India’s Bull Taming Sport also called Jalli kattu is the most sought after event which is also a part of the grand Pongal festival celebrations in the month of January. A must on Maatu Pongal, which is the day after Pongal festival, Jalli kattu is organized with a prize for the youth of the district or village.
There are different variations in the sport. At times the bull is tied and the matadors or tamers work in a safe distance and with a time limit. In other cases the bull is let out into an open area where the tamers try to calm it. Whatever the form of Jalli kattu, this sport has many takers most of whom risk their lives simply to prove their manhood.
In ancient times, Jalli kattu was organized to find suitable bridegrooms for the young women in the village. Now the sport continues for entirely different reasons. Most people who rear bulls voice that unless this sport continues; bulls may only end up in slaughter houses as they are no longer used for agriculture. Besides Jalli kattu is the means by which these bull rearers have made an income for several generations.
For the young men who risk their lives to tame bulls, sheer satisfaction, honor and the prospect of a prize which is usually a motorbike or money or some such similar reward and a chance to prove their bravery is enough incentive to compete in the sport.
Animal activists however have raised objections to the sport on the ground that bulls are sometimes force fed alcohol and have chilli powder (cayenne pepper) throw in the eye just before the event to make them more aggressive. Despite these objections, the sport continues, however with strict rules and guidelines.
Bulls are carefully selected and reared with special diet and intense training. Swimming and running form part of the training and the breed of bulls used in the sport are by nature more aggressive than their counterparts.
There are several villages and towns in Tamil Nadu where Jalli kattu events are organized during different times in the year. However the sport in Alanganallur, Madurai District is one of the most popular ones attracting hoards of onlookers from throughout the country.
Jalli kattu movies are also quiet popular in South India and is a much sought after subject of Tamil movies.
Though a violent sport, Jalli kattu has been practiced for generations and has become an essential part of the festivities during the Pongal season, especially in rural districts.
Here is a book that details the traditions of Pongal Festival.
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