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General Studies 1 >> Art& Culture

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1. Context

As the Assembly polls approach in Tamil Nadu, the focus turns to the Pongal festival and Jallikattu, the age-old bull-taming sport, capturing the attention of political leaders. The BJP and Congress, in their bid to celebrate these cultural symbols, engage in a political showdown, revisiting their past stances on the controversial sport.

2. What is Jallikattu?

  • Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming sport deeply rooted in Tamil culture, is particularly popular in the districts of Madurai, Tiruchirappalli, Theni, Pudukkottai, and Dindigul, collectively known as the Jallikattu belt.
  • Celebrated during the Tamil harvest festival, Pongal, in the second week of January, Jallikattu boasts a rich history spanning over 2,000 years.
  • Beyond its competitive aspect, Jallikattu serves as a cultural event honouring bull owners who meticulously rear these animals for breeding purposes.
  • The sport involves contestants attempting to tame a bull for a prize, with the bull owner emerging victorious if the contestant fails.
  • While the sport's origins can be traced back to an era when agriculture was heavily reliant on animal power, the mechanization of the farm sector has diminished the monetary benefits for bull owners.
  • Nonetheless, Jallikattu events continue to attract participants and spectators alike, with prizes evolving to include grinders, refrigerators, and small furniture in addition to traditional dhotis, towels, betel leaves, bananas, and a cash prize of Rs 101.

3. Significance of Jallikattu in Tamil Culture

  • Jallikattu holds a pivotal role in Tamil culture, especially for the peasant community, as it serves as a traditional method to safeguard their pure-breed native bulls.
  • In an era dominated by artificial processes in cattle breeding, Jallikattu emerges as a crucial means to preserve male animals that would otherwise find utility solely in meat production or ploughing.
  • The native cattle breeds integral to Jallikattu, such as Kangayam, Pulikulam, Umbalachery, Barugur, and Malai Maadu, assume cultural prominence.
  • These breeds not only contribute to the essence of the event but also elevate the status of their owners, who command local respect for their role in preserving these premium breeds.
4. Legal Contests Surrounding Jallikattu
  • Animal rights concerns have sparked legal battles surrounding Jallikattu since the early 1990s in India.
  • A 1991 notification issued by the Environment Ministry prohibited the training and exhibition of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and dogs.
  • This notification was challenged by the Indian Circus Organization in the Delhi High Court, leading to the exclusion of dogs from the ban in 1998.
  • In 2007, Jallikattu came under legal scrutiny when the Animal Welfare Board of India and the animal rights group PETA filed petitions in the Supreme Court against Jallikattu and bullock cart races.
  • However, the Tamil Nadu government managed to circumvent the ban by enacting a law in 2009, which received the Governor's approval.
  • The issue resurfaced in 2011 when the central government under the UPA regime added bulls to the list of animals prohibited for training and exhibition.
  • In May 2014, just days before the BJP's election victory, the Supreme Court banned Jallikattu, citing the 2011 notification.

5. The Current Legal Status of Jallikattu

  • The legality of Jallikattu remains a subject of ongoing legal debate, with a case currently pending before the Supreme Court of India.
  • While the Tamil Nadu government has legalized Jallikattu events within the state, this decision has been challenged in court.
  • In 2017, following the death of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, massive protests erupted across Tamil Nadu in opposition to the Supreme Court's ban on Jallikattu.
  • These protests, culminating in a 15-day-long uprising in Chennai, highlighted the cultural significance of Jallikattu for the people of Tamil Nadu.
  • In response to these protests, the Tamil Nadu government issued an ordinance amending the central Act, effectively legalizing Jallikattu within the state.
  • This ordinance was subsequently ratified by the President of India. However, animal rights group PETA challenged the constitutionality of the state's move, leading to the current legal impasse.
  • The central question at the heart of the Jallikattu debate is whether the tradition can be protected as a fundamental cultural right under Article 29(1) of the Indian Constitution guarantees the right for any distinct group of citizens within India to conserve their language, script, or culture.
  • Similar to Tamil Nadu, the state of Karnataka has also enacted legislation to legalize a comparable bull-taming sport called Kambala.
  • While Maharashtra attempted to do the same, its efforts were initially challenged in court before eventually being approved as law.
  • Despite these legal developments, Jallikattu remains banned in all other Indian states, including Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, and Maharashtra, due to the 2014 Supreme Court ban order.
  • The ongoing legal battles surrounding Jallikattu underscore the complex interplay between cultural traditions, animal welfare concerns, and constitutional rights.
For Prelims: Jallikattu, Kambala, Pongal, Harvest Festivals, Animal Welfare Board of India, PETA, Article 29(1)
For Mains: 
1. Discuss the potential solutions to address the animal welfare concerns raised against Jallikattu while also ensuring the preservation of the sport's cultural heritage. (250 Words)
Previous Year Questions
1. 'Jallikkattu', which was in the news for some time, is a ________. (MP Patwari 2017) 
A. dance form of Karnataka
B. boat race festival of Kerala
C. village carnival of Andhra Pradesh
D. traditional bull chasing sport of Tamil Nadu
2. ‘Jallikattu’, is a sport, popular in:- (West Bengal Police SI 2018) 
A. Karnataka       B. Tamil Nadu          C. Andhra Pradesh          D. Kerala
3. 'Kambala race' a traditional buffalo race is being held in _______. (Official Soldier GD 2021)
A. Karnataka       B. Tamil Nadu          C. Kerala            D. Telangana
4. In which of the following festivals of Karnataka is the buffalo race organised by the farming communities? (DSSSB Junior Secretariat Assistant 2022) 
A. Pattadakal         B. Kambala         C. Ugadi        D. Hampi
5. Pongal festival is celebrated for four days in Tamil Nadu. What is the fourth day of Pongal called? (SSC CGL 2020) 
A. Mattu Pongal          B.  Thai Pongal          C. Bhogi Pongal          D. Kaanum Pongal
6. Pongal is a festival of which state? (HSSC JE Civil 2018)
A. Andhra Pradesh        B. Tamil Nadu         C. Madhya Pradesh      D. Kerala
7. Consider the following pairs: (UPSC 2018)
Tradition                                    State
1. Chapchar Kut festival           Mizoram
2. Khongjom Parba ballad        Manipur
3. Thang-Ta dance                    Sikkim
Which of the pairs given above is/are correct?
A. 1 only         B. 1 and 2      C.  3 only          D. 2 and 3
8. Which of the following is the popular harvest festival of Meghalaya? (Delhi Police Constable 2020)
A. Hampi        B. Chapchar Kut           C.Wangala          D. Losar
9. Consider the following statements: (UPSC 2014)
1. Animal Welfare Board of India is established under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. 2. National Tiger Conservation Authority is a statutory body.
3. National Ganga River Basin Authority is chaired by the Prime Minister
Which of the statements given above is/are correct?  
A. 1 only          B. 2 and 3 only       C.  2 only           D. 1, 2 and 3
10. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has named whom as its Person of the Year 2021? (SSC CGL 2022)
A. Deepika Padukone        B. Anushka Sharma       C. Alia Bhatt     D. Shraddha Kapoor 
11. PETA stands for '_______ for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' (KVS Junior Secretariat Assistant (LDC) 2018) 
A. Platform   B. People     C. Provision         D. Prospects
12. Article 29 of the Constitution of India grants which of the following rights? (NTPC Tier I 2016) 
A. Protection in respect of conviction for offences
B. Prohibition of trafficking of human beings
C. Protection of interests of minorities
D. Prohibition of taxes on religious grounds
13. Which Article of the Constitution of India states that no citizen shall be denied admission into any educational institution maintained by the State on receiving aid out of State funds on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them? (WBCS Prelims 2016)
A. Article 26          B. Article 27     C. Article 28       D. Article 29
Answers: 1-D, 2-B, 3-A, 4-B, 5-D, 6-B, 7-B, 8-C, 9-B, 10-C, 11-B, 12-C, 13-D                    
1. What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of Secularism? (UPSC 2019)
Source: The Indian Express

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