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Jallikattu (ஜல்லிகட்டு)

Jallikattu (ஜல்லிகட்டு)
or, the Old Tamil phrase eruthazhuvuthal (ஏறுதழுவல்)
or manju viraṭṭu (மஞ்சு விரட்டு),

is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.

'Jallikattu''' -  is a cattle/ bulltaming sport played in Tamil Nadu . This is one of the oldest
living ancient sports seen in the modern era. It is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival.. 


Annually, Jallikattu is held from January to July, played

first in world-famous Palamedu, near Madurai on January 15 followed by
"Alanganallur-jallikattu" in Alanganallur, near Madurai on 16 January.

There is a specific breed of cattle bred for this purpose known as Jellicut and from the place of a big breeder Pulikulam (புலிகுளம்)


There are three versions of jallikattu:


vaṭi manju virattu

This version takes place mostly in thedistricts of Madurai- Palamedu, Trichy, Pudukkottai, Dindigul, Theni,Thanjavur, Salem. This version that has been popularised by television and
movies  involves the bull being released from an enclosure with an opening. Asthe bull comes out of the enclosure, one person clings to the hump of the bull.
The bull in its attempt to shake him off will bolt (as in most cases), but some will hook the guy with their horns and throw him off. The rules specify that the person has to hold on to the running bull for a predetermined distance to win the prize. Only one person is supposed to attempt catching the bull, but this rule being strictly enforced depends on the village where the event is conducted and more importantly, the bull himself. Some bulls acquire a reputation and that alone is enough for them to be given an unhindered passage out of the enclosure and arena.


veli virattu -

 This version is more popular in the districts of Sivagangai, and Madurai. The bull is released in an open ground. This version is the most natural as the bulls are not restricted in any way (no rope  or determined path). The bulls once released just run away from the field in any direction that they prefer. Most don't even come close to any human, but there are a few bulls that do not run but stand their ground and attack anyone who tries to come near them. These bulls will "play" for some time (from a few minutes to a couple of hours) providing a spectacle for viewers, players and owners alike.

vaṭam manjuvirattu -

"vatam" means rope in Tamil.The bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and is free to move within this space. A team of 7 or 9 members must attempt to subdue the bull within 30
minutes. This version is very safe for spectators as the bull is tied and the spectators are shielded by barricades.


Training of jallikattu bulls

The calves that are chosen to become jallikattu bulls arefed a nutritious diet so that they develop into strong, sturdy beasts. The bulls are made to swim for exercise. The calves, once they reach adolescence are taken to small jallikattu events to familiarize them with the atmosphere.

Specific training is given to vadam manju virattu bulls to understand therestraints of the rope. apart from this, no other training is provided to jallikattu bulls. Once the bulls are released, then instinct takes over.



Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull cuddling/holding, is a Tamil tradition called 'Yeru thazhuvuthal' in Sangam literature(meaning,to embrace bulls), popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period Bullfighting was has been common among the ancient tribes who lived in the ‘Mullai’geographical division of Tamil Nadu Later, it became a sport conducted for  entertainment and was called ‘Yeruthu Kattu’ in which a fast running bull was corralled with ropes around its neck. In the Naik era, prize money wasintroduced and the sport became a display of bravery. The term Jallikattu wascoined in this era.

‘Jalli’ referred to the silver or gold coins tied to the bulls’ horns. – R. Sundaravandhiya Thevan, Author of Piramalai Kallar Vazhvum Varalarum.. According to legend, in olden days the game was used by women to choose their husbands. Successful "matadors" were chosen as grooms.

The term jallikaṭṭu comes from the term calli kacu (coins) and kattu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. Later days during the colonial period this evolved to jallikattu which is the term currently used. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting
the sport is preserved in the National Museum.


There are several rock paintings, more than 3,500 years old, at remote Karikkiyur village in the Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu that show men chasing bulls. Kaikkiyur, situated about 40 km from Kotagiri town, is the biggest rock art site in south India. The rock surface site, teeming with more
than 500 paintings, was discovered in 2004.


Another single painting discovered in a cave at Kalluthu Mettupatti, about 35 km west of Madurai, between Madurai and Dindigul, shows a lone man trying to control a bull. Archaeologists estimated that this painting,done in white kaolin, is about 1,500 years old


Jallikattu is based on the simple concept of "flight or fight". Cattle being herd and prey animals in general tend to run away from unwanted situations. But there are quite noteworthy exceptions. Cape buffalos are famous for standing up against lions and killing them. The Indian Gaur bull is known for standing its ground against predators and tigers think twice about attacking a full grown Gaur bull. Aurochs, the ancestor of domestic cattle was known for its pugnacious nature. Jallikattu bulls belong to a few
specific breeds of cattle that descended from the kangayam breed of cattle and these cattle are very pugnacious by nature. These cattle are reared in huge herds numbering in hundreds with a few cowherds tending to them. These cattle are for all practical comparisons, wild and only the cowherds can mingle with them without any fear of being attacked. It is from these herds that calves
with good characteristics and body conformation are selected and reared to become jallikattu bulls. These bulls attack not because they are irritated oragitated or frightened, but because that is their basic nature.

All castes participate in the event. The majority ofjallikattu bulls belong to the pulikulam breed of cattle. These cattle are reared in huge herds numbering in hundreds with a few cowherds tending to them.
These cattle are for all practical comparisons wild, and only experiencedcowherds can mingle with them safely. It is from these herds that calves with competent characteristics and body conformation are selected and reared to become jallikattu bulls. Other breeds of cattle that are suitable for
jallikattu are the palingu (or naatu) maadu, the umblachery and the malai maadu



Familiar Jallikattu locations :

  • Alanganallur

  • Avaniapuram

  • Tiruvapur near Pudukottai

  • Kondalaampatti, Thammampatti in Salem, Tamil Nadu

  • Palemedu near Madurai​

  • Sravayal near Karaikudi

  • Kanduppatti near Sivagangai

  • Venthanpatti near Ponnamaravathy, Pudukottai (Dist)

  • Pallavarayanpatty near Cumbum








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