The Jallikattu Battle

Disclaimer: The opinions in this article reflect the opinions of the writer and not necessarily the opinions of Trident Media  

By Damini Lalchand – Contributing Writer

Well, I haven’t written this to gain some fame through my blog but to help many of those who are uneducated about the whole Jallikattu protest in Tamil Nadu (a South Indian state).

The whole protest has taken over the internet, and frankly speaking any new trend by the Kardashians might not blow the internet in the midst of the tension in India, particularly for the Tamilians (native people of Tamil Nadu). I remember my newsfeed on various social media platforms (i.e., Twitter and Facebook) were filled with posts about the effects of Brexit, or Donald Trump’s presidency, on the economy in the UK and the US respectively, not until the Jallikattu protest in Tamil Nadu became the highlight of the moment to thousands of Indians like me living in India or abroad.

So, what’s Jallikattu?

Jallikattu is a game of bull taming which is practised in Tamil Nadu as a part of the Pongal celebrations (a harvest festival in January).

Jallikattu is derived from two Tamil words, Salli (coins) and Kattu (package), this means a prize of coins, which is tied to the bulls’ horns, and as a result of which the man who tames the bull wins the coins (can be gold or silver). On the other hand, the bull that wins is used for breeding purposes to preserve the native Indian cattle variant . This game has been practised since the classical era of Tamil Sangam (around 400-100 BC) and by those who lived around the Tamil areas during the ancient times. This sport later became a means to exhibit valour and strength, which was one of the reasons monetary prizes were given as a form of encouragement to participate in this sport.

Via Wikimedia

Via Wikimedia

Why is Jallikattu beneficial?

To answer this question we need to agree on the fact that ancient India was a Hindu country, and most rituals or customs practised in India has its own scientific basis to it. Most Hindu traditions may sound irrational or bizarre for the way it has been told to us by our ancestors, but if you consider the scientific basis in this case then, they sound rational and supports the reason for such practises. For example, wearing a Sindoor (Vermilion powder) is usually seen as a mean to identify a married lady; but in reality it helps trigger a sexual drive for women to reproduce, and that is why unmarried women or widows cannot wear it.

Coming back to the question, obviously Jallikattu has its own rational reasons too, and that is why it is a part of the Hindu culture. Bos Indicus (vernacular name- Zebu), a variant of bulls that are native to India are used for Jallikattu. As mentioned above, monetary prizes are used to encourage young people for taking part in the game. After the event, the bull who has been tamed are used for agricultural work (e.g., ploughing the fields), while the untamed ones are used for breeding cows as they are considered strong. Untamed bulls are used because preferably farmers would love to have the wild nature of these strong bulls passed down to the next generation even though the animal is referred to as a ‘domestic animal.’

Think about this as selecting a suitable sperm donor or finding a suitable marriage partner for a healthy offspring, that is basically the reason behind Jallikattu. It is important to know that, the Indian variant of bulls is the strongest among the other humped cattle varieties and are the most expensive variant in the world.

Via Flickr

Via Flickr

What’s the sudden outrage about?

So, for a very long time the Indian government had decided to ban the sport due to the PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) claiming it to be harmful, and due to which the Supreme court of India had to pass the order of banning it. It is quite obvious from the organisation’s name that they are concerned about how animals are being treated and their opinion about Jallikattu has been negative, as it is regarded as a bullfight than a game of bull taming. Their point to the argument has been backed by a research conducted by investigators of the organisation, which claims that the bulls were being harmed and that the bulls’ tail were allegedly twisted, or the bull was either punched on the ground, etc…

The PETA has been supported by many influential figures, but the organisation needs to consider the fact that cows are sacred to Hindu culture and that we do not have the guts to harm a cow or a bull. For a country with a majority who don’t eat cows, then harming a cow cannot be questioned.

On January 2016, the Central Government of India lifted the ban on the request of the Tamil Nadu state government for a brief period of time, and again this was challenged by the PETA, which insisted that animals are not used for entertainment. If animals aren’t used for entertainment they why do we have shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos with cats or dogs performing dangerous stunts, and Facebook newsfeeds full of these videos; aren’t those videos considered entertaining? PETA should challenge those pet owners, who make their pets do silly things on the Internet. Dog shows are another silly form of entertainment, PETA should ban that too because these dogs have to undergo vigorous practices just to win them.

Well, how about bullfights in Spain? Thousands of people travel to Spain to witness this sport and consider it to be aesthetic; has PETA done anything about it? PETA is originally from North America, have they considered to do anything about their very own freestyle bullfights performed by rodeo clowns? I think sitting on the bull or hanging on the bulls’ horn to tame it, is way more brutal than Jallikattu. Why haven’t PETA taken any legal actions against Lady Gaga when she flaunted her outfit made of raw beef meat at the MTV VMA ceremony? Why did PETA not take any action on those who eat meat? Why did PETA not challenge the country where they are originated from, for being one of the highest meat consumers in the world?

Too many questions unanswered!