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  • Jallikattu - Test of Valour

    From time immemorial, the Tamils have been a race with their own brand of customs and traditions, those that are very much different from their neighbours. One such is Jallikattu, also known as "Manchu virattu".

    The term Jallikattu comes from the term "Salli" kassu (coins) and "Kattu" (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. Later days during the colonial period this term got changed to Jallikattu which is the term currently used.

    It is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu on the eve of Mattu Pongal, one of the four days of Pongal festival (usually January 15 ). The one held in Alanganallur, near Madurai, is the most popular. This sport is also known as "Manju Virattu", meaning "chasing the bull".

    According to the ancient literature, the Tamil people considered love and valour as great virtues. Though today's version of the former is more than a little skewered, the latter certainly hasn't suffered the same fate. The daredevil sport of Jallikattu confirms this.

    Literature bears much proof about the popularity of this sport. Also known as "Yeru Thazhuvudal" (Yeru - bull; thazhuvudal - literally, to hug), it was more the way girls chose their suitors. The chivalrous youth who could contain a charging bull was much preferred by the ladies to one who couldn't.

    While young men vied with one another to try and win over these charging bulls, the animals were taught many ways to elude their grip. Their horns were sharpened and they were taught to wound even when their quarry has fallen on the ground.

    But this sport has undergone the inevitable change. Instead of one man pitting his strength against that of the animal's, the present day version, practiced in Madurai, Sivagangai, Pudukottai and Thanjavoor has a whole throng flinging itself on the bull and try subduing it. But most animals end up giving them the slip - some charge at the innocent bystander and spear them, sometimes fatally too.

    To prevent such accidents from happening, some human rights activists have asked for special barricades to be constructed, beyond which the onlookers can stand a safe distance away and watch the sport.


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