Jallikattu is a remarkable Tamil tradition and a cultural phenomenon that has prevailed for many centuries. It is usually held on the eve of Mattu Pongal. In rural Tamil Nadu it is considered an art which is closely entwined with the history, culture, and religious beliefs of most Tamils. The Supreme Court has banned the bull – taming sport until further notice and in doing so has upset the sentiments of fans. It is this blogger’s firm belief that this beloved sport far from being banned must be actively encouraged.
The reasons for this stand are manifold. First there are some serious misconceptions about Jallikattu which need to be cleared up. It is considered a barbaric practice that infringes on the rights of animals. However, those who subscribe to this point of view are usually unaware that the “Murattu Kaalai” or rough bulls are large, powerful creatures that have their magnificent horns sharpened for the occasion. The fighters meanwhile are completely unarmed. These bulls are treated with the respect, affection, and love usually accorded to conquering heroes. The object of the Jallikattu is to tame the bull and establish the supremacy of man not hurt or maim the bull in any way.
Compare this with the Spanish tradition of bullfighting where the matadores kill the bull for the grand finale with swords no less. And yet the Spanish government is proud of their tradition and the King has gone so far as to say that Spain will leave the EU the day bullfighting is banned. The matadores are revered and command princely salaries. In India meanwhile the fighters are vilified as rustic ruffians even as they put their lives on the line for paltry cash prizes or cheap cookers, cycles, or plastic buckets. This is truly a sad state of affairs.
Opponents of Jallikattu may point out the injuries and casualties that have occurred over the years as adequate cause to ban Jallikattu. The Blue Cross has also raised some valid points regarding the treatment of animals. But all these issues can be countered by proper regulation. F1, boxing, and the like are not banned on account of the risk to life. Rather they were revamped in a safer format and are still going strong. It would be just the ticket to establish a Board of Control under the Sports Ministry. After all it is the least the government can do for an ancient valour sport. A Coliseum style bullring would ensure the safety of the masses and is likely to have tourists flocking to Tamil Nadu in January to witness this awesome spectacle. Just think of the tremendous economic potential Jallikattu offers! We should be milking this cash cow for all its worth and not talking about killing the goose which can lay golden eggs.
Isn’t it typical of this country that we embrace a ‘gentlemanly’ British sport so fervently even as we give the cold shoulder to our own national pastimes? Hockey is already a victim of this callous attitude and it looks like Jallikattu is about to share a similar or worse fate. Let us all rally around this much – maligned sport and give it the respect it so richly deserves. Save the legend of the Murattu Kaalai from an ignominious death, the Jallikattu must go on and on.