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Jallikattu (Tamil: சல்லிகட்டு, callikaṭṭtu) also known Eruthazhuvuthal (Tamil: ஏறுதழுவல், ērutazhuval) or Manju viraṭṭu (Tamil: மஞ்சு விரட்டு), is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. Bulls are bred specifically for the sporting event and a specific breed of cattle bred for this purpose is known as "Jellicut".[1] In May 2014, the Supreme Court banned the sport citing animal welfare issues.[2]


  • History 1
  • Variants 2
  • Training and diet 3
  • Injuries, animal welfare and ban 4
  • In Popular Culture 5
  • See also 6
  • References 7
  • External links 8


An inscription at Government museum in Tamil Nadu

Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull cuddling/holding was a popular sport amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period.[3][4] Bullfighting was common among the ancient tribes who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country.[5] Later, it the sport became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for entertainment. The term "Jallikattu" originated from the words "Jalli" and "Kattu", referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns.[5] A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the sport is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi.[6] A single painting discovered in a cave about 35 km west of Madurai shows a lone man trying to control a bull and the painting, done in white kaolin is estimated to be about 1,500 years old.[7]

Jallikattu near Madurai


A youth tryng to take control of the bull in a jallikattu at Alanganallur

There are many variants of jallikattu practiced in the state. These include vaṭi manju viraṭṭu where a bull being released from an enclosure will 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 while players try to take control of 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.

Training and diet

The calves that are reared to become bulls are fed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong and sturdy beasts. 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 sport it is meant for. Before the bulls are released, they are further aggravated using various techniques.

Injuries, animal welfare and ban

Bull taming in Tamil Nadu

Major injuries and deaths may occur from the sport. In 2004, at least 5 people were reported dead and several hundreds injured. Over two hundred have died from the sport over the past two decades.[8] Unlike in Spanish bullfighting, the bull is not killed and there are rarely any casualties suffered by the bulls. Animal activists have objected to the sport over the years.[9]

The Animal Welfare Board of India took the case to the Supreme Court for an outright ban on jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety involved. On November 27, 2010 the Supreme Court in accordance with the law enacted on the regulation of events, permitted the Tamil Nadu government to allow jallikattu for five months in a year from January 15. The court also 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. The state government ordered that two lakhs be deposited by the organizers for the benefit of the victims which also includes the victim’s family, in case of an accident or injury during the event. The government also enacted a rule to allow a team of veterinarians would be present at the venue for testing and certifying the bulls for participation in the event to provide treatment for bulls that get injured.

The Supreme Court of India banned jallikattu bull fights on May 7th, 2014.[10][11] The court struck down a 2011 Tamil Nadu law regulating the conduct of Jallikattu and the judges also asked the center to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit.

In Popular Culture

Artistic depiction of jallikattu

The event has fascinated movie makers for decades. Several movies featuring Jallikattu have been made in Tamil including Murattu Kalai and Virumaandi.

See also


  1. ^ "AnGR of TN for TANUVAS website" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-11-01. 
  2. ^ J.Venkatesan,"Supreme Court bans jallikattu in Tamil Nadu," The Hindu, 8 May 2014.
  3. ^ by François Gautier A Western Journalist on India: The Ferengi's Columns Google books version of the book. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  4. ^ Grushkin, Daniel (2007-03-22). "The ritual dates back as far as 2,000 years..."NY Times: . The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-07-09. 
  5. ^ a b "Buzzing with bull talk". 2014-01-08. Retrieved 2014-01-08. 
  6. ^ T. Subramaniam (13 January 2008). "Bull-baiting of yore". The Hindu. Retrieved 2 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "Bull chasing, an ancient Tamil tradition". The Hindu. Retrieved 2014-01-13. 
  8. ^ NDTV
  9. ^ "PETA founder held in India over bullfight protest". Reuters. 
  10. ^ Animal Welfare Board of India vs. A. Nagaraja & Ors., Civil Appeal No. 5387 of 2014
  11. ^ "SC bans Jallikattu bull fights in-Tamil-Nadu". The Times of India. Retrieved 2014-05-07. 

External links

  • Schedules, Venues, Photos and articles on Jallikattu
  • Characteristics of Indian cattle breeds
  • The New York TimesFearless Boys with Bulls in Avaniapuram, Madurai.
  • Jallikattu picture gallery
  • The HinduAn ancient sport report in
  • Jallikattu Videos
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