Monday January 22, 2018

Preserve languages to preserve culture

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By Harshmeet Singh

Over the past few years, a number of people have raised concerns regarding our ‘eroding’ cultural values without giving a thought to the probable causes behind it. And the few who tried to examine the reasons chose to blame the changing lifestyle for such amendments in our culture. But interestingly, we haven’t given much thought to the close connection between language and culture.

Language is much more than just a medium of communication. It enables us to leave behind thoughts, ideas and attitudes for the generations to come. Memories are based on languages. Different words are associated with different experiences. Our memories of certain events in our lives are based on the very words used during those events. The way we interact with each other, the words we use to express our feelings and gratitude are an essential component of our culture. It is beyond doubt that language forms the basis of any culture. With indigenous languages fast getting eroded in the country and English subsuming them all, the fundamental change in our culture shouldn’t come as a big surprise.

For instance, in our culture, people are addressed and treated differently based on their age and stature, which is not usually the case in Europe and the USA. Hence, while Indian languages offer different words to address people of different age groups, English doesn’t offer such variations.

The western culture puts emphasis on the individuals hence the most widely used words are I and You. In US, for example, ‘you’ is appropriately used to address anyone from the highest of authorities including the President to the kids. In comparison, Indian languages offer a number of other variations which highlight our values of inclusion and accommodation.

It is said that it is impossible to learn Japanese without learning about their culture. Japanese pay a lot of attention to the status and rank of the person while addressing him or her, unlike in Europe or the USA.

We often fail to acknowledge the fact that there are a number of words in our indigenous languages which can’t be perfectly translated to other languages. When the languages erode, they take such words with them, and hence a part of culture dies with the death of every language.

With changing times, new languages evolve while giving a miss to the older ones. Most of us term it as an ‘evolution’ and try to downplay its negative implications. Unless we put an end to this practice and start preserving our languages, we can’t expect our cultural values to stay strong.

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All You Need to Know About the Sport of Jallikattu

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sports, which poses a risk of life for the participants.

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banned bull taming sport of Tamil Nadu
Jallikattu sport of Tamil Nadu, Wikimedia

By Ruchika Verma

  • Jallikattu is a traditional Tamil sport
  • The sport involves bulls and humans, the latter trying to control the former
  • The sport was banned in 2014, which created a lots of controversy

Jallikattu or Sallikkattu, also known as ‘eru thazhuvuthal’ and ‘manju virattu’ traditionally, was in news last year, around this time due to the ban imposed on it by the Supreme Court. The ban was much hyped and gathered a plethora of media’s attention.

Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons
Jallikattu ban was much hyped. Wikimedia Commons

Jallikattu ban has also garnered lots of political attention due to the involvement of Tamil Nadu and Central governments. The issue is much hyed due to the political context involved in it too.

What exactly is Jallikattu ? 

Jallikattu is a traditional sport and spectacle in which bulls of the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are released into a crowd of people, and multiple human participants attempt to control the bulls while they try to escape.

Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr
Jallikattu is seen as animal cruelty by many activists. Flickr

Jallikattu is practised in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations. The districts, Madurai, Thanjavur, and Salem are the most famous for conducting Jallikattu. The game dates back to Tamil classical period, which went back to 400 BC. Ancient Tamil Sangam literature described the practice as ‘Yeru thazhuvuthal’ which literally means “bull embracing.” With time the sport has become synonymous with valour and bravery.

Also Read : Tamil Nadu legalises Jallikattu with a New Law

What happens in Jallikattu and how?

The bulls participating in the game are all lined up behind a narrow gate and released one by one into the arena. The participants have to either control the bull by holding its hump or clutch away a flag attached to the horns. Owners of the bulls often announce prizes for the man who gets the hold of their bull.

The objective of the game is not to kill or overpower the bull, but to hold onto their hump for a certain amount of time or distance.

The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com
The participants are only allowed to hold onto the hump of the Bull. www.in.com

There are three variants to the game. First, when the  bulls are released from an enclosed area. Second, when the bull is directly released into open ground. And third, when bull is tied to a rope as the only restriction, and a team of 7-9 members has to untie the prize from the bull’s horns in 30 minutes of time period.

The gate through which bulls enter the arena are called vadi vasai. The bulls charge at the men standing most near to the gate. One of the rules also say that a participant is only allowed to hold bull’s hump and no other body part. The other rules varies from region to region.

Also Read : Animal rights organisations challenge new law on Jallikattu

Jallikattu Ban and Controversy

Jallikattu is certainly a dangerous sports, which poses a risk of life for the participants.

In 2014, The Supreme Court banned the sport, endorsing the activists’ concerns according to which, Jallikattu is not only cruelty towards the animal, but also poses a threat to humans. According to the data provided, between 2010 and 2014, 17 people were killed and approximately 1000 were injured during Jallikatu.

The Jallikattu ban was protests by many Tamilians.
The Jallikattu ban was protests by many Tamilians.

However, the ban invited a lots of protests. Many Tamil communities called this ban a violation of their culture and tradition.

In 2017, many lawyers plead to remove the ban which was rejected by the court. After requests and arguments of Tamil communities, central government reversed the ban, however, after Supreme Court stuck the order down, the ban was imposed again. However, the government of Tamil Nadu sanctioned the sport and brought it back into the practice.