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Much more than taking the bull by the horns

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T. Saravanan

Now, Alanganallur 'jallikattu' is a brand to promote tourism

MADURAI: Searing bulls and robust youths equal to the task make 'jallikattu' an attractive affair. More than the first day of the Pongal festival, the second and third days are the 'happening days,' which people look forward to.

People start very early preparing the 'jallikattu' arena for the event. Saw dust and coir waste are strewn on the ground. Special wooden galleries are erected to facilitate the spectators to have a good look at the action.

Bulls are bred specially for the event. On the day of 'jallikattu,' horns of the bulls are whetted and oil is applied on humps. On the other side, the bull tamers are trained in applying different grappling techniques to overcome the ferocious bulls.

The widely popular Alanganallur 'jallikattu' was organised on Monday. Right from early morning, people from neighbouring villages and districts gathered at the Muniyandi Swami and Muthalamman Temple grounds where the event was scheduled.

Deep-rooted tradition

"Alanganallur has become popular for the bull fight because of a deep-rooted tradition. The event is conducted here for more than five generations. Participating bulls are well bred and strong. Besides, attractive prizes on offer too draw a good number of bulls from outside Madurai district. Now, the event itself has become a brand for promoting tourism," says V. Subbu, Zonal Deputy Tahsildar.

Prizes ranging from gold coins to almirahs and from utensils to wall clocks attracted bull tamers. Cash awards brought more young men into the arena.

"I am not a trained bull tamer; still I stand here for the thrill of the event. It is a tremendous experience and a matter of pride," responds R. Muthraj, a farm labourer from Valayankulam.

Unlike in the traditional 'jallikattu,' which requires the bull to be brought under control by its horns, in recent years holding on to the animal, piercing the crowd like an arrow, by its hump up to a minimum distance marked by the organisers is considered as having 'controlled' the beast and gets the fighter the prize declared at the time of releasing the animal. If the organisers disqualify the fight, then the award goes to the owner of the bull.

At Alanganallur, it was not a one-to-one situation with man against animal. But, three or four men tried to overpower a bull. Many tugged at the tail of the animals. The owners also used unconventional methods to make the bulls ferocious.

In the end, professional fighters managed to escape the fury of the bull and the hapless onlookers happen to be at the receiving end.

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