Saturday, February 03, 2007
this is a very ancient dravidian sport, perhaps dating back to the sangam period.held on the next day after pongal. i.e.,on the maattu(cow) pongal day when the cows and bulls are thoroughly washed and dressed up and fed.a cloth having many hues is wrapped around the cow and bull and sweetened rice enhanced with juicy sugar cane is offered to them. they are decorated in bright colours.the horns are painted in a brilliant vermillion, a tilak is placed on the forehead and a garland of marigold is strung around their necks.they are revered and worshipped.it is their day.
compared to the bullfights in spain where it is a do or die for the matador, jallikattu kaalai is a milder version and a test of the 'macho' factor of the person who takes on the kaalai.in the olden days,a suitor for the girl to be married was selected after being put through this test. jalli(salli) or coins are placed in a bag and tied(kattu) to the horn of the bull(kaalai).then the bull is given some alcohol and let loose in a barricaded place.the matador,who also consumes arrack, is expected to safely control the bull.if he is successful, the prizemoney is the bag tied to the bull's horn. it is a winner takeall. a very popular sport,it is watched by thousands of people and held mainly in alanganallur and a few other villages near madurai,about 300 miles south of chennai.i visited chennai and madurai this week and read in the local tamil papers about this interesting sport.
during this competition,some fighters lose their lives and a few innocent spectators too. there has been a public outcry oflate and a demand for banning this sport.both for the cruelty being inflicted on the bulls and the dangers to which the fighters and public at large are exposed.a pil was filed in the local court for banning jallikattu.the court intervened and though has not banned the sport it has placed some restrictions.officially there have been no deaths this year though unofficial reports claim at least seven lives.
there was a poignant incident during this year's jallikattu.chinnaveeran,hailing from kuyavarpatti of melur district,madurai, was rearing a kaallai for many years .his kaalai had been participating in the annual jallikattu festival at alanganallur every year for the last many years.the kaallai had won many prizes.in the competition held this year on 17th january,this kaallai also participated. but this year he was contained by the "heroes". on 19th morning,chinnaveeeran gave fodder to the kaallai and went to work in his agricultural land.when he returned in the afternoon he found the kaallai dead.chinnaveeran was inconsolable.the next morning he consumed poison and was found by his villagers in a critical condition.they rushed him to hospital but on 22nd he breathed his last. it is suspected that the kaallai was poisoned by jealous competitiors.
the villagers said that chinnaveeran had brought up the kaallai like his own child. kaallai's sudden death was a tremendous shock for chinnaveeran.the whole village was immersed in sorrow.a family member said that the kaallai was like one of them and that chinnaveeran would never even lift his hand on kaalai.so fond was he of kaallai.
jallikattu is not unique to alanganallur.there are many parts of the world where similar bull sports are practised.bullfight is a very popular sport in spain.a few days back at almeriya in spain a bull fight took place where the matador had a close brush with death.he literally flew in space to escape from the fiery bull.