Bull Baiting

Bull Baiting


Partha Desikan



Popular sentiment in some segments of Tamil society is now pitted against a judicial decision seeking to ban the annual bull-baiting sport named jallikkattu conducted during Pongal festivities in several parts of Tamilnadu. This blog will not examine the merits or demerits of the sporting activity.


Dr. Iravatham Mahadevan, the well known specialist in Indus and Brahmi scripts, is of the view that a well preserved seal found at Mohenjodaro in the 1930s, and displayed at the National Museum, New Delhi for several years, is roughly 4000 years old and that it represents jallikkattu.


The 58th adhyaya of the 10th skandha of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana details the condition imposed on suitors for the hand of Princess Satya of Kosala Rajya, daughter of King Nagnajit. The suitor had to challenge and conquer seven ferocious bulls maintained by the king. Sri Krishna is shown to have satisfied the condition and married Satya.


Almost every one of the twelve great Tamil devotees of Sri Vishnu, named Alwars, have sung about such an exploit of Sri Krishna, except that they have named the sweetheart of Sri Krishna as Nappinnai, a niece of the King of Gokula, Nandagopa. There are several other references to Nappinnai in sangam literature. Nappinnai could just be the Tamil name for Satya, and Nagnajit could be related to Nandagopa.


Several attributes of Nappinnai also match those of Radha, the Gopi paramount brought to fame by the Jayadeva and Chaitanya school of Srivaishnavites, though there is no association of Radha, who never got to marry Sri Krishna, with the Bull-conquest.


I will enjoy having answers to three questions. 1. Who were the Mohenjodarans? 2. What is the oldest reference to the practice of jallikkattu in Tamilnadu? 3.  Is such bull-baiting sport being practiced in and around Ayodhya (capital of Kosala), and is there any historic record of such sport in that region at any time?


Warm regards. Partha.

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