Every person in the world loves one sport or another. When it is a native sport, it gets more supporters and followers and one such attention grabbing sport is Jallikattu, also known as Embracing a Bull in English. Mainly practiced in Tamil Nadu state in India, it is an indigenous sport, that has enthusiastic fans all over the state. Jallikattu is essentially a bull-baiting event, where bulls are let to run freely and whoever manages to hold on to it and retrieve the prize is considered to be of great gallantry. Traditionally conducted during the Pongal festival, which falls in the mid-January, youngsters, mostly men, gather in a large open arena where the bulls are held. A piece of cloth is tied to the bull’s horns along with any other prize material. The name ‘Jallikattu’ itself was derived from the very act practised during the ancient times, where ‘jalli’ or ‘salli’ means a gold coin and ‘kattu’ refers to a stack of the coins or ‘tied to’ in Tamil. The young man who could retrieve the coin was considered the winner. The first bull to be let out is the one that belongs to the village temple and in respect to the temple and the hosting village, it is allowed to run untouched, after which more bullocks are let loose one by one in separate rounds or in small groups of two to six.
Tamil people take huge pride in conducting the event, participating and winning, it being one of the oldest traditions. How old, we might ask. That’s when the surprising fact comes in. An Indus Valley civilization seal has been found depicting the sport, clearly stating that it was a popular sport in the period, which implicates that the sport was developed somewhere in the beginning of the civilization, making it a very old, if not the oldest sport in the world.
It is found that nearly 70% of the Indian cows are owned by the economically poor. While it is a generally accepted fact that the best milk in the world is produced by India from its indigenous breeds, from the rate of extinction of those breeds, India will have to import milk in ten years or so. Tamil Nadu used to have about 130 native breeds out of which around 30 now exist. But even those are endangered. Six of those breeds hold a slightly better chance because the Jallikattu sport is to prove not only an individual person’s strength, but also the bulls’. Such bulls are then taken to breed calves in order to retain the high quality. This sport actually ensures the prevalence of those breeds. Sadly, the banning of the sport has threatened this, because once there is no more Jallikattu, the market price of those bulls are to drop drastically and there will be no major use for them. That makes the lives of the cattle owners even more difficult. Also, these bulls will be found useful mostly by butchers, thus increasing their slaughter.
There is a huge controversy over the experience of the bulls in this sport. Traditionally, the bulls are trained for this. When it seems like the bulls are terrified during the event, the mature and experienced bulls actually lifting their heads for roping their nose or setting free actually shows that the bulls just might enjoy the event as much as people do. The bulls are even seen to tactically jump from the opening gate to avoid being caught, and jump over a person if he falls down instead of ramming into him. Most people fail to understand that Jallikattu and the Spanish bull fighting are not the same. Here, it is nothing more than embracing the bull by holding on to it’s hump. These facts only increase and strengthens the arguments of both parties, the one who say that the animals are in no harm and those who say that the bulls are tortured and terrified.
When we say ‘native breed’, it is because the particular breed came from a particular region and is found to thrive in the best of its qualities in that place only. This is because each breed’s qualities come from so many factors pertained to the particular place like the climate, natural soil compositions, plants that grow in those lands and such. The beauty of Mother Nature is that no matter how much we try, we can’t obtain the exact same results in some other place. If such breeds go extinct, what happens to the balance in the nature? What happens to the kind of food we get from them? Recent studies reveal that the milk and its products can be divided into two kinds, A1 and A2. Shocking as it may, a mutated protein found in the A1 milk is seen to cause various health defects like heart troubles, autism, cancer, etc., which has been proven through experiments. Surprisingly, New Zealand even labels the products as A1 and A2, even though it has caused quite a stir in the markets. Lucky for us, our breeds give us A2.
That makes us get back to the one thing that holds the existence of those breeds together in Tamil Nadu. In an attempt to free the bulls from the sport, many non-profit organisations have been seen to oppose it. The Supreme Court of India has banned practicing Jallikattu. Safety measures were already in place to check the bulls, test them for alcohol or any substance that can aggravate them, and then have them registered. But the revoking and again banning clearly shows the extent of dispute between those who want to stop the sport and those who don’t. This year, all over Tamil Nadu, several thousand students were found protesting and rallying against the ban. Even many celebrities and politicians were found supporting the cause. Even though the ban wasn’t lifted again, the sport was still conducted in some places, in an attempt to prove that they won’t back down. This fight has been going on for more than a decade. But the actions it has spurred have caused further distress. Protestors were detained and several were reported to be injured, especially one of the students who is said to have sustained fatal injuries. This has stirred a lot of commotion in today’s youth. Everybody has their own opinions on things. As tiring as it looks, sometimes, it just confuses the mind. It has us thinking.
Why such a long fight over one thing? Why won’t either of the sides back down? What really is happening?