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Saturday, January 16, 2016

animals have been part of life in villages ..... will city understand !

Today, 16th Jan 2016  ~ is a day of special significance. After Bhogi and Makara Sankranthi [Pongal], today is dedicated to the cattle popularly known as ‘Mattu Pongal’.   A day celebrating the cattle, particularly cows and bulls that play a vital role by working hard to help the farmers to raise crops on their fields.  The festival is an occasion when the fresh harvests from the fields are shared in the form of food and sweets not only with the community but also with animals and birds.

There remains a big Urban rural disconnect – the modern day youngsters see rice only in boiled form on their plate, perhaps not knowing how it is cultivated and how the animals have been  so intertwined with people. Here is a photo of a cow with its calf and a good looking bull – taken in the city [Triplicane and Mylapore]


The debate on Jallikattu has been on the media – people in villages see it differently than what it is portrayed on the media and elsewhere in India.  As nicely explained in the Indian Express, in the Jallikattu heartland of Madurai and its neighbourhood, life is hard. Agriculture is a way of life, but the land is perennially short of water. Heat and thirst are debilitating in the flatlands that spread from the foothills of the Western Ghats across the Vaigai basin to the lands bordering the fertile plains of the Cauvery in the east. It is the landscape that in the ancient past hosted the Tamil Sangams, but in recent times agriculture has become a difficult occupation. Jallikattu is almost a cathartic experience — overcoming the violence of a harsh land where resources are scarce and life needs to be tackled with skill and cunning. The pride of the bull-tamer is the primordial character of the warrior, willing to die but unwilling to accept defeat.

Tradition and culture are not immune to change. But it is facile to argue that the rights discourse can be conducted ignoring the cultural context. The argument to move from an anthropocentric vision and adopt a biocentric ethics will have to be discussed and negotiated in cultural terms as well. In the absence of such engagement, the supporters of animals rights are likely to be seen as a deracinated group that is insensitive to local culture and tradition.

It could be stated that  Jallikattu as culture and tradition has failed to impress – not the people but the Court.  It isn’t that there exists no tangible evidence to show that this battle between man and beast is indeed a cultural representation. Jallikattu has been celebrated in Tamil cinema as an integral part of agrarian life. Novelists,  have woven plots around them. The political economy of Jallikattu is easier to explain: it is about showcasing the quality of cattle, the breeding skills of cattle rearers, the centrality of cattle in an agrarian economy, and the power and pride they bring to farmers and land-owning castes in rural Tamil Nadu. Jallikattu is a cultural manifestation of this political economy. As a tradition, it links an agrarian people to the elemental aspect of their vocation; where a man risks his life to tame unpredictable nature. The bull, like land, is both his friend and foe. When the beast is bested, it brings bounty; defeat most likely means death.

~ and the argument of protection of native breeds also has meaning.  We have always held animals high, loved, cared, protected and kept them as our family members. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

16th Jan 2016

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