Tamil Tribune

The Ancient Tamil Sport of Jallikattu Banned in India

(Indian Government Interferes in Tamil Traditions and Cultural Events)

Arumugam Kumaraswamy

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2015 (ID. 2015-04-01)
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1. The News

2.  The Facts

3. The Irritation

1. The News

"Eruthazhuvuthal" (ஏறுதழுவுதல்) or "eru thazhuval" (ஏறுதழுவல்) is an ancient sports event in Tamil Nau involving specially bred bulls; it is also known as "manju virattu" (மஞ்சு விரட்டு); nowadays is is often called "jalli kattu" or jallikattu (சல்லிகட்டு, சல்லிக்கட்டு, ஜல்லிகட்டு, ஜல்லிக்கட்டு). 

Jallikattu is a popular,  annual event in January in some Tamil Nadu villages, and people from all over Tamil Nadu came to see it. Supreme Court of India banned the sport in May 2014, citing animal welfare issues. Local stores closed and people raised black flags in protest (Thina Thanthi Tamil newspaper; January 17, 2015). Tamil Nadu State Government, that has already implemented procedures to protect the bulls and the people, appealed to the Government of India to enact laws or issue orders that could legally overcome the supreme court ban (DNA News website; January 16, 2015). Indian government refused to act to restore this millennia old sports..

2. The Facts

Jallikattu is not bull fighting. It is bull cuddling or bull holding (eruthazhuvuthal means bull cuddling.) In one form of jallikattu unarmed men try hold onto the bull as long as they can. In another form unarmed men try to take garlands tied to the bull's horns.

It dates back to the days of the Third Tamil Academy (Third Tamil Sangam) that was some 2000 years ago. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the sport is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A painting, estimated to be about 1,500 years old, discovered in a cave near Madurai, shows a man trying to control a bull. (This paragraph is based on Wikipedia and more information may be found in Wikipedia.)

The fact of the matter is that bulls are not harmed at all unlike in Spanish bull fighting. In fact bulls are very seldom, if ever injured, although the unarmed men at times get injured (they went into the arena knowing the risks as in wrestling or boxing or auto racing). One reason cited by critics of jalllikattu is that sometimes spectators are injured by bulls getting out of the arena. This is not the fault of the sports but that of the organizers not providing adequate security. Spectators have been injured in some auto-racing, air shows and in fact in some music concerts when people get trampled. Yet this ancient cultural event of TamilNadu was banned by a court thousand miles away. Matters relating to Tamil culture and language should be decided by a court in TamilNadu consisting of judges from Tsmil Nadu.

3. The Irritation

What particularly irritates this writer is a statement made by Ms. Maneka Gandhi. Indian Government Minister for Women and Child Development. She said, "Jallikattu tradition is western culture and BJP is against it." (The Hindu newspaper; January 17, 2015). She belongs to the current ruling party "Bharatiya Janata Party" (BJP).

Eruthazhuvuthal (manju viraṭṭu, jallikattu) dates back to at least 2000 years and is not "imported" from western countries. This north-Indian minister seems to know nothing about Tamil culture or history, but is in a position, as Indian government minister, to decide on cultural and traditional matters in Tamil Nadu. This should end. All matters relating to Tamil language, culture and traditions should be decided in Tamil Nadu by the Government of Tamil Nadu or by a court of law consisting of judges from Tamil Nadu.

Different spellings of Tamil words: eruthazhuvuthal - eruthazuvuthal, eru thazhuval - eru thazuval

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