Due to popular demand Jillakatu was reintroduced in the state of Tamil Nadu in January 2018.
It had been banned due of a high number of deaths and injuries to the participants, the crowd and the bulls. Despite heightened organisation and regulations there were still 23 deaths and over 2500 injuries in 2018. It is one crazy festival, event, sport, spectacle….
Jiallakatu is described as “bull embracing”. it originated in 400-100BC as a platform to display bravery. A Bos indicus, a bull with a hump on its back, is released into an arena of players who attempt to grab the hump and hang on.
I photographed the Jillakatu in Maduri, fortunately, I witnessed no human or animal deaths. However, due to the constant sound of sirens and frequent appearance of the ambulance I believe there were many injuries, just by looking at these photographs you can easily see why.
The expressions on the face of each competitor reveals what is at stake - injury, ego, pride, manhood, wealth even death …….
There is an inevitable hustle and jostle for positioning moments after the bull appears, as to score, only one man alone can hold on to the hump.
A man desperately clings onto the hump but will he hang long enough to score? There is a lot at stake, not just serious injury but winner of this jillakatu receives a brand new car, a luxury unobtainable to the average Indian.
It is a battle of strength between man and animal.