Dehumanizing Violence

The beginning of the annual northern journey of the Sun well after the winter Solstice is celebrated as Makara Sankranthi all over India. The name originates from the Sanskrit word Sankramana which means “to begin to move”. Did you know that while most Indian festivals are based on the lunar calendar, this is the only one which is based on the solar one; and the date in the English calendar is mostly static at 14th January? When the glorious Sun begins its ascendancy and entry into the Northern Hemisphere and Capricorn (Makar) in particular, it seems to remind human beings of one of finest Shanthi Mantras from The Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upanishad (1.3.28):

असतोमा सद्गमय। तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमया।
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय॥ ॐ शांति शांति शांति

Asato mā sad gamaya
Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
Mṛtyormā amṛtam gamaya
Aum śānti śānti śāntiḥ

The mantra translates like this:

“From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality
May there be peace everywhere.”

The second line Tamaso Ma Jyotirgamaya’ exhorts us to go higher & higher, to more & more Light and never to Darkness. But methinks we are plunging into abysses of darkness with each passing day. Makara Sankranthi festivities include Kite Flying in some parts of India and bull taming down south in Tamil Nadu. While the glass coated manjas of kites have wrought suffering to humans and animals alike (refer to my my post ), the bull taming competition called Jallikattu is even more virulent and violent. In some other rural areas this is also the time for cock fights, buffalo fights and the like.

The name Jallikattu comes from the term “Salli” kassu (coins) and “Kattu” (meaning a package) tied to the horns of the bulls as the prize money. At the centre of this traditional sport which is considered very auspicious is a man (or men) who locks horns with the bull.  Taming the bull is considered to be a virile, macho act and the victor walks away with a prize money too. The event is held amidst loud cheering from thousands of spectators including foreign tourists. Many a time the bewildered animal runs amok.

At the core of this so-called sport is unimaginable cruelty to animals. Participants pull the bulls’ tails, squeeze lemon in their eyes and even slash their skins and apply chilly powder to turn them wild just to enhance the spectacle of the fight, and to win. There is also danger to the public viewing this spectacle. Is this any kind of valour? Over and above these is the untold miseries the animal (s) suffers when it falls, fractures it limbs, gores down people in its wild agony and after it all loses the battle either in painful impairment or cruel death.

Though the centre has banned Jallikattu, it is conducted as per the guidelines of Supreme Court and Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act. The bullfights though initially held only during Pongal time, later started running from January to May. Organizers of the event are required to deposit 2 lakhs as compensation for those injured during the event – a common fallout. This conversion of a ritual into business was slammed by the Supreme Court as mercenary. Yet the spectacle goes on.

What is it that makes human beings so very cruel and sadistic that they derive pleasure in inflicting pain and heaping suffering on poor dumb animals? For the sake of justice and fair play at least, shouldn’t fights be between equals? How can one be considered manlike while indulging in this kind of barbarism? Shouldn’t it be considered most diabolic and fiendish? It is time that we banned such sports that debases and dehumanizes us. If you want to voice your opinion against this heartless and inhuman sport and get it banned, please click this link: . I just did.