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Jallikattu (or Sallikkattu), Tamil: (சல்லிக்கட்டு ,(ஜல்லிக்கட்டு)) also known as Eru thazhuvuthal and Manju virattu, is a traditional sport in which a Bos indicus bull is released into a crowd of people. Multiple human participants attempt to grab and tightly "hug" the large hump of the bull and hang on to it while the bull attempts to escape. Participants hug the hump for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags affixed to the bull's horns.


       Jallikattu is typically practiced in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day. This is one of the oldest living ancient sports seen in the modern era. It is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival. The festivals are held from January to July, every year. The one held in Alanganallur, near Madurai, is one of the more popular events. This sport is also known as "Manju Virattu", meaning "chasing the bull".




Ancient Tamil Sangams described the practice as Yeru thazhuvuthal (Tamil: ஏறு தழுவல்), literally "bull embracing". The modern term Jallikattu (ஜல்லிக்கட்டு) is derived from salli (coins) and kattu (package), which refers to a prize of coins that are tied to the bull's horns and that participants attempt to retrieve. Manju virattu (மஞ்சு விரட்டு) literally means "bull chasing".

        Jallikattu is based on the simple concept of "flight or fight". Cattle being herd and prey animals in general tend to run away from unwanted situations. But there are quite noteworthy exceptions. Cape buffalos are famous for standing up against lions and killing them. The Indian Gaur bull is known for standing its ground against predators and tigers think twice about attacking a full grown Gaur bull. Aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle was known for its pugnacious nature. Jallikattu bulls belong to a few specific breeds of cattle that descended from the kangayam breed of cattle and these cattle are very pugnacious by nature. 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 the cowherds can mingle with them without any fear of being attacked. It is from these herds that calves with good characteristics and body conformation are selected and reared to become jallikattu bulls. These bulls attack not because they are irritated or agitated or frightened, but because that is their basic nature.


There are three versions of jallikattu:


1)      Vadi Manju Virattu - This version takes place mostly in the districts of madurai, pudukottai, theni, tanjore and  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. In this version, 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 a unhindered passage out of the enclosure and arena.


2)      Vaeli Virattu - This version is more popular in the districts of sivagangai, manamadurai and madurai. The bull is released in an open ground without any restrictions 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 don’t 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. The magnificence of such bulls cannot be described. They must be seen firsthand to really understand the basic psyche behind the sport of jallikattu.


 3)      Vadam Manjuvirattu - "vadam" means rope in tamil. The bull is tied to a 50 ft long rope 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 great the spectators are shielded by barricades.


Variants and Rules:

Variants include :

  • Vadi majuviraṭṭu: This is the most common category, the bull is released from a closed space(Vadi Vasal) and the bull tamer attempts to catch the hump of the bull and hold on to it, in order to win the award. Only one person is allowed to attempt at a time. The variant is most common in the districts of Madurai, Thanjavur, and Salem.
  • Vēli viraṭṭu: is a popular variant in the districts of Sivagangai, and Madurai. Here, the approach is slightly different, as the bull is directly released into an open ground. The rule are the same as that of Vadi majuviraṭṭu.
  • Vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu: is a game play played with a rope( Tamil: Vatam - Rope). In this variant, the bull is tied to a 50 ft long rope. There are no other restrictions for the bull and hence it can move freely anywhere. The maximum time period given is 30 minutes. A team of 7 to 9 members can attempt to seal the bull.

Rules :

  • The Bull will be released on the the arena through the entry gate called ‘ Vadivasal’.
  • The bull tamer / contestant should try to ‘catch’ the bull by holding onto its hump only.
  • The bull-tamer should hold onto the bull till it crosses the ‘finish’ line. (Usually it is about 50 feet, marked by hanging overhead marker flags along the line.)
  • If the bull throws the tamer off before the line or if no-one manages to hold on to the bull, then the bull will be declared victorious.
  • If the bull-tamer manages to hold on to the hump till it crosses the ‘finish line’, then the bull tamer is declared the winner.
  • Only one bull tamer should hold on to the bull at one time. If more than one bull tamers hold on to the bull, then there is no winner.
  • The bull tamer should ONLY hold on to the hump. He should NOT hold on to the neck or horns or tails of the bull. Such tamers will be disqualifies.
  • No bull tamer will hit or hurt the bull in any manner.


Training and preparation:

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.


With the introduction of the Jallikattu Regulation Act - 2009, by the Tamil Nadu legislative, the following activities were done in preparation of the event:


  • A written permission is obtained from the respective collector, thirty days prior to conduct of event along with notification of the event location.
  • The arena and the way through which the bulls pass through is double-barricaded, in order to avoid injuries to the spectators and by-standers who may be permitted to remain within the barricades.
  • The necessary gallery areas are built up along the double barricades.
  • The necessary permissions are obtained from the collector for the participants and the bulls fifteen days prior.
  • Final preparation before the event include a complete testing by the authorities of the Animal Husbandry Department, to ensure that performance enhancement drugs, liquor or other irritants are not used on the bulls.


Breeding :

Tamil Nadu had six cattle breeds earlier and now we have lost the Alambadi breed. The remaining breeds are Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur and Malai Maadu. There are a few more minor breeds without proper documentation or care. Most of these are on the verge of extinction. Each breed has evolved in perfect harmony with its local region. Kangayams fed on grasses in the calcium rich soil are the sturdiest animals and can pull up to 2.5 times their body weight with ease. Umbalacherys have shorter legs which make it easy for them to walk around in the water filled fields of the delta region. Barugurs in the hills of Erode district and Malai Maadus in Theni district are grazed in reserve forests and are adept at walking around in hilly terrain. The Pulikulam, found mostly in the region around Madurai, Sivaganga, Ramnad, Pudukottai and parts of Tiruchi district are herded in several hundreds and walk all day grazing before being penned for the night.

             Native cattle have evolved over millennia, adapting to the local environmental conditions. They are an integral part of farming, especially for small and marginal farmers as they serve multiple purposes like ploughing, transportation, source for farmyard manure, organic treatments like panchagavya, jeevamritham, and as a source of A2 milk. The native cattle are both an input as well as insurance to the livestock keepers. In ancient Tamil and Sanskrit literature, cattle is considered as wealth. Cattle were measured as a unit of wealth. In the Tirukkural, education is considered to be wealth and the word used for wealth is madu, meaning cattle. So it has a socio-cultural connotation which denotes lives and livestock having co-existed and cultures having coined usages around them.

               The Pulikulam is a semi-domesticated breed. The bulls are known to attack anyone except their owners. They are mainly grazed in reserve forest lands. Herders need to be able to tame them without ropes as the nose ropes are removed while grazing.


                How does one tame a bull without ropes? If you try to tackle it from the front, it will toss you with its horns; if you try to catch it from the back, it will kick with its legs. It’s also very agile and can turn around in a split second. The only option is to approach it from the side and grab the hump. These bulls are bred specifically by people of the village for the event. Bulls that are able to participate successfully in the Jallikattu event are used as studs for breeding. These bulls also fetch higher prices in the markets.



Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC). It was common among the ancient people Aayars who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 2,500 years old.

            Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull fighting, is also Tamilian tradition, popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period. 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. Usually the majestic Kangeyam bull is involved in this game, as they are naturally more ferocious and muscular than any other of its species.

There are several rock paintings, more than 3,500 years old, at remote Karikkiyur village in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu that show men chasing bulls. Kaikkiyur, situated about 40 km from Kotagiri town, is the biggest rock art site in south India. The rock surface site, teeming with more than 500 paintings, was discovered in 2004.

Another single painting discovered in a cave at Kalluthu Mettupatti, about 35 km west of Madurai, between Madurai and Dindigul, shows a lone man trying to control a bull. Archaeologists estimated that this painting, done in white kaolin, is about 1,500 years old.

Famous Jallikattu locations include:

  • Alanganallur
  • Avaniapuram
  • Tiruvapur near Pudukottai
  • Kondalaampatti, Thammampatti in Salem, Tamil Nadu
  • Palemedu near Madurai
  • Sravayal near Karaikudi
  • Kanduppatti near Sivagangai
  • Venthanpatti near Ponnamaravathy, Pudukottai (Dist)
  • Pallavarayanpatty near Cumbum

Unlike in bullfighting, the matador does not kill the bull. There are rarely any casualties suffered by the bulls. Several animal activists object to this dangerous game every year, but so far these objections have been in vain.


Protests and ban:

The Animal Welfare Board of India filed a case in the Supreme Court of India for an outright ban on Jallikattu because of the cruelty to animals and the threat to public safety involved.

On 27 November 2010, the Supreme Court permitted the Government of Tamil Nadu to allow Jallikattu for five months in a year and directed the District Collectors to make sure that the animals that participate in Jallikattu are registered to the Animal Welfare Board and in return the Board would send its representative to monitor the event. The Government of Tamil Nadu ordered that ₹2 lakh (US$3,000) be deposited by the organizers in case of an accident or injury during the event and enacted a rule to allow a team of veterinarians be present at the venue for certifying the bulls for participation in the event and to provide treatment for bulls that get injured.

The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a notification in 2011 that banned the use of bulls as performing animals, thereby banning the event But the practice continued to be held under Tamil Nadu Regulation of Jallikattu Act No 27 of 2009. On 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court of India struck down the state law and banned Jallikattu altogether. The Supreme Court noted that any flouting of the ban should result in penalties for cruelty to animals under The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960. The court also asked the Government of India to amend the law on preventing cruelty to animals to bring bulls within its ambit. The Supreme Court also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically suited for such activities and making them participate is subjecting them to unnecessary pain and suffering, so such events were outlawed.

In May 2014, the Supreme Court of India banned the practice, citing animal welfare issues. On 8 January, 2016, the Government of India passed an order exempting Jallikattu from all performances where bulls can not be used, effectively reversing the ban. However, on 14 January, 2016, the Supreme Court of India upheld its ban on the event, leading to protests all over Tamil Nadu.

On 8 January 2016, the Ministry of Environment and Forests permitted the continuation of the tradition under certain conditions, effectively ending the ban; however, this was overturned by the Supreme Court on 26 July 2016.

On 16 January 2016, the World Youth Organization protested at Chennai against the stay on ban on conducting Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. WYO also demanded a ban on PETA in India.


2017 Jallikattu protests:

The 2017 Jallikattu protests, also known as the pro-Jallikattu movement, refers to numerous leaderless apolitical youth groups protesting in January 2017 in large groups in different locations in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, with some sporadic smaller protests taking place across India[5] as well as overseas. The chief motivation of the protest is against the Supreme Court's order to ban the Tamil peoples' traditional bull taming sport, Jallikattu (also known as yeru thazhuvuthal or manju virattu). Jallikattu is held usually during Pongal, a harvest festival in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. The sport is conducted annually on the second day of the Tamil month Thai. The sport was banned by the Supreme Court in a decision citing animal cruelty based on a lawsuit filed by an animal rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which asserted that the tradition is contrary to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act.


On 8 January 2017, some anonymous groups conducted a protest to revoke the ban on Jallikattu which was imposed in 2014. These groups also demanded that PETA be banned from India. The protests soon gained momentum and spread all over the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.


On 16 January 2017, people protested at Alanganallur, the place famous for the Jallikattu sport - on that date, the sport was also practiced in defiance of the ban. After a day long protest, police arrested the protesters. The protests continued at several more places through Jan 17 and Jan 18. On Jan 19, many volunteer groups and individuals once again gathered at the Marina beach for overnight protests.


Demands from the protestors:

Major demands:

  • Amend PCA act and ban PETA from India.
  • Promulgation of Ordinance for the Removal of Bull from the list of performing animals in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal (PCA) Act.[14]
  • Pass anti-cow slaughter act immediately and promote Organic farming across rural Tamil Nadu
  • Improve the Farmers life in State and Do the needful.
  • Save and protect all Social, religious and cultural heritage sites in Tamil Nadu from external aggression and exploitation.
  • Respect for Tamil Culture and take steps to protect it.
  • Stop MNCs from depleting (abusing) Tamil Nadu's Natural Resources (importantly ground water), there by mitigating water scarcity.
  • Prohibit all Organisations and Educational Institutions in Tamil Nadu from diverting their foreign funds for proselytizing mission, mass mobilization and anti-national activities.

Other demands:

  • Revival of indigenous cattle breeds like Kangayam and Pulikulam.
  • Boycott of foreign cola makers such as Pepsi, Coca Cola alleging their water consumption is affecting local farmers
  • Banning of PETA for its alleged anti-jallikattu and anti-local activity.

Legal Situation:

The AIADMK led state government and the BJP Led Central government cite the ban as sub-judice.However the former Madras High Court Chief Justice and Former Supreme court Judge Markandey Katju observed that Ordinance can be passed even when the matter is under court as done in Zamindari Abolition act in the 1950s when the Right to property as fundamental right was removed by the then Nehru Government.


On Jan 20, Tamil Nadu chief minister drafted an ordinance and sent to Home ministry. On the same day, The Home ministry has also given nod to the ordinance. After consulting Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, the Law Ministry forwarded the state government’s ordinance on Jallikattu to President Pranab Mukherjee.


Nature of protest:

The protests were spontaneous and had no specific organizers. The protest started as Occupy Marina protest. The protests were initially formed by members of Student community across the state which was further strengthened by people from various sections such as IT professionals who joined later. The lack of leader was seen as stumbling block for the state government because it could not call people for talks. The protest were largely peaceful except few Baton charge by the police.


The protests are not just confined to Chennai but thousand gathered across the state in prominent places such as Thamukam Grounds in Madurai, VOC Ground in Coimbatore, VOC Ground-Tirunelveli, MGR Statue in Trichy, Salem, Tanjore, Vellore and Pondichery. Support for the protest also came from Tamils around the world such as in Sri Lanka, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, China, Russia, USA,UAE France, South Africa.


The Protest against the Ban on Jallikattu was majorly coordinated using the Social Media Apps. The Use of Meme has been another feature to spread the message that adds satire and humor to the protests.


Slogans were shouted against the animal rights organization PETA, alleging an international conspiracy favoring extinction of Tamil Nadu's rare cattle breed, and replacing them with Jersey cows from Denmark and Switzerland.

தமிழ்க்கு இங்கே கிளிக் செய்யவும்


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