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Jallikattu : A Tradition Restricting Change

Posted by Rishav Raj
January 21, 2017

Change is inevitable and a necessary requirement to prosper, whether it’s for a person, society or a country. But then the question arises, how much change?

A complete transformation, whether or not necessary, may create havoc in the society. The clash between people with different ideologies on Jallikattu is one example of social response to a big change.

On the one hand, the AWBI (Animal Welfare Board of India) is leading the protests against Jallikattu, and on the other hand, many residents of Tamil Nadu, supported by politicians and actors, don’t want the sport banned, and their main arguments are centered around culture and tradition. Before jumping to conclusions, why should the sport be banned? We have to first understand how and why all of this started.

The origins of the sport go back to as far as 2000 years and have been played on the eve of Pongal every year. Specially bred bulls are made to run in a large crowd, of thousands of men, when they, only one at a time, tries to control the bull by holding on to its hump. Using horns and ropes, which could possibly hurt the animal, are not allowed according to traditional rules. The person who can hang on to the hump till the finish line wins, or else the bull does. After looking at the traditional manual of Jallikattu, things seem fine. Then why does the ABWI consider the sport as cruelty towards the animal? What is their stand?

According to animal right activist’s claims, there had been several incidents, from the use of chili powder and liquor to the use of sharp weapons, if animal fail to comply with the sports. Because of these reasons SC had struck down state government’s law and passed a ban in 2014.

If jalikattu is so much cruel to animals why it is being supported by famous actors and political leaders. Why constant efforts are being made by state government to promulgate an ordinance removing the legal impediments? Why so much trouble? To understand this devotion, we have to understand the influence of jalikattu on social life, especially of rural tamillian.

Jalikattu is mostly played in large part of rural tamil India. Like any other festival, particular to any specific state, the preperation for this starts long before the day of event. Special diet plan, as claimed by the breeders, is maintained for the bulls. The farmers claim that festival of jalikattu establishes a human relationship between them and these livestocks. In the age of modernisation where tractors and machines have already taken over the old method of farming, farmers find jallikattu as one the reason to continue breeding these bulls. The traditional belief of benefiting with good luck attached to this sport has been one of the many reasons for the trouble taken by the locals to continue this sport.

But we cannot refute the incidences where bulls were hurt or cannot deny the fact that animal running between the crowd are looking for haven not voluntarily participating. It is nothing but mental molestation, which is a crime if happens with any human, for the sheer purpose of entertainment.

Gandhiji once quoted: the greatness of a nation can be judged by how its animals are treated.
And if we agree with Gandhi’s statement, then jalikattu definitely does not comply with that.


Image source: Ujwala Prabhu, Vinoth Chandar/Flickr