Jallikattu is celebrated on Mattu Pongal, which is the third day of the popular harvest festival. The tradition derives its name from the Tamil words "salli" which means coins and "kattu" which means package. This refers to ta prize of coins that is tied to the horns of the bulls, which participants try to retrieve. Jallikattu will be celebrated on January 15 this year.
A species of bull called the Bos indicus, or humped cattle, is bred specifically for Jallikattu. The bulls that perform well in the event are further used for breeding and also fetch higher prices in the markets.
According to popular legend, it is believed that lord Shiva asked Basava, his bull, to convey a message to the people of Earth asking them to take an oil bath every day and have food once a month for six months. However, Basava confused the two messages and eventually asked people to eat every day and take an oil bath once a month. This made Lord Shiva angry and he punished Basava by cursing him to help humans plough the fields. People who believe this legend worship and try to tame cattle stock in Jallikattu.
The Jallikattu festival has seen recent controversy in the country, with the sport being banned by the Supreme Court in 2014. In 2017, the Governor of Tamil Nadu issued a new ordinance that authorized the continuation of Jallikattu events.