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Rediff.com  » News » PIX: Madurai village all set for a 'tamed' Jallikattu

PIX: Madurai village all set for a 'tamed' Jallikattu

Last updated on: January 15, 2013 22:33 IST

Madurai village all set for a 'tamed' Jallikattu

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A Ganesh Nadar in Alanganallur, Madurai

Villages in Tamil Nadu's Madurai district are geared up to host Jallikattu, the controversial bull taming game, with many strict restrictions put in place following a Supreme Court order. A Ganesh Nadar takes stock of the preparations.

Jallikattu, the ancient bull taming sport played in the villages of Tamil Nadu during Pongal festivities, is as old as the Indus Valley Civilisation. Unlike its Spanish counterpart, the Jallikattu bulls are not killed but tamed.

All that the competing bull tamers have to do is to hang onto the hump of the bull for a little time. But to jump, hang on, and jump off -- all without injuring oneself -- is the real trick.

The Supreme Court had banned the controversial sport in 2007 after animal rights groups petitioned against it, saying the game involved cruelty to animals. The rights groups also alleged that the bulls are made to drink alcohol and chilli powder is thrown in their eyes to agitate them.

At the insistence of the Tamil Nadu government -- that Jallikattu was a traditional temple sport -- the apex court finally relented, but issued strict guidelines that the state authorities now follow.

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Image: Villagers giving the final touches to the public gallery for the Jallikattu event in Alanganallur
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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Stringent precautionary measures put in place

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In Madurai district, Jallikattu is held over three days in three villages -- on the first day of Pongal at Avaniyapuram, on the second day at Palamedu and on the third day at Alanganallur.

The biggest Jallikattu event is held on the final day. It attracts the biggest crowds, the largest number of bulls and tamers, and involves the best prizes.

Twenty two people were injured during the first day of the Jallikattu at Palamedu on Monday. Understandably, stringent precautionary measures will be put in place for the final round at Alanganallur.

An official at the Madurai revenue department explains, "We have ensured that the entire area where the bulls will run will be completely barricaded. Only tamers and bulls can enter the barricaded places.

"The police will be posted at the edges, and the crowds behind them," he adds.

"All the bulls and tamers will undergo medical examinations to check alcohol consumption just before the event. The tamers will also be tested for weak heart and high blood pressure," the official notes.

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Image: Villagers trying to control a bull during a Jallikattu round last year
Photographs: Reuters

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'All liquor shops in that area will remain shut'

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"Tamers will be given T-shirts with numbers to distinguish them from the public. The town panchayat will bear all expenses. Apart from the barricades, the authorities will also provide drinking water and fodder for the bulls," he says.

"All liquor shops in that area will remain shut during the event. Police bandobast will be put in place to prevent smuggling of alcohol to the event venue. Anyone in an inebriated state will not be allowed into the area," he adds.

The entire area has been placed under CCTV coverage. Also, the event will be telecast on giant screens across the town to check excessive crowd at the venue, the official informs.

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Image: The entrance for the bulls at the Jallikattu venue
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Tags: CCTV

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'Expecting 600 bulls and an equal number of tamers'

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J Sunderajan, head of the Jallikattu committee at Alanganallur, tells Rediff.com, "We first built the gallery, then the barricades and finally an iron netting to make sure people do not try to get into the bull taming area."

"There is a VIP gallery, a tourist gallery, a media gallery and a public gallery. The Madurai district administration has arranged for free buses to ferry tourists to the venue. They have also arranged ten ambulances in case of an emergency. We have a primary health centre that can take care of minor injuries. The general hospital is 20 minutes away," he notes.

"We are expecting 600 bulls and an equal number of tamers. The registration is being done by the police and officials of the revenue department. They will give tokens with numbers. Last year, the tamers complained that the bulls were made to wait in the line for a long time. This year, we are going to call them in bunches of 20," he says.

"The event will begin at 8.30 am and will go on without a break till 2.30 pm. All the tamers will be allowed in at the same time. The bulls will be let out one at a time at regular intervals. We keep the ID proof and the address proof of the tamers while they collect their numbered T-shirts. We will return it at the end of the event," says Sunderajan.

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Image: The barricaded running space for the bulls at Alanganallur
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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'Wilder the bull, bigger the prize money'

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"The tamers have to hang onto the hump of the bull for 30 feet or 3 rounds. Wilder the bull, bigger the prize money. The prizes will be announced just before the bull runs. The prizes include gold coins, silver coins, television sets, bicycles, vessels, clothes and a lot more -- all given by sponsors," Sunderajan adds.

"The town panchayat allots Rs 5 lakh and we spend about Rs 12 lakh. The rest comes from the sponsors. We are never short of money. This is a world-famous sport. The government provides the ambulances, a fire brigade and plenty of policemen. The district collector and the superintendant of police will be present throughout the event," he says.

"The km-long galleries run parallel to the tracks where the bulls run. The total distance is about two km, at the end of which the owners catch their bulls. There is water and fodder for the bulls both at the entrance and at the end. We are expecting people from all over Tamil Nadu and also some foreign tourists on Wednesday. You please come on time," Sunderajan adds with a smile.


Image: Bicycles to be given as prizes lined up at the venue
Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

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