Tamil Nadu’s traditional Jallikattu or bull taming sport got off to a great start on Sunday as part of Pongal celebrations in Madurai district. After mass protests last year against banning the sport, Jallikattu was held following the passing of an ordinance amending the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The Madurai district administration had made elaborate security arrangements at Avaniapuram where 625 bulls and an equal number of bull tamers participated in the event. Both were subjected to fitness tests.
The rules of the sport say that a bull tamer will be awarded a prize if he hangs on to the hump of the animal for a certain period of time. The prizes include consumer durables, cash and more. Around 60 bull tamers were injured in the sport and were provided medical assistance at the venue. On Tuesday, Jallikattu would be held at Alanganallur in Madurai district where Chief Minister K Palaniswami is expected to witness the event and also distribute prizes for the winners.
The Pongal festivities take place over four days, the 1st-day being Bhogi, which was Saturday when people burn their old clothes, mats and other items. Homes are painted afresh. The 2nd day is the main Pongal festival celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Thai. The 3rd day is the Mattu Pongal when bulls and cows are bathed and their horns painted and worshipped as they play an important role in farms. Women feed the birds with coloured rice and pray for the welfare of their brothers.In some parts of the state, Jallikattu – a bull-taming sport -is held. The fourth day is the Kannum Pongal – the day to go out and meet relatives and friends, and go sightseeing.