Monday, February 18, 2013

The Jallikkattu Identity

I saw a slide show in The Hindu, about Alanganallur Jallikattu. The slide show can be found here. It outlines the tradition and Animal Rights groups' opposition to the event.

I remember in 2004, there was an attempt to "ban" the event, resulting from a law suit filed by a parent who lost his young boy, and from then every year there is a lot of noise from the Animal Rights activists and other activists to do away with the ancient tradition of Jallikattu.

Jallikattu is part and parcel of Tamil identity. Hardcore Tamils, might not consider me as "Tamil" but I feel as "Tamil" as any "Tamil" can ever be, and it is part of my "Identity".

I grew up listening to stories and poems from "Sanga Iilakkiam" ("Sangam literature" dating back several thousands of years) extolling the virtues of valour and honor. Its an honor to be scarred in battles and Jallikattu (aka Yeruthazuvuthal). Its an honor to be killed in battle, mind you if you got stabbed in the back that's the worst disgrace you can bring to your family, and so on....

The views taken by animal rights activists, I suppose stems from the fact that there are acts of cruelty perpetrated by some Bull owners and more importantly the poor bull that is trying to get the hell away from the mob and the trauma associated with it. (I wonder how many of the animal rights activists are vegetarian? and what is their position on "Animal farming")

To me, the issue is slightly different. Due to the ever changing nature of the demographies and shrinking world, the conflicts between cultures and values are becoming more and more prominent. It is not a new phenominon, its been going on for centuries, but now its more acute than the previous centuries.

Jallikaatu is just one instance. We can find many more instances at a pan India level, where the progressive and liberal face of India is taking to a western value system and start marginalising, trivialising and dare I say, ridiculing the traditions rooted in some key principles that encourage values like Honor, Valor, Loyalty, Community to name a few.

I dont mean to accept and follow the traditions just because they are traditions, but to seek an understanding, ask why (5 Why's), re-engineer it to suit mordern times without compromising on the principles and values the tradition embodies.

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