When the gruel boiling inside a pot spills over, it’s called Pongal, an event emblematic of prosperity, and also the marker of the beginning of an eponymous multi-day harvest festival in Tamil Nadu. An inalienable part of this festival is jallikattu. This year, when the temple bulls were unleashed into the Alanganallur arena, the fourth one to leap out of the famed vadivasal was left untamed as a mark of respect for the pro-jallikattu protestors, whose relentless battle against the 2014 Supreme Court ban led to the Central and state governments passing laws to revoke the proscription on the traditional sport.
The run-up to this year’s jallikattu was not a smooth affair either. A tussle between two groups for the organising rights landed in the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court. A joint committee presided over by a retired principal district judge was constituted to monitor the events. The state government ensured that medical, police and ad-hoc teams set high standards in crowd and event management.
Thousands of bulls and tamers were screened to ensure that those not meeting the guidelines were pruned at the collection point. This is worth replicating in the seasons to come. Though this created some bad blood, it ensured no untoward incident took place in the arena. Given the scale of the operations, there were bound to be a few hiccups. One can only hope that the complaints of a few officials and spectators regarding poor facilities and improper waste management would prove to be lessons learnt.
A spurt in its popularity in recent times means that jallikattu’s reach is not confined to the hinterland. The state must consider the financial prospects this development presents. A carefully curated tourism plan for those hungry for action and a taste of tradition may lead to the creation of an ecosystem that may catalyse the development of these small towns. What better way to increase job opportunities and augment revenue than exploiting an untapped resource that such events are.