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Updated January 15th, 2024 at 14:02 IST

What Is Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu's Bull-Taming Sport Conducted As Part Of Mattu Pongal?

As Jallikattu competitions begin in Tamil Nadu during Pongal celebrations, let us know more about this bull-embracing festival.

Jallikattu competitions
Jallikattu competitions are underway | Image:Madurai District website
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As the entire India is celebrating harvest festivals like Uttarayan, Makar Sankranti, Bihu and Lohri, Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal. This festival is huge in the Southern state and one of the major traditions of the festival - Jallikattu is underway in Madurai now as thousands of people are out on the streets with their cattle. What is Jallikattu? How and why is it celebrated? Let us find out.

What is jallikattu?

Jallikattu, a centuries-old traditional sport that started around 2500 years ago, holds deep cultural and historical significance in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Rooted in rural traditions, Jallikattu is a bull-embracing spectacle that forms an integral part of the Pongal harvest festival celebrations. It is held on the third day of Pongal celebrations. The word is derived from two terms - jalli or salli meaning coins and kattu meaning package - denoting the prize entangled in the horns of the bull.

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The festival involves the daring act of young participants attempting to tame ferocious bulls. The event usually takes place in open fields or specially designed arenas. The objective is for participants to hold on to the bull's hump for a stipulated distance or time or remove the flags from the bulls’ horns. Bulls used in Jallikattu are specially bred for strength and aggression, creating a formidable challenge for the participants.

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Representative image of jallikattu | Image: Unsplash

Pongal festival connection

Jallikattu is a central attraction during the Pongal festival, celebrated to mark the harvest season. Typically held in January, Pongal brings communities together to express gratitude for the bountiful harvest. Jallikattu adds an exhilarating dimension to the festivities as the sport is believed to have ancient roots, with references to bull-taming found in ancient Tamil literature and inscriptions.

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Ancient Tamil Sangams and literature describe the practice as 'bull embracing’. As the Jallikattu event goes on in Madurai on Mattu Pongal, it is important to take part in the festivities with full safety and adherence to the guidelines.
 

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Published January 15th, 2024 at 14:02 IST

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