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A youth trying to take control of a bull in Jallikattu at Alanganallur

Jallikattu (Tamil: சல்லிகட்டு, challikaṭṭtu) also known as Eruthazhuvuthal (Tamil: ஏறுதழுவல், ērutazhuval) or Manju virattu (Tamil: மஞ்சு விரட்டு), is an event held in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Maatu Pondal day. Bulls are bred specifically by people of the village for the event and attended mainly by many villages' temple bulls (koil kaalai). A temple bull is like the head of all cattle in a village; special rituals will be performed for this temple bull during important days. During the event, prizes are announced to encourage the youth to participate. After the event, tamed weak bulls are used for domestic activities and agriculture, meanwhile the untamable strong bulls are used for breeding the cows. Thus wild nature of the bulls are inherited to it's next generation, even though these country bulls are domesticated a very long time ago. Jallikattu is said to be ingenious where both sport with adrenaline rush for youth and preservation of Ecosystem by preserving country bulls works well together.

Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC).[1][2] It was common among the ancient people aayars who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country.[3][4] Animal activists and PETA India have protested against the practice since 2004.[5] Along with human injuries and fatalities, sometimes bulls themselves sustain injuries which people believe as bad omen for the village.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues.[6] On 8 January, 2016, the Government of India passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls can not be used, effectively reversing the ban.[7] However, on 14 January, 2016, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.[8]


Jallikattu originated from the Tamil words Jalli and Kattu, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns.[3]


An inscription at Government museum in Tamil Nadu

Bull taming was common among the ancient people aayars who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country.[3] Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi.[9] A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 1,500 years old.[10]


These include vaṭi viraṭṭu where a bull being released from an enclosure need to be held on to for a predetermined distance or time to win the prize, vēli viraṭṭu where a bull is released in an open ground with participants trying to subdue the animal and vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu where a bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and a team of players attempt to subdue the bull within a specific time.[11]

Training and preparation[edit]

The calves that are reared to become bulls are fed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong and sturdy animals. The calves, once they reach adolescence are taken to small events to familiarize them with the atmosphere and specific training is given based on the variant of the event it is meant for.[12] In general, bulls are trained to not allow strangers to come near them. For the people who raise these bulls, the animals are said to be sacred to them. After 2009, it is claimed that before the bulls are released in gate (Vaadivaasal), they are subjected to medical tests including tests for alcohol and substance that will aggravate the bulls. These tests are said to be conducted by a team of government vets under the supervision of the district collector. The human participants in the Jallikattu event are said to undergo medical tests as well and are tested for alcohol. However, it has been argued that since Jallikattu was itself declared illegal, no test standards can be legally set.

Rules of Jallikattu[edit]

  • The Bull will be released on the arena through the entry gate called Vaadivaasal.
  • The contestants should try to 'catch' the bull by holding onto its hump only. If contestants holds onto neck, horn or tail, then contestant will be disqualified.
  • The contestants should hold onto the bull till it crosses the 'finish' line. (Usually it is about 15 meters, marked by hanging overhead marker flags along the line.). If contestant holds the hump till finish line, he will be declared as winner.
  • Only one contestant should hold on to the bull at one time. If more than one contestant hold on to the bull, then there is no winner.
  • If no one manages to hold the bull hump or if the bulls throws the contestant off before the finish line, then bull will be declared as winner.
  • If harming bulls is found, then the bull owner or the contestant whoever responsible will be disqualified.

Protests and ban[edit]

Animal activists, the FIAPO (Federation of India Animal Protection Agencies)[13] and PETA India have protested against the practice since 2004.[5] The Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case in the Supreme Court of India for an outright ban on Jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety involved. Protestors claims that Jallikattu is promoted as bull taming it exploits the bulls' natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they are forced to run away from those they perceive as predators and the practice effectively involves catching a terrified animal. Protestors also claim that a bull new to situations like Jallikattu involving a lot of strangers whom the bull considers to be potential threats (which they aren't), when it finds strength to get past the obstacles and find its way out is definitely considered to be a stronger and fit breed, but instead the one's that succumb to the situation and stops trying is considered a weeker breed and they claim to send it for farming works.

On 27 November 2010, the Supreme Court permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year and directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in Jallikattu are registered to the Animal Welfare Board and in return the Board would send its representative to monitor over the event.[14] The Government of Tamil Nadu ordered that 2 lakh (US$3,000) be deposited by the organizers in case of an accident or injury during the event and enacted a rule to allow a team of veterinarians be present at the venue for certifying the bulls for participation in the event and to provide treatment for bulls that get injured.[14]

The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification in 2011 that banned the use of bulls as performing animals, thereby banning the event[15][16] But the practice continued to be held under Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009.[17] On 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court of India struck down the state law and banned Jallikattu altogether.[16] The Supreme Court noted that any flouting of the ban should result in penalties for cruelty to animals under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960.[15][18] The court also asked the Government of India to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit. The Supreme Court also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically suited for such activities and making them participate is subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering, so such events were outlawed.[19][20]

On 8 January 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests permitted the continuation of the tradition under certain conditions, effectively ending the ban.[21][22] After hearing the petitions which were led by the Animal Welfare Board of India challenging central government's notification,[23] the Supreme Court of India on 12 January 2016 ordered a stay, issued notices to the central government and Tamil Nadu Government[24][25][26] and later refused to lift the stay.[27]

Jallikattu supporters requests the events to be held with regulations instead of banning the event altogether. They are raising questions against the protesters and giving a number of reasons to continue the sport.

  • The evidence submitted by the protesters in Supreme Court are from events held prior to formation of Tamilnadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act.[17] and the number of animals harmed are fractional compared to the total bull participation. Harming bulls by contestants or owners is against the rules of the event. [28]
  • Supporters questions that how castrating bulls and bulls sent to slaughter houses for beef are legal and less cruel, and how bulls running (while one contestant tries to hold their hump on run) for 15 meters (hardly a minute), in a year, during the Jallikattu event?
  • Supporters claims that most of the protesters never been to a village and seen a Jallikattu event themselves. Their protest is based on the information fed to them through media.
  • Jallikattu supporters also question the genuineness of PeTA as animal lovers, as the evidence shows PeTA kills 86% of animals in their care and their funds broadly spent on investigation, research and advertisement instead of caring animals.[29]
  • Supporters claim international conspiracy behind the ban citing the impact on natural farming, increase in India's beef export and the interest of multi-national companies in dairy industry.[30][31]
  • Jallikattu is considered as a socio-traditional event by the people, not as a sport as promoted by government tourism.
  • Bulls are not beaten to enter the arena! They are trained to go to the keeper. Watch the keeper go beyond the 50-feet marker and wave his towel or whistle to let the bull know where he is!
  • Not a single contestant has died since the introduction of the Tamilnadu Jallikattu Act 2009.
  • Bulls especially temple bulls harmed during the event is considered as a bad omen for the coming year, by the people.

In popular culture[edit]

Jalikattu is often shown in Tamil cinema where the hero tames the bull to prove his gallantry.[32] Some of the popular movies include:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ François Gautier. A Western Journalist on India: The Ferengi's Columns. 
  2. ^ Grushkin, Daniel (22 March 2007). "Fearless Boys with Bulls in Avaniapuram". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2008. The ritual dates back as far as 2,000 years... 
  3. ^ a b c "Buzzing with bull talk". The Hindu. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2014. 
  4. ^ "Who said bullfighting is cruel?". Firstpost. 12 January 2012. 
  5. ^ a b "PETA founder held in India over bullfight protest". Reuters. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  6. ^ J.Venkatesan (8 May 2014). "Supreme Court bans Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu". The Hindu. 
  7. ^ "Centre allows Jalikattu". The Hindu. 8 January 2016. 
  8. ^ "Supreme Court refuses to vacate stay on Jallikattu order". The Hindu. 13 January 2016. 
  9. ^ T. Subramaniam (13 January 2008). "Bull-baiting of yore". The Hindu. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  10. ^ "Bull chasing, an ancient Tamil tradition". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  11. ^ "An ancient tradition sport". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 January 2013. 
  12. ^ "Jalikattu bull taming". Times of India. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  13. ^ "Save the bulls, support the ban". FIAPO. Retrieved 15 January 2016. 
  14. ^ a b "1 killed in Jalikattu". sify.com. 16 January 2011. 
  15. ^ a b "Animal Welfare Board of India vs. Nagaraja" (PDF). 7 May 2014. 
  16. ^ a b "SC bans Jalikattu". PETA. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  17. ^ a b "Tamilnadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act" (PDF). The Wire. 21 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "SC bans Jallikattu bull fights in-Tamil-Nadu". The Times of India. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 
  19. ^ "'Jallikattu is an abuse, not a sport': SC to hear pleas against Centre notification lifting ban on Jallikattu". First Post. 12 January 2016. 
  20. ^ "Jallikattu: Red Rag For the Law". The Citizen. 14 January 2016. 
  21. ^ "Centre lifts ban". The Indian Express. 8 January 2016. 
  22. ^ "Ministry of Environment and Forest allows use of bulls in Jallikattu in Tamilnadu". One Law Street. 7 January 2016. 
  23. ^ "SC to hear AWBI's petition challenging jallikattu order". The Hindu. 11 January 2016. 
  24. ^ "Supreme Court stays bull taming game Jallikattu; Jaya asks PM for an ordinance [Read Order]". One Law Street. 12 January 2016. 
  25. ^ "No Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu this year". The Hindu. 12 January 2016. 
  26. ^ "Jallikattu on hold: SC stays govt notification to allow bull taming". Hindustan Times. 12 January 2016. 
  27. ^ "Supreme Court refuses to vacate stay on jallikattu order". The Hindu. 13 January 2016. 
  28. ^ "Rules of the Game | Jallikattu". jallikattu.in. Retrieved 2016-09-24. 
  29. ^ "PeTA kills 90% of sheltered animals". Youtube. RT America. 21 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Banning Jallikattu will decimate India's indigenous cattle breeds". The Wire. 13 January 2016. 
  31. ^ "Coca cola in Dairy products". Dairy Reporter. 
  32. ^ a b c d "Rajni, Kamal did it". behindwoods.com. Retrieved 8 January 2016. 
  33. ^ "Mirugam movie". behindwoods.com. Retrieved 8 January 2016.