Jallikattu or Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju Virattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations usually on Mattu Pongal day. This is one of the oldest living ancient sports seen in the modern era. Although it sounds similar to the Spanish running of the bulls, it is quite different. In Jallikattu, the bull is not killed and the 'matadors' are not supposed to use any weapon. It is held in the villages of Tamil Nadu as a part of the village festival. The festivals are held from January to July, every year. Jallikattu's been played first in Palamedu,a village located near madurai on January 15 which was getting famous in recent years followed by the world-famous "Alanganallur-Jallikattu" in Alanganallur, another village near Madurai on 16 January. There is specific breed of cattle bred for this purpose which are called by two common name, Jellicut and from the place of a big breeder Pulikulam
Jallikattu, which is bull-baiting or bull fighting, is an ancient Tamilian tradition called Eruthazhuvuthal, popular amongst warriors during the Tamil classical period. According to legend, in olden days the game was used by women to choose their husbands. Successful "matadors" were chosen as grooms.
The term Jallikattu comes from the term Salli Kaasu (coins) and Kattu (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. Later days during the colonial period this term got changed to Jallikattu which is the term currently used. It is said that the Tamil people hold on to their tradition forever. It is interesting to note that there is a seal from the Indus Valley Civilization depicting the sport. It is currently preserved in the Delhi museum.
There are three versions of jallikattu:
Vadi manju virattu - This version takes place mostly in the districts of Madurai, Pudukkottai, Theni, Thanjavur, Salem. This version that has been popularised by television and movies involves the bull being released from an enclosure with an opening. As the bull comes out of the enclosure, one person clings to the hump of the bull. The bull in its attempt to shake him off will bolt (as in most cases), but some will hook the guy with their horns and throw him off. The rules specify that the person has to hold on to the running bull for a predetermined distance to win the prize. Only one person is supposed to attempt catching the bull, but this rule being strictly enforced depends on the village where the event is conducted and more importantly, the bull himself. Some bulls acquire a reputation and that alone is enough for them to be given an unhindered passage out of the enclosure and arena.
Vaeli virattu - This version is more popular in the districts of Sivagangai, and Madurai. The bull is released in an open ground. This version is the most natural as the bulls are not restricted in any way (no rope or determined path). The bulls once released just run away from the field in any direction that they prefer. Most don't even come close to any human, but there are a few bulls that don't run but stand their ground and attack anyone who tries to come near them. These bulls will "play" for some time (from a few minutes to a couple of hours) providing a spectacle for viewers, players and owners alike.
Vadam manjuvirattu - "vadam" means rope in Tamil. The bull is tied to a 50-foot-long rope (15 m) and is free to move within this space. A team of 7 or 9 members must attempt to subdue the bull within 30 minutes. This version is very safe for spectators as the bull is tied and the spectators are shielded by barricades.