All about Makar Sankranti – FP Staff

Surya Deva

FirstpostOne of the most ancient of Hindu festivals, Makar Sankranti is celebrated in different parts of the country in different ways with great fanfare. Sankranti denotes the entry of the sun into the zodiac sign of Makara (Capricorn) as it travels on its celestial path. This transition welcomes longer and warmer days. The festival is associated with colorful decorations, spring harvest fairs, ritual bathing, kite flying, bonfires and elaborate feasts. – FP Staff

Significance

While most Hindu festivals are celebrated as per the lunar cycle, Makar Sankranti follows the solar cycle. Dedicated to Lord Surya, the day marks the onset of summer and beginning of auspicious period uttarayan. The connection with uttarayan dates back to the Mahabharata when Bhishma Pitamah lay down on a bed of arrows and waited for the sun to be in uttarayan to breath his last.

Cooking rice porridge (pongal) for Surya Deva

Harvest festival

For most parts of India, this period is a part of early stages of the rabi crop and agricultural cycle, where crops have been sown and the hard work in the fields is almost complete. The longer spell of sunlight is important for the crops, and also acts as a retreat for everybody who has been dreading the winter months. The harvest festival is celebrated across the country with much fervor and gaiety. While the harvest festival in Punjab is called as Lohri, in Assam its known as Bhogali Bihu and the southern states term it as Pongal.

Sadhu offering water to the sun at the Kumbh Mela (2013)

Holy dip

Makar Sankranti also marks the beginning of six months auspicious period for Hindus known as Uttarayana period. Every twelve years, the Hindus observe Makar Sankranti with one of the world’s largest mass pilgrimages and bathe in the holy rivers at the Kumbh Mela.  This year, the Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj will begin from January 14 and continue till March 3 at the Triveni Sangam—the holy confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna, and Saraswati. Many thousands of devotees are expected to arrive in the city to take a holy dip in the Triveni Sangam.

Sesame Seed Ladoos

Food

Sesame seeds (til) are used in almost every Makar Sankranti recipes. As per the Hindu view, sesame seeds helps to cleanse the soul and improve spiritual awakening. In Maharashtra, the practice of exchanging sweets made of til such as tilgul ladoo and gulachi poli is common. The exchange is considered as a token of goodwill, while these foods give energy as well as helps to keep us warm. While exchanging, people greet each other with the words, “Til gul ghyaa, goad goad bola!” meaning “eat tilgul and speak sweet words”.

In Delhi and Haryana, people cook ghee churma, kheer and halwa. In Punjab, it is a tradition to consume khichdi and jaggery. Sankrati is one of the major festivals of Rajasthan. The day is celebrated with special Rajasthani delicacies and sweets such as pheenitil-paati, gajak, kheer, ghevar, pakodi, puwa, and til-laddoo.

Enthusiasts flying kites various shapes of kites on the second day of International Kite Festival, in Ahmedabad on Monday (2018).

Kite flying

The morning of Makar Sankranti witnesses colorful kites wafting in the sky. In Gujarat, flying kites and competing with others is regarded as one of the biggest festivals. Scores of people from not only around the country, but across the world, come to participate in the annual International Kite Festival (Uttarayan), the preparations for which begin months in advance. – Firstpost, 13 January 2019

Arunachala Hill


 

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Makar Sankranti: When did we first celebrate Surya? – Raj Vedam

Surya Deva

Dr Raj VedamWe now define Makar Sankranti as the date when from an Earth-bound observation point, the Sun enters the Makar Rashi, also called Capricorn. — Dr Raj Vedam

The widespread celebration of the Makar Sankranti festival and its many regional variations hint great antiquity. In this article, we will take a journey through time, weaving together history, astronomy, calendars, seasons, agriculture and common customs, to find connections and understand the antiquity of the festival, and as an outcome, we will examine three different synchronisms for Makar Sankranti.

We first discuss points of astronomical significance, to appreciate the antiquity of the festival.

1. As the Earth rotates on its 23.5 degree tilted axis from west to east, it would appear that celestial bodies that rise in the eastern horizon set in the western horizon, except for the stars closer to the celestial North (South) Pole that would appear to circle it.

2. Earth’s annual revolution around the Sun while tilted at 23.5 degrees gives the phenomenon of seasons, due to the changing amounts of sunlight in each hemisphere, in each quarter segment of the revolution.

3. The visible stars are so distant from our solar system that they appear to be fixed with respect to the Earth’s revolution. As the Earth makes progress in its revolution each day, it would appear that the familiar constellations also change in the sky. Thus the constellations that appear in the night sky in a given month will repeat in a year’s time (ignoring the slow effect of precession, discussed in point 7). The situation is analogous to looking outside a train window on a circular track—the same scenery will appear at the same point on the circular track.

4. Due to Earth’s tilt at 23.5 degrees, from an Earth-bound observation point, it would appear that the sunrise is offset by a small amount daily, and reaches a southernmost point—the Winter Solstice, and reverses course, and reaches a northernmost point, the Summer Solstice. Ancient Indians recognized the six-month southern journey of the Sun as Dakshinayana, and the 6-month northern journey as the auspicious Uttarayana. The epic Mahabharata, recounts Bhishma who could control the time of his death, and lay on a bed of arrows, waiting for the start of Uttarayana, for more than 92 days (Nilesh Nilakanth Oak, When Did the Mahabharata War Happen?), hinting ancient observance of the Winter Solstice occurrence.

5. Indian astronomical work divided the sky into twenty-seven Nakshatras that each occupies 13 and 1/3 degree segments, approximately the distance traveled by the Moon in a 24 hour period against the fixed stars. Each Nakshatra was identified by the principal stars in that segment of the sky. The Nakshatra model forms part of the earliest corpus of Indian works on astronomy, dating to the Vedic era.

6. In addition to the twenty-seven Nakshatras, ancient Indians also divided the sky into 12 equal parts of thirty degrees each, called the Rashis. While there have been some Western assertions that ancient Indians borrowed the Rashi model from Babylon, Subhash Kak shows otherwise in his book, Astronomical Code of the Rgveda, about the Vedic origin of the Rashis, evolving from the twelve Adityas.

7. Due to the gravitational effects of Sun and Moon (and to a lesser extent, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn), the Earth wobbles on its axis, and completes a non-uniform cycle in about 25,771 years, referred to as Precession of Equinox. Due to this wobble, the celestial North Pole (and South Pole) appears to change over time, and the Rashis appear to drift slowly over the years. More than 2500 years ago, ancient Indians had observed and measured the wobble at a degree for every 100 years. This translates to a measure of 36,000 years, a figure repeated by Hipparchus around 150 BCE. One of the best estimates of precession was made by Bhaskara II of Ujjain in the 12th century, to 25,461 years, and not improved upon till modern times. It is very interesting that ancient Indians had noted a time when Abhijit (the star Vega) was once the pole star, and also a time when it was no longer the pole star. Abhijit was at the celestial North Pole approximately 14,000 years ago. Around 7000 years ago, it would have appeared to have “fallen” in the sky, as noted by Dr. P. V. Vartak (in Scientific Dating of Ramayana and the Vedas), calling out a reference to a passage in the Mahabharata.

We now define Makar Sankranti as the date when from an Earth-bound observation point, the Sun enters the Makar Rashi, also called Capricorn.

Ancient Indians noted the Winter Solstice as the start of the auspicious Uttarayana. At some point in the past, Uttarayana coincided with Makar Sankranti, and constitutes our first point of synchrony. We can determine the time period when the two coincided by considering the effects of precession. Prior to that, it is instructive to note how ancient Indians and Europeans recorded the passage of time.

Subhash Kak notes that even before Vedanga Jyotish, ancient Indians’ 27 Nakshatra and 12 Rashi system used a luni-solar calendar where every 5 years, an additional month called Adhika Masa was added, synchronizing the lunar and solar years. Ancient Indians also estimated the tropical year, defined as the period when the Sun enters the same seasonal point—say, a solstice point.

Aryabhata and Bhaskara II had estimated the tropical year at 365 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, and 30 seconds, the same figure as estimated in the ancient Indian text, Surya Siddhanta. The modern figure for the tropical year is approximately 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.

In the Western system, Julius Caesar instituted the Julian calendar in 46 BCE, dividing the year of 365 days to 12 months, and adding a day every 4th year, thus averaging to 365 days, 6 hours—a figure less accurate than the Surya Siddhanta. Due to this approximation, this calendar accumulated errors over the years, causing a “slip” in the dates of the equinoxes and solstices. The modern Gregorian calendar introduced in 1582, introduced a correction, where if a year is integer-divisible by 4, it is considered a leap year, except for those centurial years that are integer-divisible by 100, and with further overruling exception to those centurial years that are integer-divisible by 400, which were considered as leap years. With the modern Gregorian calendar, the equinoxes and solstices occur on approximately the same date each year, and considering precession, has an error of about 1 day every 7700 years.

Considering the first synchrony, the Winter Solstice today coincides with the Dhanus Sankranti—one Rashi away from Makar. This slip has happened due to the precession noted earlier.

Assuming a uniform precession rate of 25,771 years for a full circle of 360 degrees, each degree is about 71.5861 years. Rounding the figures and noting that each Rashi occupies 30 degrees, we multiply 72 by 30 to get 2160—the approximate number of years in the past, when due to precession, Makar Sankranti would have coincided with the Winter Solstice, approximately in 143 BCE. By simulation in planetarium software, we find that anywhere from 400 BCE to the opening centuries of the Common Era, the Winter Solstice date would have coincided with the Sun rising approximately in Makar Rashi. Based on synchrony of the solstice with Makar Sankranti, we propose the festival to have been celebrated since 400 BCE.

Our second dating of the antiquity of the Makar Sankranti festival is by considering the synchrony of Makar Sankranti with the sesame / til gingelly crop harvest. We notice an India-wide common aspect of celebrating Makar Sankranti—the widespread use of til in traditional sweet preparation. Til is a drought-resistant Rabi crop in India, planted currently around mid-November and harvested in April, before the monsoons, taking about 90 to 120 days to grow. Paleo-botonical records suggest an antiquity of at least 3000 BCE for the multi-crop cultivation of til in Rakhigarh sites and a few centuries later for domestic rice, and a trade with Mesopotamia and Egypt in til in 2000 BCE. Up to the medieval period, Indian farmers encoded agricultural wisdom with references to Nakshatras to help time their planting and reaping activities. It is fascinating to investigate a period of time when Makar Sankranti coincided with the harvest of the til crop, say in southern India, and was therefore used in celebratory sweet preparation.

Contrary to popular thought, the seasons do not change with precession. The Milankovitch cycles predict long-term climate changes due to precession, Obliquity and tilt cycles of the Earth, but these do not impact the periodical seasons (might make seasons more or less severe, though!). However, if we peg our measurement of time to a Nakshatra/Rashi, that observation can change over time due to precession. Thus an observation that “rainy season starts in Ashada Masa” can change over time due to precession.

Our clue is that traditionally, Makar Sankranti is considered as a harvest festival. In Tamil Nadu, there are two planting seasons for til—Thai Pattam (Jan/Feb) and Adi Pattam (July/August). Considering a 4-month growing period, the Adi Pattam crop harvest would coincide with December. Thus again, the date of about 400 BCE synchronizing the Winter Solstice, til harvest, and Makar Sankranti makes sense.

The final synchrony we examine is to ask the question, when did Makar Sankranti last coincide with Jan 13th/14th? By direct simulation on planetarium software, we find this date to be around 1500s CE. This period is startlingly, the exact period of the famous Kerala astronomer, Nilakantha Somayaji (1444-1544), author of Tantrasangrama, who would have been aware of the length of the tropical year and the effect of Precession from works of Aryabhata, Bhaskara II as well as Surya Siddhanta, and might have computed the date accordingly. This date was probably left untouched since.

We have examined three synchronies regarding Makar Sankranti. The first, based on synchrony with the Winter Solstice gives a date of about 400 BCE. The second, based on a synchrony of til harvest in Tamil Nadu with Makar Sankranti also suggests 400 BCE. The third, based on a synchrony with the tropical calendar, gives a date of 1500s CE.

As we celebrate Makar Sankranti, we should also celebrate the strong traditions of astronomy and mathematics, indelibly tied with the shared experience of the nation, over thousands of years. – Swarajya, 13 January 2017

» Go to Swarajya for illustrations that illumine this article.

» Dr Raj Vedam is a co-founder of the think tank, Indian History Awareness and Research (see IHAR Channel on YouTube), and resides in Houston, Texas. His research interests include Engineering Applied Mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, and the Scientific Validation of Indian History.

Pongal: Cooking rice porridge for the Gods


 

The Jallikattu Effect – Cheena Kapoor

Jallikattu

Cheena KapoorWhile activists continue to fight for animal rights and the government bans certain traditions like Jallikattu that involve animal torture, believers continue to do what they always have—firm in their belief that religion and tradition back them. The right education and empathy is what is required to help people understand that God does not demand the killing of animals, activists point out. – Cheena Kapoor

For reasons of religion, tradition or just plain sport, festivals and other celebrations can often be bloodthirsty carnivals with animals being tortured or slaughtered. The age-old issue—of the conflict between tradition and humaneness, animal suffering and vested interests—is back in the spotlight with the Supreme Court rejecting a plea to allow Jallikattu, Tamil Nadu’s bull-taming sport it had banned in 2014.

The ruling has led to uproar in the state, with thousands courting arrest and asking for revocation of the ban, politicians and celebrities offering their support to the event, and animal rights activists saying that the ‘sport’ epitomises cruelty and must be stopped.

Traditionally held during the four-day Pongal festival (celebrated last week), Jallikattu, where the ‘player’ hangs on to the hump of the bull, began as a way to stop the animals from ruining their fields. Over time, it became a way to demonstrate bravery (and getting tagged as such in the marriage market); prize money was introduced and the gladiatorial sport got commercialised.

In a video, animal rights group PETA showed how bulls are tortured. Their tails are cut, the animals are stabbed with sharp objects, and sometimes even given alcohol to blunt their senses. Between 2010 and 2014, 17 people were killed and 1,100 injured.

“Jallikattu exploits the bulls’ natural nervousness as prey animals by deliberately placing them in a terrifying situation in which they’re forced to run away from those they perceive as predators. Countless Tamil PETA India supporters are against Jallikattu and are saddened by those who call harming bulls Tamil ‘culture’. India’s culture is one of kindness, not cruelty,” says PETA’s Nikunj Sharma.

Not just Jallikattu

As protests in Tamil Nadu over ‘tradition and pride’ spiral and thousands gather at various places, including in Chennai’s Marina Beach, activists point out that Jallikattu is not the only such sport. And it’s not about a specific region or religion either. Be it Hindus, Muslims, Christians or tribals, in Himachal Pradesh or Odisha, Tamil Nadu or Maharashtra, all are known to indulge in such rituals.

If animals are sacrificed during Bakr Eid, they are also slaughtered during Durga Pooja and Dussehra celebrations in several parts of India. Besides, buffaloes, cocks, goats, and sheep are ritually sacrificed in the hundreds, and their flesh consumed as prasad.

“Religion should be a force teaching people to remain calm and show kindness towards other living beings, but has instead become a way to justify killing them brutally,” says animal rights activist Navamita Mukherjee. And sometimes, it’s about plain fun.

Like a cock-fight where razor-sharp blades are tied to the legs of roosters that are made to fight while bets are placed. Bred for fighting, these birds are grievously wounded and left untreated after a fight or thrown away as garbage.

In the villages of Andhra Pradesh, however, cock-fight are considered a part of the Makar Sankranti festivities.

Divine sacrifice

Animal sacrifices are performed in many cultures mainly to please the divine. From Greeks to Romans, all have been known to practice it.

In Uttarakhand’s Garhwal region, buffaloes are killed in honour of the goddess Manju Bhog. The animals are bathed and made to run in panic as village youth make them stumble midway. On the main day, they are made to run towards the temple and many die on the steep slopes. Those that manage to reach the top are sacrificed by the villagers.

The Kandha people of Odisha believe that the deity Kandhan Budhi grants them every wish. So, every year during the Kandhan Budhi Yatra (September-October), many animals are ritually sacrificed before the deity. The main crowd pleaser of this yatra, however, is the ‘Ghusuri (pig) uuja’. A young pig is smeared in oil and turmeric after which its ears and tail are chopped off. The pig is killed three years later in the temple.

At the Kedu (buffalo) festival, also in Odisha, the Kondhs similarly anoint a buffalo and tether it to a tree. It is brutally attacked with sharp instruments to the chant of mantras and beating of drums. The animal squeals in agony, its eyes bulging, but is unable to flee. There is a mad rush to hack off pieces of its flesh.

Animals are not the only beings with a such a fate. Bird slaughter is equally rampant. All 32 species of Indian owls are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Nonetheless, there have been numerous instances of birds, which are closely related to goddess Lakshmi according to mythology, being sacrificed on the eve of Diwali, said a doctor at a charity bird hospital in Delhi.

Bulbul fights are also common in Assam during Makar Sakranti. The bird is mutilated after the fight.

The law

According to law, animals can only be slaughtered at a slaughter-house. The only exception is the ritual slaughter during Bakr Eid, which should only involve goats or sheep. However, it is increasingly common to see animals like camels and buffaloes being slaughtered during the festival.

In 2011, a video showing camel slaughter inside Delhi’s Jama Masjid drew the attention of activists. Camels are mostly sourced from Rajasthan, where the animal was granted ‘heritage’ status in 2014. But the animal is sent to places as far as Karnataka and Tamil Nadu for slaughter. In September 2016, the Madras High Court passed an interim order just before Bakr Eid to ban camel slaughter for religious purposes.

Suffering not tradition

“Our nation is built on the principle of constitutional morality and thus the constitution comes first. I am glad that animals are finding place in this and slowly and steadily sapient traditions that abuse these innocent beings are getting phased out,” says Jayasimha, lawyer and managing director of Humane Society International, India.

There are eight states in India where strict laws have been passed against animal sacrifice. Though illegal killings have not stopped, they have definitely come down.

While activists continue to fight for animal rights and the government bans certain traditions like Jallikattu that involve animal torture, believers continue to do what they always have—firm in their belief that religion and tradition back them.

The right education and empathy is what is required to help people understand that God does not demand the killing of animals, activists point out.

As Jayasimha put it, “It is hypocrisy to demand human rights for ourselves while refusing to give a basic right of life to other beings.”

Mapping animal cruelty

1. During the Ooru Habba festival in Karnataka, two buffaloes and two goats are sacrificed outside the Bannerghatta National Park near Bengaluru. The animals are pierced with a trident and their blood drunk.

2. Myoko, the monsoon festival, is celebrated by Apatanis—a major tribe of Arunachal Pradesh’s Ziro valley—with a mithun (an important bovine species) being ritually sacrificed on sacred ground by a priest.

3. At the annual Mailapur village fair in Karnataka’s Yadgir district, worshippers throw live lambs at the palanquin of Mailareshwara. In the melee, hundreds of devotees trample and kill the young animals.

4. During the annual rath yatra, about 1,500 goats are sacrificed at the Shree Yedumata Temple in Pimpledari village in Ahmednagar district in Maharashtra. The sacrifice takes place every year, despite protests.

5. In 2012, on Day 17 of the Chithirai month according to the Tamil calendar, 5,000 baby goats were sacrificed during a temple festival at Poosariyur, near Anthiyur in Tamil Nadu. The blood was consumed by the priests and devotees.

6. At the shrine dedicated to the tribal idol Baba Dongar in Ranapur of Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district, around 500 animals, typically goats and chicken are illegally slaughtered by priests on devotees’ requests.

7. In 2015, animal rights activist and Union Minister Maneka Gandhi wrote to the Defence Ministry against live animals being air-dropped so troops posted in remote areas were able to get fresh meat.

8. Festivals like Shand and Bhunda involve a huge number of animals being killed using a knife by a man known as Beda to please goddess Kali and to ward off evil spirits, at the entrance of temples near Shimla.

9. In regions around Pune, goats and fowls are sacrificed to the God Vetala. In western Maharashtra, animal sacrifice is practiced to pacify female deities that are supposed to rule the sacred groves.

10. In West Bengal’s Kalighat, thousands of sheep are sacrificed every year. In other parts too, a priest recites the Gayatri Mantra in the ear of the animal to be sacrificed in order to free the animal from the cycle of life and death.

11. Nihangs and Hazuri Sikhs sacrifice goats during the festivals of Diwali and Hola Mohalla and distribute it as mahaprashad among the congregates. Anyone converting to a Nihang Sikh has to sacrifice an animal.

12. In Terekol of Goa, the barbaric custom of teenage boys biting a piglet to death in celebration of St John’s baptism ended in 1989 following protests by animal rights activists, charitable trusts and NGOs. – DNA, 19 January 2016

» Cheena Kapoor is a senior photo journalist for DNA and Zee in New Delhi.

Jallikattu: Bull taming is cruelty at its best – Gauri Maulekhi

Gauri Maulekhi“The Constitution of India says that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights goes against this constitutional requirement of all Indian citizens. … ‘Tradition’ is never a sufficient justification for cruelty, and a cruel tradition should never be allowed to define a culture. Traditions, like everything else, can—and must—evolve. Times and sensibilities have changed, and these events are an inhumane and archaic ritual that has no place in the 21st century.” – Gauri Maulekhi

Supreme Court of India in New DelhiIn its judgment dated 7 May 2014, the Supreme Court stated: “We, therefore, hold that Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) is right in its stand that Jallikattu, bullock-cart race and such events per-se violate Sections 3, 11(1)(a) and 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and hence we uphold the notification dated 11.7.2011 issued by the Central Government, consequently, bulls cannot be used as performing animals, either for the Jallikattu events or bullock-cart races in the State of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra or elsewhere in the country.” In its judgment the Supreme Court also categorically held that Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change cannot allow Jallikattu or bull races and cannot modify the notification dated 11 July 2011 (whereby performances by bulls had been banned) without taking the Animal Welfare Board of India’s (AWBI)—an advisory body under the same ministry—view with respect to the same. The ministry hasn’t taken any opinion of the AWBI, while rushing to allow these cruel sports.

In the past, from 2008 to 2014, the special conditions of the Supreme Court regulating Jallikattu were brazenly flouted at all the events which were inspected by the Animal Welfare Board of India. The evidence gathered during the inspection proved that no regulation can or will protect bulls from misery or people from injuries. The findings revealed that Jallikattu is inherently cruel to animals and is a threat to human participants, spectators and any police or government representative assigned to monitor an event.

Almost every bull, who was forced to participate endured suffering and pain and was dragged into the queue and the vadi vasals [arena entrance chutes] by his nose ropes to being hit, poked, bitten and deliberately terrified. In order to force the bulls into and out of the vadi vasals, each one must endure unmitigated suffering. Although the Supreme Court had placed emphasis on no harm coming to the animals, the reality was that cruelty to animals was inescapably part of Jallikattu. Bulls are beaten, poked, prodded, harassed and jumped on by numerous people. They have their tails bitten and twisted, and suspicious liquids (likely alcohol) are forced down their throats before they are dragged into the vadi vasals.

In just over four years, from 2010 to 2014, at least 1,100 people have been injured due to Jallikattu-type events, and 17 people have died. However, these figures were quoted by the media, the original figures are bound to be higher.

During bull races, all the bulls, who were forced to compete in the races, were subjected to abject cruelty, including being beaten, having irritants rubbed into their mouths, being yanked by nose ropes (causing their noses to bleed), being subjected to a torture device called a kela and having their tails bitten, twisted and pulled. Bull racing is inherently cruel, as bulls can’t be forced to run without agitating, frightening or hurting them, and enforcing race regulations is impractical. In the 2014 judgement the Supreme Court judgment also ruled that cruelty is inherent in these events, as bulls are not anatomically adapted for such races.

AWBI inspections documented cruelty to buffaloes, used in Kambala events in 2014, which was allowed through an interim order by Karnataka High Court, under certain regulations. The inspection found violations of the 2014 judgment of Supreme Court and several sections of the Indian Penal Code, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and the Rules there under. The findings include buffalo used in racing not being registered with the AWBI, drivers and animal handlers not possessing certificates for transportation of animals, buffalo having two or three tight-fitting thick nose ropes inserted through a hole in the nasal septum (which were constantly pulled and yanked, causing tremendous distress and pain) and buffalo with nose rings and plastic coverings on nose ropes causing pain and distress. During the race, the buffalo were subjected to violent acts, including being hit on the body, slapped on the face and having their tails pulled. Many were forced to participate in the race throughout the night, and after the race the animals were frothing at the mouth and salivating heavily because of severe dehydration and exhaustion.

During bull fights, eight bulls are typically used in each round: two bulls are brought together and surrounded by a ring of spectators. The bulls’ horns are sharpened to ensure that every charge will cause bloody gashes and deep puncture wounds in the other animal’s flesh. The round ends when one of the bulls is either killed or manages to flee. The survivors of each round fight each other while spectators bet on the outcome. The “winner” is the last bull left alive—but by then, the bull’s injuries are often so severe that he is typically sent to slaughter. Bull fights are in direct violation of Sections 11(1)(m)(ii) of PCA Act and the Supreme Court judgment and still it is unfortunate that Goa government taking initiative to legalize Dhirio, the bloody bull fights.

The plan of the Central government to amend the law while giving excuses like tradition and culture is purely to attract voters in Tamil Nadu and other states and it is ignoring the Supreme Court’s judgment which stated that if culture and tradition are at variance with the law enacted by Parliament, the law will take precedence over culture and tradition. The initiative of the Bharatiya Janata Party governments to prohibit cow slaughter and ban beef, have limited practical effect on the butchering of cows, as their progeny, the bulls, will continue to suffer in the name of culture, tradition, and entertainment, until they are butchered for meat.

It is high time to understand that cruelty is not limited to just slaughter, but includes all types of unnecessary suffering induced on animals and the torture they are subjected to for the sake of human entertainment, and is explicitly explained in the PCA Act. Though the cow slaughter ban doesn’t prevent the torture of cows and progenies, and doesn’t extend to bulls and buffaloes, the initiatives of the Central Government to legalize Jallikattu, bull races or Kambala and bull fights or Dhirio is a huge and disastrous step backward against the values of this country for compassion and animal protection.

The Constitution of India says that it shall be the fundamental duty of every citizen of India to protect wildlife and to have compassion for all living creatures. Jallikattu, bull races and bull fights goes against this constitutional requirement of all Indian citizens and contravenes the PCA Act. The safety of participants and spectators is also put at tremendous risk. “Tradition” is never a sufficient justification for cruelty, and a cruel tradition should never be allowed to define a culture. Traditions, like everything else, can – and must – evolve. Times and sensibilities have changed, and these events are an inhumane and archaic ritual that has no place in the 21st century. The government should be rather supporting any legislation aimed at saving animals, protecting their quality of life and provide them fundamental rights.

Is the government going to restart Sati and Thugee as well. These are also part of India’s traditions. On one hand this government says that they are pro-cow and have banned the selling of its meat. Is the bull not part of the cow family? – Firstpost, 30 December 2015

» Gauri Maulekhi is an animal rights activist in New Delhi.

Bull

The bull's horn was broken in Avaniapuram on 15 January, 2012.

A man rubs chillies into the nostrils of a bull in Palamedu on 16 January, 2012.

An organiser pokes a bull with a curved, sharp metal object inside the pen in Alanganallur on 16 January, 2014.

Bull owners and tamers force a yellow-coloured liquid down the throat of a bull at Avaniapuram on 14 January, 2014.

A man bites a bull's tail inside the bull pen in Avaniapuram on 14 January, 2014.

A bull-tamer pulls a bull's tail in the arena in Alanganallur on 17 January, 2012.

» All images via Firstpost

 

Jallikattu on Hold: Supreme Court stays govt notification to allow bull taming – Bhadra Sinha

Supreme Court of India

BullsIn an apparent last-ditch effort to get the nod for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court stayed a central notification, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promulgate an ordinance to allow the traditional Tamil sport to be held. — PTI

The Supreme Court stayed on Tuesday a central government notification that paved the way for a return of the banned bull taming sport Jallikattu, effectively scuttling plans of staging the event during Pongal celebrations in Tamil Nadu later this week.

The top court also issued notices to the Centre, Tamil Nadu and other states where the controversial sport is played, days after the environment ministry issued new guidelines that permitted the popular event to go ahead, overriding protests from animal rights activists and the law ministry.

The sport that has been an integral part of Pongal festivities was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014, following demands from rights groups who pointed to animal cruelty and human deaths during the event.

The new norms triggered howls of protests and animal welfare organisations—including the animal welfare board—filed a clutch of petitions in the court.

But the Centre objected to the pleas, saying no fundamental right of the petitioners were violated and questioned the maintainability of the petitions. The court also issued a notice on whether the petitions could be heard or not.

Both the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government assured the court that the new notification underlined safety measures and precautions to be taken during the festival.

Under the rules, permission has to be given by the district collector or magistrate and bullock cart races must be held on a proper track. Bulls, once they leave the enclosure, have to be tamed within a radial distance of 15 metres, the government order said.

The new norms came after a concerted political push by parties in the poll-bound Tamil Nadu, where the banned sport has a strong connection with thousands of people who view it as a part of their culture.

Chief minister J. Jayalalithaa had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, backing the sport, which wasn’t held last year for the first time in decades. – Hindustan Times, 12 January 2016

JayalalithaaAfter SC stay, Jaya asks Centre for ordinance to allow Jallikattu

In an apparent last-ditch effort to get the nod for conducting Jallikattu after the Supreme Court stayed a central notification, Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to promulgate an ordinance to allow the traditional Tamil sport to be held.

Recalling that she had requested Modi on December 22 last year to promulgate an ordinance allowing Jallikattu to be held, she said: “Considering the urgency of the issue, I strongly reiterate my earlier request to promulgate an Ordinance forthwith to enable the conduct of Jallikattu.”

“On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu I urge you to take immediate action in this regard,” she said in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Asserting that sentiments of the people should be respected, Jayalalithaa said arrangements have already been made by organisers all over the state for conducting the bull-taming ritual.

After she had requested an ordinance, the Centre issued a notification on January 7 enabling conduct of Jallikattu in different parts of Tamil Nadu as part of the Pongal festivities, she said.

“On receipt of the notification, circulars were sent to the District Collectors regarding arrangements to be made for the conduct of Jallikattu, strictly in accordance with the conditions and safeguards indicated in the notification. On this basis, arrangements have been made by organisers all over the state for the conduct of Jallikattu,” she said.

As the Supreme Court has now granted an interim stay of the notification, Jallikattu cannot be conducted now, Jayalalithaa had added.

“With the Pongal festivities commencing from January 14, the public in the rural areas of Tamil Nadu have made all arrangements and preparations and are eagerly looking forward to the conduct of Jallikattu as part of the traditional festivities ingrained in the hoary cultural heritage of Tamil Nadu,” she said.

“It is very important that the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu, who have a deep attachment to the conduct of the traditional event of Jallikattu, are respected,” the chief minister said while requesting an ordinance to facilitate the conduct of the sport. – Hindustan Times , 12 January 2016

Animal Welfare Board of IndiaAWBI vice-chairman Chinny Krishna

Jallikattu: Jayalalithaa and BJP want to sacrifice bulls for votes in the 2016 elections – Sandhya Ravishankar

Jallikattu

Sandhya Ravishankar“Political analysts say Jayalalithaa’s demand for an ordinance is a case of political grandstanding that is designed with an eye on votes from the Thevar community, a large Backward Class group, many of whose members are involved in the bull-taming sport in the state’s southern districts.” – Sandhya Ravishankar

Supreme Court of IndiaWhen the Supreme Court banned the popular bull-taming sport of Jallikattu in May 2014, parties across the political spectrum in Tamil Nadu hollered indignantly. The state government led by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, filed a review petition in the apex court to undo the verdict. That petition is still pending before the court. But Jayalalithaa now wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and promulgate an ordinance that allows the traditional sport, native to the southern districts of the state and held on the occasion of Pongal in January, to go on.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi dated December 22, Jayalalithaa wrote: “I strongly urge you to immediately direct the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to introduce a Bill to comprehensively and suitably amend the relevant provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, and any other relevant laws to enable the conduct of Jallikattu.”

The Supreme Court order of 2014 had upheld a rule by the Environment Ministry that lists the bull as an animal which should not be exhibited or trained as a performing animal. That judgement had decision effectively banned Jallikattu, a sport where a bull is released from an enclosure and the one who holds on to it for a predetermined distance or time, wins a prize.

A little over three weeks before the next Pongal, the chief minister said in her letter, “May I request that the Parliament session be extended, or a special session called for this purpose? Alternatively, considering the urgency of the issue, the Government of India may consider promulgating an Ordinance enabling the conduct of Jallikattu during Pongal, 2016. On behalf of the people of Tamil Nadu, I urge you to have the Ordinance promulgated expeditiously.”

An ordinance overturning the Supreme Court verdict would require some legal jugglery on the part of the Centre. It’s unclear how it could sidestep the verdict and drop the bull from the list of performing animals. One option could be to modify the definition of a performing animal.

H. Raja Support from the BJP

State leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party hinted at the ordinance becoming a reality in the near future. “As long as Parliament is in session, an ordinance cannot be brought in,” said H. Raja, national secretary of the BJP. “Now that the session is over, there is every possibility of the ordinance being brought in very soon.”

He claimed the government could bring in an ordinance in the next three-four days. “After six months it can be ratified by Parliament,” he said. “I am confident that Jallikattu can be performed in this Pongal festival.”

Union Minister of State for Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Pon Radhakrishnan claimed that steps would be taken to ensure Jallikattu is allowed this January. “During the recent Parliament session, we raised the issue with Union Minister for Environment and Forests Prakash Javdekar,” said Radhakrishnan. “The minister has assured that necessary steps would be taken in this regard. He held meetings with officials of the department and invited me to be part of it.”

Political tokenism

Political analysts say Jayalalithaa’s demand for an ordinance is a case of political grandstanding that is designed with an eye on votes from the Thevar community, a large Backward Class group, many of whose members are involved in the bull-taming sport in the state’s southern districts.

“The Jallikattu issue is entirely vote-based,” said senior journalist G. C. Shekhar. “There is a huge rural population involved in this bull-taming. I don’t think this issue is one which warrants an ordinance. The review petition in the Supreme Court is the way forward.”

“Jayalalithaa is just trying to say something different from other parties,” he added. “She needs to concentrate more on getting money for flood relief from the Centre, rather than all this. It is just tokenism.”

Narendra ModiAlliances ahead of polls

In an issue that is likely to see little opposition in the state, except from animal rights groups, Jayalalithaa’s All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Bharatiya Janata Party are both hoping to score brownie points with the electorate, a few months before heading into Assembly polls.

Senior journalist Vaasanthi, who has authored a book on Jayalalithaa, too believes that such statements from the chief minister are likely to be indicative of a future political alliance. “She wants to show that she will take it to the highest authority, that is Modi,” said Vaasanthi. “It is only a kind of posturing. Her popularity chart was pretty high before the floods and now it has slipped down. So maybe now she may even be open to going in for an alliance.”

The rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, outmanoeuvered by Jayalalithaa, is quick to point out that the ban came only because of the state government not adhering to strict rules laid down by the apex court in conducting Jallikattu in 2014.

T.K.S. Elangovan“The problem came about because of the state government,” said T. K. S. Elangovan, spokesperson for the DMK. “A court-appointed team which came to inspect Jallikattu found that AIADMK officials were not supervising it properly and reported it to the Supreme Court. It is only because the state government failed to keep up the court’s instruction that this has happened.”

Elangovan added that the Central government may have stated time and again that they will bring an amendment but they had failed to do so.

If an ordinance is promulgated before January 14, animal rights groups will likely move court immediately and seek a stay on the sport. In the process though, both the AIADMK and the BJP will lay claim to at least have tried – a move they hope will give dividends in the 2016 Assembly polls. – Scroll.in, 25 December 2015

» Sandhya Ravishankar is an independent journalist based in Chennai.

Jallikattu

The Divine Pot – Devdutt Pattanaik

Cooking rice porridge for the Gods

Surya DevaThe pot is a great invention. Without the pot, we would still be going to water bodies like rivers and ponds to hydrate ourselves as and when we feel thirsty. Thanks to the pot, we can get the water into our homes and store it for future use no crocodiles lurking beneath the water, no fear of a wild animal getting provoked into attack. The pot is a symbol of human civilisation.

Ancient Indians revered the pot. It was the symbol of the womb, the garbha, for it sustained human life. The pot was equated with the mother; it was a symbol of divinity. A pot or kalash filled with water and sprouts and crowned with green leaves and fruits became the symbol of abundance and good fortune. It was worshipped over 3,000 years ago. It is still being worshipped today.

The Gods, the ancients believed, had a pot that overflowed with grain and gold. It was called the akshaya patra. They also had a pot brimming with amrit, the nectar of immortality. Humans had neither. But humans included women who created and nurtured life, ensuring the continuation of the species. Women were therefore a combination of akshya patra and amrit, holding in their bodies the Water pots and veiled Rajastani women.promise of abundance and immortality for the family. Without a woman, a family perished. The family tree withered.

In ancient times women were clearly regarded as being more valuable than men. The survival of a tribe depended not on the number of men it had but on the strength of its women. So in the early days, women were given the choice to choose husbands. The foremost form of wedding was considered to be one where the father gave his daughter to another family. It was a gift of akshaya patra and amrit.

While the forest was equated with the wild Goddess, the field was equated with the domesticated Goddess. Forest was woman, field was wife. Forest was water in the pond, field was water in a pot. Field was the womb that sustained a village. It was worshipped as humanity’s akshaya patra and amrit, bringing forth prosperity year after year. The domestication of the earth, the transformation of the woman into home-maker, the moulding of clay into a pot, is the result of human intervention, an imposition on nature’s freedom, a sacrifice to ensure the birth of civilisation, to ensure perpetuation and survival.

Gujarati Garba DancersIn autumn, as the rains recede and crops are harvested, three things come together on nine nights: the pot, the woman and the field. In the centre of the field, the pot is placed filled with water and sprouts, and around it women dance in circular formation. They bend down and clap as they thank the earth and cosmos and energise it with their happiness. This is garbo, the dance of the earth-womb. The circular formation of the dance is a reminder of the horizon, the rim of the divine pot, the world we live in. We live in a cosmic womb, just as deities in temples are enshrined in the garba griha or sanctum sanctorum, a detail endorsed by the metal pots placed on top of the temple dome.  – Times of India, Chennai, Oct. 15, 2010