Madurai’s jallikattu amma and her magnificent bulls

Among the very few women bull breeders in the State, Selvarani is ready for the Pongal season

K. Selvarani is a household name in the Sennagarampatti-Nadupatti region of Melur taluk in Madurai district. “That jallikattu amma’s house is right around the corner. The bulls look excellent and are sure to win this time as well,” say locals at a tea shop at the entrance to her village.

With the onset of the Pongal jallikattu season in Tamil Nadu, 51-year-old Selvarani, one of few women bull rearers in the State, says her bull is ready to toss tamers to the ground and win prizes this year too.

Ms. Selvarani’s two muscular bulls — Ramu and Thottuchi — track visitors from a distance and immediately make eye contact with anyone who steps into their yard. “We do not allow guests to move in close as they might harm them. I have trained them that way,” she says with a smile.

“My prized bull Ramu has competed in at least 50 tournaments since 2007. We have gone from Madurai to Theni and also covered competitions in Erode, Tiruppur, Coimbatore and several other districts and consistently won. It is a matter of great pride for me and my family. Thottuchi is only three years old but already looks mighty. We cannot wait for him to grow up,” Ms. Selvarani says.

Ms. Selvarani says she got into the world of rearing bulls at a young age, having seen her grandfather and father raise and wrestle bulls.

“The first time I saw a jallikattu tournament, I was about 10-years-old. The size of the animal never scared me because I grew up around them, feeding them and caring for them. The fact that it scared so many men however, left me fascinated,” she recalls.

Everyday, she spends at least three hours taking the bulls for a walk. Once a week, she takes them for a swim to the nearest kanmoi (tank) and then trains them in mannu kutthardhu, where the bulls learn to fend off potential tamers by flicking sand off the ground with their horns.

A day’s feed worth ₹ 500 for the animals includes cotton seed, husk of Bengal gram, wheat and green gram and broken pulses.

Despite her pride in the animals, Ms. Selvarani says she can barely make ends meet with her meagre earnings of ₹150 a day as a farm worker. She has taken a loan to tide over her difficulties and hopes the winnings in this season will turn the tide.

Ms. Selvarani and Ramu hopes to reach Palamedu at 3 a.m. on January 16 and Alanganallur at 12 a.m. on January 17 to ensure the bull gets a fighting chance.

“I cannot wait for the moment when my bull enters the vadivaasal (entry point) and I untie the rope. I usually can hear my racing heartbeat and see the anxiety on Ramu’s face. My favourite moment is when Ramu effortlessly challenges the tamers. When he victoriously runs to the end of the line, I am happiest,” Ms Selvarani signs off.

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Printable version | Apr 7, 2020 12:13:32 PM |

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