Jallikattu Bull Taming Sport In Pongal: What's The Controversy All About?

13 Jan, 2021 15:00 IST|Sakshi Post

Jallikattu is a Bull-taming tradition that is practiced in Tamil Nadu. It is a game, where the bull is released into the crowd and any person can try their luck into calming and taming the bull. It is celebrated on the third-day (Mattu Pongal ) of the Pongal festival. This has been a traditional sport for the people of Tamil Nadu, especially in villages.


Jallikattu is a combination of two Tamil words, 'jalli' and 'kattu.’ Jalli means gold or silver coins and Kattu means ‘attached.’ This means that a sack of coins will be tied to the bull’s horns and any person who succeeds in taming the bull, will be the winner and can take those coins. This sport is also known as Madu Pidithal or Pollerudhu Pidithal.

This tradition or sport has been a part of Tamil Nadu’s Pongal celebration since centuries. It is believed to have a mythological background.


Many festivals and traditions are a reflection of mythological events and occurrences. Like Dusshera is said to be celebrated as a signification of Lord Rama’s win over Ravana, victory of good over evil, similarly Jallikattu as well has a mythological background to it.

Some believe that Jallikattu is related to Hindu Mythology and Lord Krishna. It is said that the tradition of Jallikattu comes from the time when Lord Krishna split into seven forms in order to tame and restrain the bulls. It is said that this story is also part of the Holy Book, Bhagwat Gita.

While some believe the origin of this tradition to be something else. Some say that Jallikattu is a result of a curse that Lord Shiva casted upon his Bull Basava after he messed up the Lord’s message. Shiva commanded Basava to tell Earth’s people that they will have to consume only one meal per month and take an oil bath every day. This routine is to be followed for six months. But Basava delivered the wrong message to the public. As a result of this mistake, Basava was cursed by Lord Shiva to be an assistance to the humans.


During the Pongal season, the farmers will not just celebrate crop harvest but also the poultry. Through jallikattu, the bulls will be tested as well. Depending on how strong the bull is and the difficulty incurred in taming it, the price of the bull will be decided.

The bull that wins will often be sent for breeding purposes. The villagers put a lot of effort into preparing for this sport. The specific breed of will be bred for the festival. Since this tradition has been part of Tamil Nadu culture for years, jallikattu is an integral part of the Pongal festival.


Back in 2014, the Supreme Court put a ban on jallikattu. This decision was taken while keeping the animal and human safety in mind. It is a dangerous event where people end up getting severely injured. Hundreds of people participate in this bloody battle.

Along with the humans, the animals suffer too. Many times, different methods like intoxicating or others are used in order to anger the bull for the battle. In an attempt to tame the bull, people often end up hurting the animal. This was a matter of concern for animal right activists and PETA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) argued that this sport is a danger to the bulls. It is causing harm to the animal. Following the outrage, the court decided to ban Jallikattu.


Following the order from the Supreme Court, many people argued that this is an insult to the Tamil culture. The villagers claimed that the bulls were not harmed during the fight. If anything, these farmers train their bulls and ready them for the fight. This tradition in turn helps them in classifying the bulls. The winner or the strongest bull will be then used for breeding purposes.

Following protests and outrage on social media, the Supreme Court had to rethink their decision. Even the Tamil Nadu government and many big names from the film industry, supported the people. This forced the Supreme Court to reverse their decision in 2017 and jallikattu was legally allowed in Tamil Nadu.  

Now in 2020, people are once again preparing for Jallikattu as they celebrate Pongal.

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