Madurai: Actresses like Vidya Balan and Amy Jackson may now be asking for the ban on jallikattu to continue but the traditional rural sport of Tamil Nadu would have been lost long ago but for the women in the village communities. The sport may give the men a chance to prove their valour but it is the women who rear the bulls like their own brothers or children.
“Women play a crucial role in keeping this tradition alive, but it was never known to the outside world because the limelight is only on the taming of the bulls,” said A Boomiselvam a bull tamer turned Tamil professor from the American College, Madurai.
“Does anyone known that the calves earmarked for bull taming would be left entirely under the control of the female child in the family and men are not allowed to go near them,” asks the professor who has tamed more than 500 bulls since he was a 14-year-old. The girls, who grew along with the bulls, consider them as their first brother in the family. “They would show the same vigour like bull tamers in training the bulls to win in the sports,” he said.
“I fondly call my brothers (read as bulls) as Munisamy and Chinna Tambi,” said Vijayalakshmi (45), the elder sister of Boomiselvam. Vijayalakshmi from Mattangiatti village near Madurai wakes up at 5 am every day to give water to the bulls. Around 8 am, she takes them to village pond or channel for a swim, accompanied by the youth in the family.
“Making them swim for at least an hour a day would improve the stamina of the bulls so that they could give a tough fight to the tamers in the arena,” she explains. After a few hours of rest, she takes them grazing. “In the evening, we feed them milk and dates,” she said pointing out to a bag full of dates kept near the door. The family spends nearly `4,500 per month for providing health food for the bulls.
“Even if we don’t have food to eat, we ensure that our bulls eat sufficient food and undergo regular training,” said Vijayalakshmi. After the Supreme Court ban on the Jallikattu, Vijayalakshmi sent her two bulls to a relative’s house because she was pained to see them standing idle in the home.
Kavitha (29) from Keelvalavu village has been rearing a bull for the last two years hoping that this year her bull would participate in the Jallikattu. The bull turns furious if it spots men approaching it. “Only I can feed or take it for training,” she says, confidently adding that this year her bull will definitely win.
“More than the men, we love bull taming sports, because we nurture and train the bull for the sport. If our bulls win, it reflects our valour and braveness,” said Poovasakam (58) from Mattangiatti village, adding that if their bull loses in the game, they would abstain from eating for nearly a week.
Poovasakam, who have also trained bulls for Jallikattu said that urban women can’t relate to our emotional attachment to the sport. In fact, they have never tried to understand subaltern cultures,’ she said. “If our men sustain injuries in the bull taming, we will only feel proud.”
When Boomiselvam’s father Veerandi, a famous bull fighter, died a premature death when the professor was one and a half years old, his mother Pandiammal didn’t stop him from participating in the sport. “Instead my mother and our relatives encouraged me to become a bull fighter by narrating stories about my father’s valour on taming various bulls,” said the professor.
Boomiselvam, who became a famous bull tamer in Madurai, has gone into academics after he sustained injuries in the sport. But his passion for Jallikattu has no end. He married a teacher Indira who did M.Phil on Jallikattu.
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