Everything You Need to Know About the Festival of Jallikattu


Source: The Print

Jallikattu is a bull-taming sport which is popular in Madurai, Theni, Pudukkottai, Tiruchirappalli and Dindigul districts – known as Jallikattu belt of Tamil Nadu. It is a traditional event which is celebrated during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal in the second week of January.

It is a violent sport in which a bull is released among people and several participants try to hold the hump on the back of the angry bull with both arms and hang on it while the bull tries to escape. In order to win, the participants need to hold the hump of the bull till it stops. Sometimes, the participants need to ride the bull long enough to remove the flag on the horns of the bull.

Jallikattu is the only way for peasants or the bull owners to gain some monetary benefits by breeding Jallikattu bulls as the farm sector is totally mechanized and there are no other major benefits for the bull owners in breeding these bulls.


The modern term “jallikattu" is derived from Tamil terms “salli kassu" which refers to the coins that are tied to the horns of the bull and in order to win the participants need to grab that prize.

Long ago, Jallikattu was called Eru thazuval or “embracing the bull". A seal discovered from Mohenjo Daro which is dated between 2,500 BC and 1800 BC depicting this old tradition of bull taming is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi.

It is a very old traditional practice which has been practiced since the Tamil Classical Period. Tamil Nadu which was lately known as “Tamizh Nadu" had a geographical division called “Mullai" which was home to Ayar people who used to practice this violent sport.

Another evidence of jallikattu being an ancient practice comes from a cave painting in white discovered near Madurai representing a lone man attempting to gain control over the bull is estimated to be about 1,500 years old.

Source: Reuters

Importance of Jallikattu in Tamil Culture

The peasant community of Tamil Nadu consider this traditional sport as a way to preserve the pure-native breeds of the bull.

The farm sector is totally mechanized after the Green Revolution and cattle breeding has become more or less artificial, therefore the peasants and the conservationists argue that Jallikattu is the only way to preserve these male animals which are otherwise used only for meat if not for ploughing.

The popular native cattle breeds used for Jallikattu includes Bargur, Malai Maadu, Kangayam, Pulikulam, and Umbalachery.

Legal Battles Around Jallikattu

The participants and the animals forced into this violent sport are always prone to the incidents of injury and death. Therefore, in 2007 the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) moved petitions in the Supreme Court against the bullock cart races and the Jallikattu.

In 2009, the Tamil Nadu government passed a law, the Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act, which was signed by the governor in order to work its way out of the ban. On 8 April 2009, this law was challenged by PETA before the Supreme Court.

In 2011, when the center was ruled by the UPA regime, the Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification which added bulls to the list of animals whose training and exhibition is prohibited.

On 7 May 2014, days before BJP came to power, the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu and struck down the law passed by the state government on the basis of plea by the AWBI and PETA.

In 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests modified its earlier notification in order to permit the sport but the Supreme Court put a stay on the center’s notification after hearing the pleas by the AWBI and PETA.

Later, the Supreme Court dismissed the State government’s review petition seeking permission to conduct the sport in 2017.

In January 2017, after the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, a massive protest was witnessed in the Chennai city itself against the ban on Jallikattu.

In the same year after the protests, the State government proposed an ordinance to make changes in the Central Act (Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960). The ordinance to amend the Central Act was cleared by the Centre and the State passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act, 2017 , thereby allowing the conduct of Jallikattu.

Soon after the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act, 2017 brought into effect by the State, the AWBI and PETA again challenged the move, arguing it was unconstitutional but the Supreme Court refused to stay the Tamil Nadu Amendment Act, 2017.

On 2 February 2018, all the petitions filed against the Jallikattu case were referred to a Constitution Bench by the Supreme Court and the case is pending now.

Source: freepressjournal


In our Constitution, the Article 29(1) states that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same".

According to the Article 29(1), it is the fundamental right of the people of Tamil Nadu to practice their cultural sport.

But according to Animal Welfare groups, the bulls are handled in a cruel manner before they are released into the crowd of the people.

According to some reports, the bulls are forced to drink alcohol so that they can be disoriented. Also, in order to aggravate the bull, chilli peppers are used to rub their eyes.

Sometimes during the play, human participants as well as the bull got injured so badly. An investigation by the AWBI deduced that “jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals".

Written by – Sanjana Yadav

Edited by – Adrija Saha

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