Jallikattu is not just important from a cultural point of view

Jallikattu is not just important from a cultural point of view 

What is Jallikattu?

Jallikattu is a Traditional game in which a running bull is released into a crowd of people. Participants attempt to grab the bull’s hump and ride it for as long as possible, attempting to bring the bull to a stop. In some cases, participants must ride long enough to remove flags affixed to the bull’s horns.

Does this has any History?


Ancient Tamil Sangams described the practice as Yeru thazhuvuthal, literally “bull embracing”. The modern term Jallikattu is derived from salli (coins) and kattu (package), which refers to a prize of coins that are tied to the bull’s horns and that participants attempt to retrieve. Manju virattu literally means “bull chasing”.

Jallikattu has been known to be practiced during the Tamil classical period (400-100 BC). It was common among the ancient cowherd people who lived in the ‘Mullai’ geographical division of the ancient Tamil country. Later, it became a platform for display of bravery and prize money was introduced for participation encouragement. A seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the practice is preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. A cave painting in white kaolin discovered near Madurai depicting a lone man trying to control a bull is estimated to be about 2,500 years old.

Now let us address why Jallikattu helps in preserving our native breed (source of information from Senapathy and Raja Manickam).

In TamilNadu, breeders (In most of the cases you all know who are the breeders of Cows and Bulls-lets be proud of it) rear bulls with the intention of showcasing them in Jallikattu. Most of the farmers can’t afford to raise these bulls and are hence reliant on these breeders or on the common temple bull which is reared by the entire village rather than a single breeder. The bulls that fare well in the Jallikattu arena are in constant demand for servicing the cows. So we can think of Jallikattu as a marketplace for these bulls. Now this still doesn’t answer as to why Jallikattu alone can help in this and why can’t breeders breed these native bulls irrespective of whether Jallikattu happens or not.

To understand that we will have to understand the chronology of events that lead to Jallikattu and events that happen thereafter. Jallikattu is held during Pongal time (i.e. mid January), the strong bulls are identified and mated with cows. After this the farming season starts. After harvesting is done, this cycle starts again where the breeders showcase their bulls in Jallikattu events. People with a keen eye for this then make note of the strongest bulls and then seek them out later in what is known as a sandhai (marketplace) in Tamil.

Now how does Jallikattu help in the process?

The bulls used for mating need to be virile. During the mating season (which is typically after Pongal), these bulls need to be at the top of their game i.e. they must be secreting all the necessary male hormones, experience adrenaline rush and also a fast beating heart. This is where Jallikattu comes in picture. The time when the bull is released from the Vaadi Vaasal (the small narrow gate from which the bulls are released) and till the time it manages to reach the other end (if it is not subdued) causes it to experience a great adrenaline rush which then boosts its testosterone levels and also keeps its heart beating at a rate faster than normal levels. This increases their virility and this is one of the most fundamental of all necessities for selective breeding. Can this be done without an activity like Jallikattu? Possibly but then the number of mattings a bull can accomplish decreases significantly. Jallikattu helps in increasing this which is of utmost importance to a farmer’s wellbeing. Also because artificial insemination is not adapted for native breeds, the banning of an event like Jallikattu will lead to these native breeds getting destroyed which would then force our hands to rely on artificial insemination the very process which the farmers shunned to begin with.

In places where events like Jallikattu are not held, the male calves (which are essentially useless unless there is demand for tasks like ploughing) are slaughtered. but in places where Jallikattu is held, these calves are held on to for the purpose of showcasing them and establishing their superiority.

Now You all Must know these Technical Facts to understand the conspiracy behind the Ban of Jallikattu.

There are two types of beta-casein protein which are the dominant casein proteins in cow’s milk: A1 and A2 protein. Initially all cows produced milk rich in A2 protein. But 5000 years back when migration started happening to Europe, a genetic mutation caused cattle taken to Europe to produce milk where both A1 and A2 protein were present in approximately equal amounts or where A1 protein dominated. Most of the breeds in Europe, US and Australia produce milk rich in A1 protein while native breeds in Asia and Africa produce milk rich in A2 protein. But after effects of colonization and artificial insemination caused these differences to disappear and interbreeding of cattle resulted in cows’ milk in Asia and Africa to also have both proteins. But pure breeds (ones with A2 milk) still do exist in Asia and Africa.

Scientific research has established the differences in the way the human digestive system (and digestive enzymes) processes these two proteins. The digestive enzymes react to these proteins very differently. Based on these differences, many research articles have arrived at the conclusion (not established beyond reasonable doubt) that A1 milk protein could be the cause for various chronic diseases like type-1 diabetes and so on. There exists research to the contrary as well i.e. there is no correlation between A1 protein and chronic diseases. But the majoritarian view at the moment is that A2 milk is more beneficial than A1 milk. Here is a link to one such research paper (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3475924/).

There is one more important point to be made here. When we interbreed a bull and a cow (and if one or both of them were an offspring of a cow that produced milk rich in A1 protein) then the new offspring will also have this trait. It has been scientifically proven that the gene which causes cows to produce milk rich in A1 protein is a dominant gene and hence all offspring’s will also have this trait.

In India there are 37 native breeds (there were 150 a century ago) and of these 36 have the A2 protein gene in them. The only breed Malvi (common in Maharashtra) has the gene for A1 protein. But this bull is mostly used for ploughing and cows bred with this bull are average milk producers and hence not a cause for major concern. That essentially means that all the 6 native breeds found in Tamilnadu have the A2 protein gene in them which makes it all the more important for us to preserve them.

Now is the Time to understand Conspiracy!!!

let us understand what will happen if all these native breeds become extinct. We will then have to interbreed and rely heavily on artificial insemination. We already discussed about the problems with inter breeding above. Artificial insemination is an expensive process and we rely on semen imported from countries like US, Australia, Denmark and New Zealand from Jersey bulls and other such breed known to have A1 protein as the dominant gene. This essentially means that our generation and future generation will then have to live with milk rich in A1 protein and also the associated problems like type1 – diabetes, autism and so on. The other disadvantage with artificial insemination is that the offspring will not be healthy as its genetic pool lacks the genes that are required for it to adapt to the climate and local changes which a native breed has in a higher proportion.

Now this brings into picture an MNC, A2 Milk Company with presence in US, Australia and New Zealand. This company holds patents for trivial things like genetically testing whether a cow has an A1 gene or A2 gene. But what is disturbing is the PATENT that they hold for artificial insemination of A2 gene bull’s semen. They hold the patent for this method which causes A2 gene to become the dominant gene as opposed to A1 which happens naturally. It suppresses the dominant tendency of A1 gene. Now if all native breeds in India were destroyed then we may have to either make do with A1 milk or we may have to pay a hefty royalty to A2 Milk company for using its patented technique to produce cows rich in A2 gene. Now this is what is bothering most of these cattle breeders in TamilNadu. The question that is being raised is that when our breeds are perfectly capable of producing A2 milk, why must be force ourselves to be a slave to some other MNC company holding a patent for this. They also accuse this MNC of funding PETA which is unsubstantiated. But this organisation has been donating generously to PETA in US, Australia and New Zealand which is suspicious but doesn’t establish that they are behind the protest in India.

AND do remember! Jallikattu is not just important from a cultural point of view but is more important from a farmer’s point of view as it helps in preservation of native breeds. NOW I think you are all truly empathise with these farmers and their struggle to retain this cultural event. Let’s Join along with them and say #WeWantJallikattu.



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