Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Jallikkattu ~ when the bull jumped over and more !


It is a Sport – it is not what Western Media wants to project – Jallikattu is not merely  an agitated bull set to run in an open space.  It is a show of strength - several people, empty handed, try to tame a raging bull by controlling its horns. The winner gets a prize, which is generally tied to the horns of the bull.  In culture and in villages, it was a display of masculine strength, the victor gaining marriage too.  May not be any longer, there may not be girls looking out for the marriage proposal to the winner.
Brilliant photo of Jallikkattu by Joseph Raja

In Tamil Nadu, Jallikkattu became a political debate.  Curiously the party which brought about the ban on the sport and the party that supported the Central party tried gaining victory over the party which ensured that political or judicial will shall not prevail over the long standing culture.  Though it gets conducted at various places, 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. 

Remember there cannot be invidious comparisons with some forms of bull taming of West – not of the Matador equipped with spear piercing the bull, enjoying the  blood spillage and eventual killing or the more gory ‘Toro jubilo festival’  where baying crowd straps flaming wooden horns to terrified animal and baking it alive.  They are forms of extreme cruelty, not of any sport.

A picture of a raging bull jumping over a woman and her child carefully avoiding even in the midst of a melee went viral in print and social media, hailing the goodness of the animal. – and did you read of the instance where 11 people have been fined Rs.55000/- each for conduct of jallikkattu near Salem ?

Away, Foxes are small-to-medium-sized, omnivorous mammals belonging to several genera of the family Canidae. Foxes are slightly smaller than a medium-size domestic dog, with a flattened skull, upright triangular ears, a pointed, slightly upturned snout, and a long bushy tail. Foxes live on every continent except Antarctica. The global distribution of foxes, together with their widespread reputation for cunning, has contributed to their prominence in popular culture and folklore in many societies around the world.

Fox hunting is unfortunately very common in United Kingdom, and although hunting foxes with a pack of dogs is illegal, it’s also still happening, and considered a sport too !  the hapless small animals are chased by  horsemen  deploying a large pack of hounds.  The hounds proceed to tear the fox into pieces and the hunters celebrate atop their horses.  That perhaps reveals the violent and gruesome mentality of people.

Back home, one horrific aspect of Jallikattu is that of people getting wounded and sometimes killed too.  Recently, two spectators were killed in a jallikattu  event in Viralimalai.  Elsewhere a 21-year-old engineering student, who was gored by a bull, succumbed to the injuries here at the Government Rajaji Hospital (GRH).  The bull-taming sport is popularly conducted  in Avaniapuram, Palamedu and Alanganallur during Pongal.   

This is no post on bull taming or the injuries sustained, but that of foxes taming! – considered to be a good omen by locals, a particular breed of foxes are pulled out of jungles for use in a "jallikattu" type event in this district of Tamil Nadu during Pongal festivities, prompting Forest officials to step in to stop the illegal practice and save them from cruelty. The "Wanga" breed of foxes are tied using ropes and chased across the streets by the villagers on 'Kaanum Pongal', the last day of the annual harvest festival, on the lines of the popular bull taming sport jallikattu, according to a forest official. The villagers  believe the Wanga foxes bring good fortunes and copious rains. The foxes are sent back to the forest later.

In a bid to prevent harassment of the animal, the forest department had  launched an awareness campaign against the practice and warned the villagers that those causing harm to the foxes could face punishment. However, despite the ban,  fox (vanga nari) jallikattu was conducted at Chinnamanaickepalayam village in Vazhapadi taluk.  Foxes are a protected species under the Wildlife Protection Act and the Department of Forest, based on a Supreme Court order, had banned the sport for the past three years in the district.

However, villagers in Kurichi, Ranganoor, Periya Krishnapuram, Kottavadi and Belur believe that failing to conduct the sport on Kaanum Pongal day would result in poor rainfall. They said that they have been conducting the jallikattu for many generations and would continue it despite the ban. People from these villages entered the forest on Tuesday and set up nets for capturing foxes. On Wednesday morning, a fox was caught in the net at Kottavadi and it was brought to the village. The fox’s mouth was gagged to prevent it from biting the onlookers. It was garlanded and taken around the Mariamman temple amid drum beats. The hind leg of the fox was tied with a rope and was chased by the villagers amid cheers. Later, the animal was released into the forest.

Officials said that the organisers would be charged for entering the reserved forests and holding the banned sport. A fine of ₹25,000 would be imposed on them, they added.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
22nd Jan 2020.

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