The brave young men pounced on the bulls as they charged out of the vadi vaasal (gate) amidst deafening applause from the jam-packed arena; the famed Alanganallur jallikattu lived up to its reputation on Wednesday.
With the swelling crowds pouring to the venue by 7.45 am itself, the event commenced well ahead of its scheduled start at 8.30 am.
The Muniyandi temple bull was the first to charge out of the gate as the contestants, as was tradition, let it pass. They did not hold back for too long, jostling with each other to get their hands on the other trained bulls as they charged out, signaling the start of the festivities. “The bulls that participate in the jallikattu are trained for months. They are provided nutritious food to ensure that they are tough competition for the tamers. People from Sivaganga, Tiruchy, Theni, Dindigul and Virudhunagar bring their bulls to participate in the jallikattu,” Alanganallur Jallikattu Organising Committee member V Balaji said.
True to form, the fearless attitude of the contestants left Jacquilene, who came all the way from France, spellbound. “One would hardly risk their life for pride and small rewards,” she said.
Meanwhile, police personnel swarmed the venue to ensure that the event passed off without a hitch. They were quick to disqualify -- in most cases within seconds-- those contestants found quarrelling or provoking their counterparts.
Many were warned not to break the rules, while others who misbehaved, came with their mobile phones or were found hurting the bulls were whisked away from the arena. The victorious went away with prizes ranging from gift hampers sponsored by various textile shops and companies to gold and silver coins.
At one point, a group of enthusiastic contestants charged at some of the bulls and the frightened animals turned on their owners themselves, refusing to come out of the gates. The harried owners started hitting the bulls and a few of them even tried biting their tails in a bid to make them go the other way. But, their attempts backfired and as a result, the number of injuries went up.
According to Madurai Superintendent of Police V Balakrishnan, “1,300 policemen were deployed at the venue.” No untoward incidents were reported, barring the 37 persons injured over the course of the event, the SP said, adding that the injured were taken to the Government Rajaji Hospital.