Exciting, controversial and steeped in tradition, this is a battle of honor and courage, blood and guts, pride and prejudice. Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations usually on Mattu Pongal day. The festivals are held from January to July, every year. This is one of the oldest living ancient sports seen in the modern era. Although it sounds similar to the Spanish running of the bulls, it is quite different. In Jallikattu, the bull is not killed and the 'matadors' are not supposed to use any weapon.
Jallikatu, in Tamil language, means 'Bull Taming' or ‘Bull Fight’. Jallikatu is derived from two different words ‘salli’ and ‘katu.’ In Tamil Salli means coin (may be gold coin) and katu means tying the coin either in the neck strap or around the horns of the raging bull.
The bulls are freed one by one from a corner and the bull-fighter has to catch the bull and run with it for a distance of 30 metres to claim a prize. Thousands of people attend the festival in which more than 600 bulls take part. Those who go the distance with the bull win a prize and earn fame as local heroes.
Bull-owners, on the other hand, derive immense satisfaction in seeing their animals remain untamed. The sport is a big part of local culture. While it evokes passionate support from rural folk, Jallikattu invites equally strident opposition from animal-lovers. Bull-owners take great care of their prize animals, rearing them on a special diet and training them to run and swim. Jallikattu bulls are seldom exploited as beasts of burden.