Jallikattu


 Jallikattu or, the Old Tamil phrase Eruthazhuvuthal or manju viraṭṭu or Ayar Vilaiyatu), is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.

Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull cuddling/holding, is a Tamil tradition called 'Yeru thazhuvuthal' in Sangam literature(meaning, to embrace bulls), popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period. Bull fighting was has been common among the ancient who lived in the ‘Mullai Land’(Ayar People(Idayar or Konar or yadav ), the Jalli kattu was born in Mullai Land) geographical division of Tamil Nadu Later, it became a sport conducted for entertainment and was called ‘Yeruthu Kattu’ in which a fast running bull was corralled with ropes around its neck. In the Naik era, prize money was introduced and the sport became a display of bravery. The term Jallikattu was coined in this era. ‘Jalli’ referred to the silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns. – R. Sundaravandhiya Thevan, Author of Piramalai Kallar Vazhvum Varalarum.. According to legend, in olden days the game was used by women to choose their husbands. Successful "matadors" were chosen as grooms.


The term jallikaṭṭu comes from the term calli kācu (coins) and kaṭṭu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. Later days during the colonial period this evolved to jallikattu which is the term currently used. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the sport is preserved in the National Museum.



Jallikattu is based on the concept of "flight or fight". All castes participate in the event(But Maximum Ayar(Idayar or Yadava) and Mukkulathor(Devar) caste are participated the game).The majority of jallikattu bulls belong to the pulikulam breed of cattle. These cattle are reared in huge herds numbering in hundreds with a few cowherds tending to them. These cattle are for all practical comparisons wild, and only experienced cowherds can mingle with them safely. It is from these herds that calves with competent characteristics and body conformation are selected and reared to become jallikattu bulls. Other breeds of cattle that are suitable for jallikattu are the palingu (or naatu)maadu, the umblachery and the malai maadu.


According to legend, in olden days the game was used by Ayar(Yadava) women to choose their husbands. Successful "matadors" were chosen as grooms.

Variant of Jallikattu

vaṭi manju viraṭṭu - This version takes place mostly in the districts of Madurai- Palamedu, Trichy, Pudukkottai, Dindigul, Theni, Thanjavur, Salem. This version that has been popularised by television and movies involves the bull being released from an enclosure with an opening. As the bull comes out of the enclosure, one person clings to the hump of the bull. The bull in its attempt to shake him off will bolt (as in most cases), but some will hook the guy with their horns and throw him off. The rules specify that the person has to hold on to the running bull for a predetermined distance to win the prize. Only one person is supposed to attempt catching the bull, but this rule being strictly enforced depends on the village where the event is conducted and more importantly, the bull himself. Some bulls acquire a reputation and that alone is enough for them to be given an unhindered passage out of the enclosure and arena.
    vēli viraṭṭu - This version is more popular in the districts of Sivagangai, and Madurai. The bull is released in an open ground. This version is the most natural as the bulls are not restricted in any way (no rope or determined path). The bulls once released just run away from the field in any direction that they prefer. Most don't even come close to any human, but there are a few bulls that do not run but stand their ground and attack anyone who tries to come near them. These bulls will "play" for some time (from a few minutes to a couple of hours) providing a spectacle for viewers, players and owners alike.
    vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu (North Tamilnadu)- "vaṭam" means rope in Tamil. The bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and is free to move within this space. A team of 7 or 9 members must attempt to subdue the bull within 30 minutes. This version is very safe for spectators as the bull is tied and the spectators are shielded by barricades.

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