From Academic Kids

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Jallikattu at Paalamedu near Madurai
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Bull hitting a matador

Jallikattu is the South Indian version of the taming/running of the bull. It is held in the villages of Tamilnadu on the eve of Mattu Pongal, one of the four days of Pongal festival (usually January 15 on the Western calendar). The one held in Alanganallur, near Madurai, is the most popular. This sport is also known as "Manju Virattu," meaning "chasing the bull."

In Jallikattu, an agitated bull is set to run in an open space. Several people, empty handed, try to tame it by controlling its horns. The winner gets a prize, which is generally tied to the horns of the bull. On most occasions, the bulls are intoxicated with alcohol. Only men take part in this macho game. Sometimes, more than one bull is loose at the same time. The village farmers take this game as a display of their masculine strength. Betting is also common during the game.



The exact history of the origin of Jallikattu is unknown, but it has been popular for several centuries. According to legend, in olden days the game was used by women to choose their husbands. Successful matadors were chosen as grooms.


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.


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Alanganallur Jallikattu

As might be expected, injuries and even deaths occur in Jallikattu. In 2004, at least 5 people were reported dead and several hundreds injured in various villages. Unlike in bullfighting, the matador does not kill the bull. However, there are cases of accidental bull deaths. Several animal activists object to this ferocious and blood-thirsty game every year, but so far these objections have been in vain. Infact Jallikattu is loaded against the matadors unlike in european bullfighting. For instance the bull's horns are sharpened and the matador cannot use any weapons. Moreover these specific Indian bulls are also taller and stronger than most european bulls.


The event has fascinated movie makers for decades. Several movies featuring Jallikattu have been made in Tamil. The most popular among them is Murattu Kalai starring Rajinikanth playing the role of a professional and the most successful bull tamer of the village. Virumandi, released in 2004, had Kamal Haasan playing a similar role.


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