulls. Arguably the largest among such events all over Tamil Nadu, Alanganallur Jallikattu attracts a large number of foreign as well as domestic tourists each year. In one respect, it is the Indian version of Spain’s Running of the Bulls, except that no weapon is used and no bull is killed at the end of the game.

The villagers are vigilant against the arrival of animal rights activists, especially those from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) and Animal Welfare Board. The village, which is proud of the centuries-old history of Alanganallur Jallikattu, thinks that even the presence of such activists would deprive them their right to hold the annual event with traditional spirit and valour. Maneka Gandhi is the ‘common enemy’ as most people curse her for putting the event under continuing judicial scrutiny and for terming the valiant sport a cruelty against animals. It was after much persuasion that the village elders permitted us to visit the families that rear bulls and the boys who fight in the game.

The people here are so attached to this game that in Vadipatty there is a huge memorial to a legendary bull, which won over thousand events. At Kottakkudi village, a man committed suicide just after his Jallikattu bull died last year.

The bulls surely undergo a high degree of cruelty during this game, and so do the people. But the question is, when will this act of cruelty, given the name of tradition, end?

photo: / CC BY 2.0

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