On Kanuma, all roads led to Rangampet village. This sleepy village came to life as thousands of people thronged it to witness a bloody sport called ‘Jalli Kattu’ that they had been waiting for the entire year.
Ignoring the warnings of the police, the villagers organised the ‘Jalli Kattu’ (a typical bull fight) and youth and elders alike vied with one another to overpower the rampaging oxen that were made to run through the village. There were no prizes for the winner but it anyone taking a beast by its horns and taming it would be declared a hero. The oxen that are used are untamed ones which by their looks, speed and aggressiveness create fear among the onlookers.
The game is simple and there are no rules for it. The owners of the ox, with much difficulty, tie a ‘palaka’ (a decorated wooden piece) to the horns or a towel to the neck of the ox. Later, it is released from its ‘kottam’ (shed) and then starts the game.
The oxen run through the passage in the midst of the jampacked crowds and people have to overpower them. Attempts of many a player goes in vain and sometimes the oxen trample or even gore some of the participants injuring or killing them.
“The first ox that leads a herd is the most aggressive one and to take it by its horns is an extremely difficult task,’’ said Chinnaiah, who was watching the event. It takes one person’s heroics to pounce on a passing ox and to bring it to a halt and dozens of youth follow suit. A frenzy ensues as people fall onto the ox and they vie to remove the ‘palaka’ or the towel tied to it. Only after removing it, the ox is let free. “There is nothing we get by overpowering the ox. In fact, we end up with injuries sometimes, but it is a tradition to prove our heroism,’’ said an youngster. Villagers admitted that the ‘Jalli Kattu’ also provides a chance to settle scores with their rivals.
“If the herd of oxen belonging to a rival group enters the fray, the other group will make all efforts to overpower at least one and remove the ‘palaka’. This has became a game of one-upmanship too in the villages,’’ said another village elder.
Clashes too erupt once an ox is overpowered. Heavy police bandobust was made in the village not to stop the game but to prevent clashes. Police pasted ‘warning’ posters across the village not to continue the `unethical’ practice of making the animals consume alcohol and let them loose on people. “The owners of an animal which injures any person will be punished,’’ the posters read but none paid any heed to them.
A temporary medical centre was set up in the village but luckily there was not many injuries this year. “Last year, several people were injured. One person was even thrown into a nearby agriculture well by an ox,’’ said a villager. “It doesn’t matter even if I am hurt. What matters is whether I win over the animal or not,’’ said S Raju, who was limping back to his house with an injury on his leg. People heaved a sigh of relief as the event passed off without any clashes or major injuries to the onlookers. “Nearly 10,000 people came to the village. Only two persons suffered minor injuries,’’ Chandragiri Circle Inspector M Nagabhushanam told Express. Though the police claimed to have closed down wine shops, people were seen consuming liquor.