History Of Jallikattu Bull Festival

Today we are going to talk about a festival called Jallikattu Bull. Jallikattu is also known as eru thazhuvuthal and mañcuvirattu. The festival is usually celebrated in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on the day of Mattu Pongal as part of the celebration of Pongal. So let us gather a little more information about the Jallikattu Bull Festival.

Jallikattu is known as a one-day festival celebrated on the third day of Pongal, a famous cultural festival in the state of Tamil Nadu. The Jallikattu festival is mostly held in the villages of the state of Taminanadu every year on the day of Pongal which falls between 13-14 January to 17 January.

Jallikattu is a traditional phenomenon in which bulls like the Kangayam or Pulikulam breeds are released into the herd. The people and several of his human participants then try to grab the bulk of the bull's back with both hands and try to hang with them but the bull tries to escape. Here the participants hold the lumps as long as possible and try to bring them to a stop. In some cases people and their participants must take a long ride to remove the flag on the ox's horn.

Animal rights organizations have called for a ban on the game for both participants and forced animals, as injuries and deaths related to the game occur during the Jallikattu festival, and the court has banned the game several times in recent years. But a new ordinance was created in 2017 to continue the game with public opposition to the ban.

The cultural festival of eru thazhuvuthal has its own authenticity. The people of the state of Tamil Nadu consider this festival as a symbol of pride of its outstanding culture and hence Jallikattu is engraved in the pages of Tamil history as tourists from all over the world travel to witness the Jallikattu festival.

The famous Jallikattu of Tamil Nadu is also specially mentioned in Dravidian literature and derives its name from the Tamil word ‘jalli’ which means gold or silver coins. And the meaning of 'kattu' is bound i.e. one who loves oxen. In this festival people win silver or gold coins tied with bull horns. The winning bull in Jallikattu is used for breeding and is also found to be the most valuable in the markets.

In celebration of the festival, 43 men and 4 bulls were killed in sporting events during the period between 2008 and 2014. In 2017 the Jallikattu festival killed 23 people in addition to about 2,500 human injuries and some examples of injuries to bulls. And in 2020, 5 people died from participating in the Jallikattu event.

Variants and rules of Jallikattu Festival

1. Vēli viraṭṭu

During this festival the bulls are released directly into the open field as the approach in this variant is slightly different. The rules of Jallikattu are the same as those of Vadi majuviraṭṭu. This is a popular type in Madurai and Sivagangai districts.

2. Vadi manjuviraṭṭu

This vadi is the most common category of eru thazhuvuthal. During the festival the bull is released from an enclosed space and the contestants try to wrap their arms around the bullock cart and hold it to win the award. Only one person at a time is allowed to try in this game. This type is most common in Theni, Madurai, Salem and Thanjavur districts.

3. Vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu

In this game the bull is tied to the 15th rope. There are no other physical restrictions for the bull here and so it can cough freely anywhere. The maximum duration given during this game is 30 minutes. In this game a team of seven to nine members can try to release a gift token tied to an ox's horn.

History of Jallikattu Festival

The traditional game played at the festival during the Tamil classical period emerged in 400 BC-100 BC. The game was enjoyed by the people living in the Mullai division of prehistoric Tamil Nadu during the No No era. With the passage of time prize money was presented to encourage people to participate in the Jallikattu festival and was given to those who performed rigorously.

The game played in Jallikattu was common among the Ayar people living in the geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. The Seal National Museum of Indus Valley Civilization, which represents this principle, is preserved in New Delhi. A cave painting was found in white kaolin near Madurai district depicting a lone man trying to tame an ox and it is believed to be about 1,500 years old.

There is a popular legend associated with this festival and which revolves around the fact that Lord Shiva asked his ox Basava to give two messages that the ox was finished and then told him another way. It is said that Basava was told to take an oil bath every day and to eat once a month for six months. Instead Basava told him to take food every day and take an oil bath once a month. And such chaos provoked the deity and he cursed the ox that would help mankind to cultivate their fields.

Training and preparation of Jallikattu Festival

The following activities were carried out in preparation of the event, with the introduction of the Act 2009 by the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly during the festival.

Written permission is obtained from the concerned collector thirty days before the principal of the event with the instruction of the venue of the Jallikattu festival.

The area and the way the ox passes are double barricades to protect the bi-standers and spectators from injuries.

The required gallery areas in the grounds of the festival have been built with double barricades. And for the participants in the game and the bulls get the necessary permission from the collector fifteen days in advance.

Final preparation prior to the incident involves thorough testing by Animal Husbandry Department officials and to ensure that alcohol, drugs or other stimulants are not used to increase the effect on the oxen.


The people in this festival are raised by the people of the village, especially the bos indicus ox for the event of the game. Bulls are used as breeding studs to successfully participate in the festivities. These bulls also bring higher prices in the markets.

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