Jallikattu Explained – History – Controversy – PETA – Social Media – Protest


What is Jallikattu?


  • Jallikattu is an ancient bull taming blood sport played in Tamil Nadu. It’s a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day
  • According to experts, the term Jallikattu is derived from the term calli kacu (coins) and kattu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money
  • One of the oldest blood sport, Jalllikattu is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival
  • ‘Jellicut’ are the bulls bred specifically for the Jallikattu sporting event

History of Jallikattu


  • Bull taming was common among the ancient Aayar or Yadava people who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country.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. A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 2,500 years old
  • Jallikattu’, also known as ‘Eruthazhuvuthal’ in Tamil, had been practiced in Tamil Nadu.
  • The bull-taming sports is usually played during the harvesting festival of the state, Pongal, before which hundreds of bulls are specifically identified, trained and nourished for the sporting event, by organizers of Jallikattu and bullock-cart race, as a traditional practice associated with village life, mostly in the southern districts of the state.
  • As part of the tradition, after the event weak bulls were used for agricultural purposes, while the stronger ones were used to breed cows, so that the wild nature of the bulls were inherited in the next generation.

Why it became a controversy


  • PETA India has documented that during jallikattu, terrified bulls are often deliberately disoriented through substances like alcohol; have their tails twisted and bitten; are stabbed and jabbed by sickles, spears, knives or sticks; are punched, jumped on and dragged to the ground
  • And as calculated from various reports, from 2010 to 2014, there were approximately 1,100 human injuries and 17 deaths as a result of Jallikattu-type events including that of a child.
  • During races, bulls are often hit with nail-studded sticks. In bullfights, the round ends when one of the bulls manages to flee (or is even killed).
  • In its judgement, the Supreme Court categorically held that the concerned ministry cannot allow Jallikattu, bull races or bullfights and cannot modify the notification dated 11 July 2011 (which banned forcing bulls to perform) without approval from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI).
  • Just last week, the AWBI advised the ministry not to overturn the Supreme Court judgement. The court had also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically suited for such races. Making them participate is subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering, and so it was deemed such races are not permitted by law.
  • It was further stated by the court that when culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence.
  • PETA India’s online petition that was urging the government to keep the ban on Jallikattu, bull races and bullfights had been signed by nearly 60,000 people in India alone. A Change.org petition regarding the same that was put up only a few days ago has been signed by over 5,000.

Why is Jallikattu important especially to Indians

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  • The controversy over Jallikattu, the bull sport banned by the Supreme Court, has been narrowed down to cruelty to animals, missing a very significant aspect the festival sport has become a nursery for quality breeds of bulls which are on the verge of extinction.
  • The Kangayam bulls, a quality native breed which is going extinct, is preserved mainly through the tradition of Jallikattu which incentivises villagers to rear these exceptionally strong bulls.
  • Tamil Nadu had six cattle breeds earlier and now we have lost the Alambadi breed.
  • The remaining breeds are Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu.
  • There are a few more minor breeds without proper documentation or care. Most of these are on the verge of extinction.
  • Each breed has evolved in perfect harmony with its local region.
  • Kangayams fed on grasses in the calcium rich soil are the sturdiest animals and can pull up to 2.5 times their body weight with ease.
  • Umbalacherys have shorter legs which make it easy for them to walk around in the water filled fields of the delta region.
  • Barugurs in the hills of Erode district and Malai Maadus in Theni district are grazed in reserve forests and are adapted at walking around in hilly terrain.
  • The Pulikulam, found mostly in the region around Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramnad, Pudukottai and parts of Tiruchi district are herded in several hundreds and walk all day grazing before being penned for the night.
  • Native cattle have evolved over millennia, adapting to the local environmental conditions.
  • They are an integral part of farming, especially for small and marginal farmers as they serve multiple purposes like ploughing, transportation, source for farmyard manure, organic treatments like panchagavya, jeevamritham, and as a source of A2 milk.
  • The native cattle are both an input as well as insurance to the livestock keepers. In ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature, cattle is considered as wealth. Cattle were measured as a unit of wealth.
  • In the Tirukkural, education is considered to be wealth and the word used for wealth is madu, meaning cattle. So it has a socio-cultural connotation which denotes lives and livestock having co-existed and cultures having coined usages around them.

Nature of protest


  • The protests were spontaneous and had no specific organizers.
  • The protest started as Occupy Marina protest along with sit-ins at large grounds across the state.
  • The protests were initially formed by members of Student community across the state which was further strengthened by people from various sections such as IT professionals who joined later.
  • The lack of leader was seen as stumbling block for the state government because it could not call people for talks. The protest were largely peaceful except few Baton charge by the police.
  • The protests are not just confined to Chennai but thousand gathered across the state in prominent places such as Thamukam Grounds in Madurai, VOC Ground in Coimbatore, VOC Ground-Tirunelveli, MGR Statue in Trichy, Salem, Thanjavur, Vellore and Pondichery.
  • Tamil youths from other states express solidarity with Jallikattu protestors in Tamil Nadu.
  • There was demonstration in Bengaluru, Mumbai,and Delhi.
  • Support for the protest also came from Tamils around the world  such as in Sri Lanka, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, China, Russia, United States,UAE France, South Africa.
  • The Protest against the Ban on Jallikattu was majorly coordinated using the Social Media Apps.
  • The Use of Meme has been another feature to spread the message that adds satire and humor to the protests. Various Traditional Tamil Sports such as Silambattam, False Leg performances, street plays are performed to showcasue tamil pride along with speeches to inspire the crowd.
  • Slogans were shouted against the animal rights organization PETA, alleging an international conspiracy favoring extinction of Tamil Nadu’s rare cattle breed, and replacing them with Jersey cows from Denmark and Switzerland

Did Social media played a huge role?

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  • Social media appeared to have played a key role in bringing together thousands of pro-Jallikattu protesters to the sprawling Marina Beach in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu, with updates on the ongoing students’ spontaneous stir and messages flooding the platform.
  • Sites including Facebook were awash with “Let us be united”, “We want Jallikattu,” and “I support Jallikattu” pages, which together account for lakhs of followers, who kept commenting on the evolving situation and pressing their cause.
  • Facebook pages like “Jallikattu veeravilayattu,” specially designed to spread messages on the bull-taming sport and protest across the state were active with live updates.
  • Special folk songs were uploaded and real time pictures, videos of protests were posted regularly which helped the information reach more and more people, prompting several of them to join hands.

Demands from the protestors

  • Ban PETA from India for not respecting the culture.
  • Promulgation of Ordinance for the Removal of Bull from the list of performing animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (PCA) Act.
  • Stop MNCs from depleting (abusing) Tamil Nadu’s Natural Resources (importantly ground water), there by mitigating water scarcity.

Other Demands

  • Revival of indigenous cattle breeds like Kangayam and Pulikulam.
  • Promote Organic farming across rural Tamil Nadu.
  • Improve the farmers life in the state.
  • Prohibit all Organisations and Educational Institutions in Tamil Nadu from diverting their foreign funds for proselytizing mission, mass mobilization and anti-national activities.
  • Boycott of foreign companies such as Pepsi, Coca Cola as their water consumption is affecting local farmers
  • Save and protect all Social, religious and cultural heritage sites in Tamil Nadu from external aggression and exploitation.
  • Respect for Tamil Culture and steps to protect it.

Current Update as on 21st Jan 2017

  • Jallikattu Returns As Tamil Nadu Governor Approves Ordinance.
  • All Tamil Nadu ministers will inaugurate Jallikattu in their districts tomorrow at 11 am. “I urge the youths, students and the general public to make the Jallikattu events across Tamil Nadu a grand success by participating in large numbers,” the chief minister said.
  • Mr Panneerselvam said the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960 by Tamil Nadu was received last night. “The assent for the ordinance (amending the PCA Act) has been obtained from Govenor also,” he said, adding, “our dream to conduct Jallikattu this year has come true.”
  • He said a draft Bill to replace the ordinance and amend the PCA Act paving the way for holding Jallikattu without any hindrance will be introduced and adopted in the Tamil Nadu Assembly’s session which begins on January 23.
  • The state government is also exploring legal avenues to ban animal rights organisation PETA in Tamil Nadu, which has lobbied against the festival.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi had today said that all efforts are being made to fulfil the cultural aspirations of Tamil people. “We are very proud of the rich culture of Tamil Nadu,” PM Modi said in a tweet, adding, “Central Government is fully committed to the progress of Tamil Nadu and will always work to ensure the state scales new avenues of progress.
  • The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to not deliver its verdict in the next week, as requested by the centre, which pointed out that a decision could create law and order problems. Jallikattu, which sees young men wrestling with a bull in an open field during the harvest festival of Pongal, was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014.
  • Animal rights activists say bulls are abused, tortured, taunted with chillis flung in their eyes, and are doped on liquor. Lakhs in Tamil Nadu say that’s not correct and that those who oppose Jallikattu do not understand the region’s culture or respect it.
  • Last year, the centre allowed the sport, but that decision has been challenged in the Supreme Court. Pongal was held last week. Hundreds of people who defied the ban to hold local competitions in parts of Tamil Nadu were arrested, triggering a massive backlash.
  • Students took the lead in rallying people across the state. In Chennai, on the shoreline, they gathered in thousands, their numbers growing everyday with the extensive use of social media. Students have ensured that the protests remain apolitical and peaceful. Many of the demonstrators have helped clean up litter along the beach. Politicians who tried to join the mass demonstration were asked to leave.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a meeting with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam on Thursday had indicated that though the centre cannot intervene while the Supreme Court is deciding on ending the ban, his government will support measures taken by the state.
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  • Galaxy

    What is the role of home ministry in this issue ?