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Jallikattu: An Ancient Sport in a Controversy

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jallikattuJallikattu, in South India, is a popular game where bulls reared for this special purpose are let free to be controlled by youth. This sport takes place every year, during mid-January, soon after Pongal, a festival that thanks God, and more specially the sun, for providing a bountiful harvest.

Tamil Nadu, India celeberates this festival with great pomp. The farmers, after a year’s hard work, wish to relax and arrange Jallikattu in small towns and big hamlets. Alanganallur, a village near Madurai, India, is famous for this sport.

Jallikattu is the oldest form of sport. It sounds similar to the Spanish “Bull Fight” but in this game, the bull is tamed by youth. No weapon is used to frighten the animal. The bull is not killed. The person who finally brings the animal to a halt after its speedy run gets a handsome reward and is hailed as a hero by the villagers.

It is not a dangerous game and there are few events of death. However, the crowd, in its frenzy, clamber and run amuck, causing a stampede that can result in many injuries. The bull horns are sharpened and one untoward move by the matador lands him in trouble.

There is a big controversy ranging over the issue of allowing Jallikattu to take place. The animal activists have filed cases in the courts to ban this sport.

A week back, Ireland activists raised their voice against Jallikattu, saying that it is cruelty to animals. Their contention is that chili powder is rubbed into the bull’s eyes and the matador behaves rudely while taming the animals. Irish group “The ARAN” (Animal Rights Action Network”) has called for a tourism boycott and has condemned Jallikattu as “cruel bull abusing contact game”. The campaign by this group, called “Incredible cruelty,” is a play on India’s Ministry of Tourism’s “Incredible India”.

ARAN’s action plan seems ridiculous. I could brand their move as “Incredibly Ridiculous”. Which game is not cruel? A cricketer has to slog for hours together in rain or shine to win the test. Is that not abusing him or herself? Does it not signify cruel abuse of one’s self? I think not.

WimbeldonA tennis player has to put the maximum effort in three hours to become a champion. Does it not indicate a cruel exertion? An athlete has to brave all odds and indulge in strenuous exercise to emerge successful. Is it not torture?  In Spain the bull is killed during the “Bull Fight”. How do the activists address it?

In the circus, animals are given training to do the feats. How does ARAN term it? Much above all, the slaughter of animals for meat and hide is not a kind action. It is the worst cruelty. The pain and fear experienced by the animals while they are cut by the butcher are beyond description. Is killing animals a lesser cruelty than taming them?

Are the Irish ARAN members vegetarians?.Do they not eat pork, meat, chicken and fish? If they say “yes”, then their slogan “boycott tourism” gains merit. If they vouch that they have never harmed any animal either for food, play, hide, or as a pet, then their coinage “Incredible Cruelty” holds water.

Let ARAN set their house in order first and then talk about Jallikattu, which has been in vogue from time immemorial. This sport has been referred in ancient Tamil epics as a game of the warriors. The sentiment behind this sport should never be sneered or mocked by the Westerners.

Each region has its own identity, spirit, beliefs and own pastime. Let us respect Indian Jallikattu supporters’ convictions and not cross them as long as no deadly harm or damage is inflicted on the sport’s animals.

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