Thanks, Writes Jayalalithaa To PM Modi For Lifting Jallikattu Ban

In the centuries-old festival of Jallikattu, which means "bull-taming", bulls are let loose and young men compete to subdue them. (File Photo)

Chennai: The union government has lifted a ban on a popular but controversial bull running festival, angering animal rights activists who say it is cruel and abusive.

A government order said the event, held every January to mark the winter harvest in Tamil Nadu, would be allowed to go ahead this year after it was cancelled in 2015.

Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narenda Modi thanking him for lifting the ban on the the centuries-old festival of Jallikattu, which means "bull-taming". She described it as a sport that "upholds the traditional cultural values" of the state.

Critics say the sanction for the festival has been motivated by upcoming state elections.

Bulls are let loose during the event and young men compete to subdue them. The event was cancelled last year for the first time after the previous government imposed a ban citing cruelty.

Unlike in the popular Spanish traditional of bull-fighting, the aim 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.

Over the years, dozens of people have also been killed and hundreds more wounded in the event.

The previous UPA government ordered a ban in 2011 but it was not implemented until 2015 after the Supreme Court had dismissed a slew of legal challenges.

Tamil historians claim the sport dates back to the second century AD and predates the Spanish matadors.