Jallikattu, also known as sallikkattu is a traditional sport of Tamil Nadu that is celebrated on the third day of Pongal – Mattu Pongal Day. (Usually it falls on January 16.) The history of this bullfight dates back to 400-100 BCE when it was played by the Ayars, an ethnic group in India. The name is coined from two words, Jalli (silver and gold coins) and Kattu (tied). A bull is let loose among a crowd of people and whoever tames it will get the coins tied to its horn. The people who participate in the sport try to hold on to the animal’s hump to stop it. Sometimes, they run along with the bull. Pulikulam or Kangayam is the breed of bulls used for the sport. The bulls which win in the festival are in high demand in the market, and fetch the highest price. They are also used for breeding.
A seal representing the sport has been found from the site of the Indus Valley Civilisation, and has been preserved in the National Museum, New Delhi. Also, a 1500-year-old cave painting in white kaolin colour has been found near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Legend also tells us the story of Lord Shiva cursing Basava his bull for the confusion he created among humankind by cultivating their land.
The festival has been part of cultural tourism in the state. Vadi manjuviraṭṭu, Vēli viraṭṭu, Vaṭam manjuviraṭṭu are the variants of this sport. Each version of the sport has different rules. In some versions, one must hold onto the hump for 30 seconds, while in others it may be for a distance of 15 metres.
The Jallikattu Premier League was formed in 2018 by Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Peravai and the Chennai Jallikattu Amaippu.