ARIYALUR: In 2017, the entire State came forward to keep the traditional sport of Jallikattu alive. It was important to preserve the native and indigenous varieties, argued activists. Three years down the line, hit by the pandemic-induced lockdown, several farmers in the delta districts are selling their prized Jallikattu bulls, at times even for meat, as they are unable to maintain these animals. Sources say that in Ariyalur alone, 500 bulls were sold for meat in the last few days.
“It costs us Rs 2,000 to Rs 4,000 every month to maintain a bull,” says Murali (name changed), a farmer from Elanthaikudam. “There are additional expenses incurred in the months leading up to the event. Thanks to Covid, it’s unlikely that Jallikattu will be held next year. So I sold my two bulls through agents.” Another rearer from Thirumalapadi, says: “After taking care of it for seven years, I sold my bull as I could no longer afford it.”
From 60 events to 10
“In Ariyalur, Jallikattu events usually continue well till July,” says Murali. “It took a big hit this year. We normally have around 60 events in a year, but this time a mere 10-15 were held.
Without events, our bulls stay idle in the barn.” Those rearing cattle say the decline has been steady since 2017, primarily because of the restrictions imposed by the government while allowing the sport. “The number of events being organised across the districts kept coming down every year. It made no sense to rear bulls, spending so much money, while the number of events have come down drastically,” adds Murali. “The final death knell came this year in the form of lockdown. Because, not a single event was held since March.” However, Ariyalur Jallikattu Peravai leader AVM Lourdusamy says, “I have traditionally been rearing bulls and we will not sell our animals under any circumstance or for any reason.”