Jallikattu is a bull fighting sport popular in at least four districts of southern Tamil Nadu.
The controversial bull running sport Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu, opposed by animal rights activists and championed by politicians, has been put on hold by the Supreme Court, just five days after the union government lifted a ban on the sport.
By fixing the next hearing for March, the court has effectively ensured that the sport cannot be held this year -it's usually held to celebrate the winter harvest and "Pongal" season.
State elections in Tamil Nadu are due later this year, and all parties have been urging the Centre to sanction the sport. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who, like other politicians, had lobbied heavily for the event to be allowed, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to use an executive order or ordinance to allow the sport to be held.
"A lot of safeguards are in place and the event must be allowed," the Tamil Nadu government argued in the top court today, adding that the sport "has been in vogue for centuries". The Centre said that animal rights activists have "no fundamental right" to challenge the sport. The Supreme Court will hear the matter next on March 15.
The centuries-old tradition of Jallikattu, which means "bull-taming" sees bulls let loose as young men compete to subdue them. The event was cancelled last year for the first time after the previous UPA government imposed a ban citing cruelty.
Unlike in the popular Spanish traditional of bull-fighting, the aim of Jallikattu is not to kill the animals. But critics say they are fed liquor and have chili powder thrown into their eyes before they are released from a holding pen and chased by revellers. There have also been reports of bulls having their horns sharpened with broken glass, while the "taming" can lead to serious injury and a painful death for the animals.
Over the years, dozens of people have also been killed and hundreds more wounded in the event.
Tamil historians claim the sport dates back to the second century AD and predates the Spanish matadors.