TIRUPUR: K Rajesh travels from Bengaluru — where he works as senior tech lead with IT major HCL — to his hometown in Tirupur every fortnight. When his colleagues are, perhaps, unwinding at a cinema or pub, Rajesh goes with his bulls to rekla races around the Madathukulam taluk.
This is the impact of the pro-jallikattu agitation of 2017. Youngsters across Tirupur, many working in IT companies in far-off cities such as Bengaluru and Chennai, are taking an interest in traditional sports like rekla races and raising bulls. Their efforts have given fresh hopes for traditional breeds like Kangayam bulls, which were dwindling in numbers.
Unlike jallikattu, which is conducted mainly during the Pongal season, rekla races are held every fortnight in the Tirupur-Coimbatore region. Nearly 800 bulls take part in 200-metre and 300-metre races and the money involved isn’t small — winners get two-wheelers, gold necklaces and cash awards. “The jallikattu protests inspired many of us youngsters to raise bulls,” says 30-year-old Rajesh.
“When we are away at work, our family members or farm workers take care of the bulls.” Rajesh claims that at least 30 IT professionals from Tirupur own stud bulls. Most of them are in it to protect native breeds.
To create awareness and connect with like-minded youngsters, Rajesh has created Vandikaran Cattle Forum on Facebook. Their efforts are, indeed, bearing fruit. The cost of trained bulls has tripled since 2017.
To bring like-minded bull owners together, Rajesh has created Vandikaran Cattle Forum on FB, to share and discuss interesting facts about bulls. Their efforts are, indeed, bearing fruit. The prices of trained bulls, which were on the lower side till 2017, when the ban was lifted, have almost tripled.
JA Senthil Kumar (38), who works as a tech lead with IBM in Chennai says: “Bulls need care like kids. It is not easy to raise and train them. A trained Kangayam can run 100m in seven seconds.” Senthil claims the daily cost of food for a pair of bulls is around Rs 400. “Even if we skip our regular meal, we ensure bulls are nourished.”
Senthil owns two pairs of Kangayam bulls, trained exclusively for rekla races. A native of Mukkudu-Jallipatti in Udumalpet, Senthil comes home once in two weeks to see his bulls and participate in rekla races. His bulls have won many races.
“I ensure I am home once every 15 days. My real passion is rekla racing. It gives me happiness,” says Senthil. RS Thirumugam, president of the Tamil Nadu Rekla Club, has also observed the spike in interest amongst educated youth. He says the sport is humane and whipping or beating the animal is not allowed. “Competitors can only use thin PVC pipes to guide the bulls.” Kangayam Rekla Club has a special race on January 20 for Pongal.