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An animal sport loved by villagers

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FOR WORSHIPPING: A fox being taken around in Periya Krishnapuram village near Vazhapadi in Salem district as part of Pongal festival on Monday.
FOR WORSHIPPING: A fox being taken around in Periya Krishnapuram village near Vazhapadi in Salem district as part of Pongal festival on Monday.

R. Ilangovan

SALEM: It is not the `Jallikattu,' the bull taming sport in which the valour of Tamils would be put to test. Animal activists also would never cry coarse that the sport should be banned, as it is violent both to the tamer and the tamed.

But it is still an animal sport in which hundreds of villagers in the Salem district enthusiastically take part year after year during Pongal festivities and particularly on the day of `Kanum Pongal.' The sport of course as in `Jallikattu, has no gore or blood. No loss of lives would be reported and no animal would be put in torture.

It is the fox-hunt. The youths and able bodied men in a cluster of villages and hamlets in Vazhapadi and Perthanaickenpalayam blocks in Salem district had entered the forests on Monday morning to catch these wily foxes. Of course neither to kill them nor to maim them.

The villagers would catch them in wild forests after a hot chase and bring them to their villages where these animals would be garlanded and made to stand in front of the village deities. The entire village would worship these animals. Later they would be released in the forests without any harm.

"We believe in the age-old belief that foxes bring luck. Hence we bring them to our villages from the forests after hours of hot chase, which thrills the youth. As Pongal happens to be the one that venerates Nature, we never harm animals," said a villager who along with 20 others had entered the forests on Monday morning. Hundreds of villagers in 20-odd hamlets and villages had entered the forests to trap these foxes that could defy them even for days. "Our men will never return empty-handed. Otherwise it will be a bad luck for us," said an elderly woman who had been a witness to this strange practice for nearly seven decades.

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