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Disheartened by the Supreme Court's judgement, Tamils hope Jallikattu does not fade away

Plenty of Tamil groups argue that the sport is a means of livelihood for numerous villagers

Jallikattu
Jallikattu is an integral part of Tamil culture

Stunned by the Supreme Court's refusal to allow Jallikattu, many in Tamil Nadu hope and pray that the ancient bull taming sport doesn't fade away. The Supreme Court ruling came on Wednesday, a day before Tamil Nadu began celebrating the four-day Pongal festival when Jallikattu is held in many rural parts.

I.T Seeman, an advocate in Madurai who is also an owner of several Jallikattu bulls, said, "We are hoping Jallikattu does not become one more old item to be discarded. The sport is part of Tamil rural life and also provides livelihood to several families that trade in the animal.”

Jallikattu enthusiasts assure that adequate safety prescriptions would be followed so that the event continues to be held rather than allow an age old tradition to vanish. However, they can only hope for a miracle if Jallikattu is to be held this Pongal.

In a telling repercussion, a village in Madurai district is in mourning due to the announcement regarding the ban of Jallikattu. K.Mahesh, a mechanical engineer and also a vegetable exporter in Alanganallur stated, “I have seen Jallikattu for the past 24 years. The entire village is in mourning.”

In Jallikattu, a bull vaulter is expected to hang on to the bull's hump for a stipulated distance or hold on to the hump for a minimum of three jumps made by the bull. Many young men die or get wounded in the process.

It is significant to note that the sport’s popularity has gone up in recent times with local businesses introducing prize money. Jallikattu followers proclaimed that the ban on the event by the Supreme Court which was in response to petitions filed by animal lovers amounted to throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Many demanded to know if Diwali, the pan-Hindu festival of lights, would ever get banned because the firecrackers exploded on the occasion cause air pollution. "We need to tackle the problem, not kill the event," argued M. Murugesan, a former civil servant who views Jallikattu as a part of Tamil tradition.He added, "It is perfectly possible that things may be happening in Jallikattu that may not be correct. Correct the mistakes, correct the deviations. Why ban Jallikattu?"

In 2014, the Supreme Court banned the sport, upholding a central government notification. Even though the central government issued a notification permitting Jallikattu subject to certain conditions, it was later stayed by the apex court.

Finally, on Wednesday, the Supreme Court made it clear that the bull taming event cannot be held. Old timers say the Jallikattu bull is bought when it is two months old and is ready for the sport when it is three years old. "We can judge the animal by its attitude, alertness and naughtiness," explained a Jallikattu bull owner.

P. Rajasekaran, President of the Jallikattu Paddukappu Peravai, revealed that the bull owners gave away prizes and insisted that no big money was involved. Some owners presented cycles and steel cupboards to winners who are invariably young men from humble rural families.

Rajasekaran asserted, “The cost of the event that includes erecting barricades and spectator galleries is met from donations from the locals and small businesses. The sport is held mainly to perpetuate village tradition.”

Jallikattu aficionados say that when politicians start tinkering with tradition, it gives other elements like animal welfare groups the chance to oppose Tamil traditional rural sports through the courts.

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