The year’s first ‘jallikattu’, held at Thatchankurichi in the Gandarvakottai taluk of Pudukottai district on Sunday, proved a crowd puller, with titanic bulls hitting the ground.
A festive air hung over the village, which sprung back to life to play host again to the event that attracted thousands of spectators. Seventy-four persons were injured and 10 of them were referred to the Thanjavur Medical College Hospital at the end of the event at 2.30 p.m.
Animals were brought from various districts in mini freight carriers for the event, which was to have taken place on January 6, but was postponed on safety grounds. A posse of police was deployed at the venue to regulate crowd and vehicular traffic.
Only those tamers who tested negative for COVID-19 in the RT-PCR tests conducted a day earlier were allowed to take part in the event, said a senior official of the Health Department.
Enthusiasm was writ large on the face of every tamer who waited patiently, armed with COVID-19 double vaccination certificates and Aadhaar card copies. Around 6.30 a.m. a few local bulls were let out of ‘vaadivaasal’, but they were not allowed to be tamed, as a matter of custom.
Law Minister S. Regupathy and Environment Minister Siva V. Meyyanathan flagged off the event from a makeshift stage at 8.30 a.m. Collector Kavitha Ramu administered oath beforehand to the tamers who were provided with T-shirts.
Veterinary teams screened all bulls to ensure that they were of prescribed height, subjected them to a dope test and blunted their horns before they were sent to ‘vaadivasal’, said a senior official of the Animal Husbandry Department.
Many bulls were lined up on the margin of the Sengipatti-Gandarvakottai road, near the venue, leading to diversion of vehicles for several hours.
In the absence of galleries, several spectators jostled with one another and went up to the terrace of houses around the arena. Some even perched themselves on trees.
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As many as 485 bulls were let out one after the other and the tamers tried to tackle them in a marked area filled with coir pith.
A nearly 20-member medical team was deployed at the venue. A fleet of ‘108’ ambulances was at the ready to rush injured persons to the Thanjavur Medical College Hospital. An animal ambulance was deployed.
“Thatchankurichi has been hosting the event for several years, and the response to it has been increasing every year,” said S. Paulraj, 59, a resident of the village. This year’s prizes for the tamers included motorcycles, plastic chairs, iron cots, stainless steel utensils and cash prizes. Prizes were also given to the owners of the untamed bulls.