Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming event practised in Tamil Nadu, is held on Mattu Pongal day, the third of the four-day of the Pongal festival. The ancient sport has already begun in various towns and is scheduled to take place on January 16 in the Alanganallur town of Madurai district.
Jallikattu is derived from two Tamil words, 'jalli' meaning gold or silver coins, while 'kattu' referring to 'tied'. Together they mean coins being tied to the bulls' horns, which is considered the prize for whoever tames the bull.
The sport requires competitors to pounce on a running bull, try to hold on to its hump and move along with the animal without falling or getting hurt. It requires quick reflexes and a fleet foot to tame the bull, which will try to get away, shake off the fighter and, at times, stamp or gore the fallen participants.
The bull that wins is used to service numerous cows preserving the native breed. This popular sport dates back to almost 2500 years. The participant who will tame the most number of bulls in the race will get a car this year.
The 'Muhurta Kaal' for the event was held on Sunday, which was attended by Revenue Minister RB Udhayakumar, along with other senior officials.
Speaking at the event, Udhayakumar informed that this year the sport will begin at around 8 am and will be concluded at 4 pm. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and Deputy Chief Minister O Pannerselvam will flag off the race.
The Tamil Nadu government has issued the guidelines regarding the competition. The local bodies have been given detailed instructions and arrangements like putting up barricades and constructing separate spectator galleries in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Only 300 bull tamers will be allowed to participate in the race after testing negative for COVID-19. They will be divided into six batches. Each batch will have 50 of them chasing the bulls. Spectators will be allowed at 50% of the total capacity of the open space. All of them will undergo thermal screening.
The guidelines for bulls, including their height (at least 120 cm) and age (above three), have also put into place by the Jallikkatu Committee. Madurai has examined the height, age, breed, colour of the bulls before providing the clearance certificate.