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Monday, January 14, 2008

On Jallikattu

Jallikattu, a festival that coincides with Tamil new year (today), which involves taming a bull that runs wild through the narrow streets of villages filled with men who've satiated themselves with cheap liquor has been temporarily suspended by the supreme court citing safety (and other pragmatic reasons) and the state government with all its intentions of being the vanguard of a supreme culture (and in the banner of continuing the tradition) has filed a petition to review the situation.

There was a time, when the young woman of the house didn't have much say as to her choice of partner, and the father would deem a young man capable of taming a wild bull fit for his daughter. This is not a far fetched idea as there weren't many other means of evaluating the life-earning skills of a man. It wasn't just brute force (to discipline the animal), but the process also involved timing (when to get hold of the bull, when to let go of it), positioning (attack from a vantage point), sense of safety (how well/less bruised he is once done), reflex (avoid those sharp horns & U-turns) and maturity (an crude analysis of the bull's thought process and how best it can be contained in the running field). So, if someone is successful at getting the animal to its knees, by a very rough estimate, he is considered capable of wading his family through tough times - a mark of physical & mental strength.

But what does all of this have to do today? In an age of tractors, fertilizers and electric pumps and in a time when grooms are chosen based on their bank balances, why bother running after an intoxicated bull whose tail has been adorned with fire crackers? Oh yes! Its called 'our mighty culture & tradition'. I saw this guy on TV who has shaved his head as a mark of protest for not allowing him to display his valour. He said that if the supreme court doesn't give a favorable response, he'll shave his head again. Now, in all probability, he'll remain a healthy bachelor!

1 comment:

Dhan said...

I can't appreciate the correlation of mental acumen needed for bull fight vis a vis day to day living. I think it is just a social way of living that epitomized physical valor, agility and fighting skills - probably much needed in those days where society demanded such high physical strengths. I am sure we can appreciate the need and demand for such skills by the fact that all kollywood heros display larger than life fighting skills and strength - and it sells. Such fighting skills are also much in demand down south.
However, culture is a different thing - people do all kinds of, for want of better words, outdated nonsense that is irrelevant in todays context. Superstitions and rituals fall in that category. We gladly embrace festivals which are also vestigial from that era (which I believe is because of the sweets, holidays and opportunities for family get together). I believe culture is all about how you remember and relish some practices that were established ages back irrespective of the rationale behind them - so Jallikattu fits the definition and i feel goes well with our desire to culturally fit in.
WRT the tamilnadu govt doing the appeal - it is simple dude - jallikattu is part of the dravidian culture (right from the indus days if you were to believe some experts) and the RamaSethu - well it is an aryan vestige - who wants such stuff in Tamil nadu? (and people say Taliban is retro!)