Raging Bulls On The Run In Jallikattu

This is not Pamplona in Spain, where the running of bulls is staged every year in July in observance of the San Fermin festival. This confrontation of man and bull takes place in Palamedu and Alanganallur, two villages near the temple town of Madurai in Tamil Nadu. The Tamil New Year festival of Pongal (specifically Maattu Pongal, the part of the festivities devoted to cattle) brings man and beast together in a rough-and-tumble battle of guile and brawn. Exciting, controversial and steeped in tradition, this is a battle of honor and courage, blood and guts, pride and prejudice.

Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull fighting, is an ancient Tamilian tradition, popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period. According to legend, in olden days the game was used by women to choose their husbands. Successful "matadors" were chosen as grooms.

The term Jallikattu comes from the term "Salli" kassu and "Kattu" tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. Later days during the colonial period this term got changed to Jallikattu which is the term currently used. Usually the majestic Kangeyam bull is involved in this game, as they are naturally more ferocious and muscular than any other of its species.