A bull taming sport, Jallikattu is also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu in Tamil. The sport which dates back to almost 2000 years is enshrined in the rural culture in the villages of Tamil Nadu.The term ‘Jallikattu’, originated from the Tamil words Salli and Kattu, referring to silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns.
History of Jallikuttu
First of all, the name Jallikattu is not the proper one, the original name of the game is “YayruThazhuvuthal / YayruThazhuval” which means “bull cuddling/holding” or Manju viratuthal, later it was changed to Jallikattu which means “Jalili”+”Kattu”, which refers to the gold or silver coins which will be tied around the bull’s neck or on the horns.
We all know that the bulls are most used animal by the humans from the age when the domesticating of animals began in the history. These bulls are strong, they are used to plow the land, pulling the carts, drawing off the water, from the wells for the farming and agriculture, etc. They are so strong and even have the capacity to win over the lion and tiger, if a bull is, all raged up. It is unstoppable if it is all raged up.
By this, the older Tamil people, being as the brave Tamil lineage, to show their bravery they started a sport, which helps to showcase a person’s bravery and strength and this was also a criterion or the method for choosing a champion of the kingdom and its army. A raging bull can reach up to 50 mph speed, imagine the impact it makes if it was ramming you, unimaginable consequences occur, it is like getting hit by an SUV.
If you see the sports of Tamil origin, all are based on bravery, like Sadugudu or Kabaddi, Jallikattu, Silambaatam, etc., all are kind of rough, which shows that people are not afraid of getting hurt and ready to fight any time in wars, where, usually in olden days, every house in the kingdom must provide one person for the war, so people should be always ready and fit for the war.
Next speciality is, it is the part of the Tamil culture for more than 2000+ years, mainly practised on the Mullai regions(as per the Sangam literature, the land forms are separated as 5 different land forms, in which Mullen is the regions under forests and pastures), from the Iron Age Tamil period.
Meaning of Jallikattu
The name Jallikattu has two components, Jalili was also known as ‘salli’ or ‘kasu’, which translates into coins, and Kattu which means bundle or pouch. This is an indication to a yellow pouch of coins, which is tied to the bull’s horn. The sport is also called as Eruthazhuvuthal, which means ‘hugging the bull’.
How is the game played?
Bulls are brought to the arena the previous day and tied in coconut groves around the village. Fodder is brought along and water is provided by the host villagers. Sometimes fodder is also provided. A team of veterinarians, animal welfare officials inspect the bulls and give a medical certificate. Before the event starts, they are lined up in batches of 15 close to the rear side of the valid vassal.
After the temple bull of the host, the village has left the arena, each bull is taken into the vaadi vassal, where Animal Welfare officers are present. The nose rope of the bull is cut and the bull is free to run. Young bulls and untrained ones participating for the first few times hesitate to leave the vaadi and are prodded by their owners. It is not easy to move them as they weigh anywhere between 250-350 kilos. The experienced bulls (which have long memories) are familiar with Jallikattu events and offer their head to the owners to cut the rope. They plan their exit from the vaadi vaasal and time their jump to avoid the players. These are intelligent animals and have evolved in this environment over millennia.
The sport consists of holding onto the hump of the bull and running along with it for a given distance usually about 20-30 meters which are covered in barely 10-20 seconds.
Although a few hundred players are present in the arena, only 2-3 attempt to get close to the bull and only 1 has a shot at grabbing the hump. Everything happens so fast that most players hit the dirt and the bulls go free.
After leaving the arena, they go to a barricaded collection area of about 44,000 sq. ft. where experienced herders await the owners. Owners follow the bulls from the vaadi into the collection arena, this takes about 5-10 minutes. Once they enter, the herders help the owners rope in the bulls and take them out of the collection arena. 1-2 bulls will refuse to be roped and charge at everyone, some of them jump out of the collection area and make a run for it. Most of them head in the direction of their villages. There is the occasional injury due to the bulls not being raped.
Hold onto the bull and dear life
The challenge for every participant at the Jallikattu is not to overpower, hurt or kill the bull in the arena; but to hang onto the bull’s hump until the bull gives up or throws him down.
After the meet
The bulls are brought under control after they have had their share of time in the area. They typically run through the route made available for them. In their native villages, native bulls which have not let the participants overpower them acquire a great reputation. Their presence in the next Jallikattu is eagerly anticipated. Contrary to the outsider’s imagination, many rural women raise bulls and bring them to the sport, but we do not encounter an image of a woman playing the sport.
Training of Jallikattu bulls
The calves that are chosen to become Jallikattu bulls are fed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong, sturdy beasts. The bulls are made to swim for exercise. The calves, once they reach adolescence are taken to small Jallikattu events to familiarize them with the atmosphere. Specific training is given to vadam manju virattu bulls to understand the restraints of the rope. Apart from this, no other training is provided to Jallikattu bulls. Once the bulls are released, then instinct takes over.
Read about our other games