Bull Fighting by Kallans (Post No.3318)

Compiled  by London Swaminathan


Date: 4  November 2016


Time uploaded in London: 6-59 AM


Post No.3318



Pictures are taken from various sources; they are only representational.

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Source: THE LAND OF LINGAM by Arthur Miles, Year 1933


“The Kallan girl often chooses her husband for valour. The horns of the fiercest bull are festooned with flowers, and the animal is turned loose amidst the frightful din of wild music and tom- toms. Excited by the noise and the onlookers, the bull charges about wildly, snorting and bellowing. The would-be bridegroom must recover the flowers from the bull’s horns, and it is considered a very great disgrace to be injured in so doing.


In former days all weddings were preceded by bull-fights. The girls who were to be married stood on a balcony over looking the enclosure, and watched their sweethearts give an account of themselves. The men were dressed in garlands of red and purple flowers, and before the contest prayed to the gods whose images were placed under the trees. The drums were beaten until the animals were infuriated, when at a given signal the men leaped into the enclosure and tried to seize the bulls, each youth selecting the bull whose colours belonged to his sweetheart. Many an unfortunate youth would be gored, and others, although wounded and bleeding would essay again and again to spring on to beasts’ backs to  bring them to the ground. The men who acted as judges, when they gloated sufficiently over the ghastly spectacle, announced that the fight was over. The victors afterwards met their brides-elect in another enclosure, which had been prepared for dancing. Often girls had to attend several fights before their chosen ones (there were different men on each occasion) came out alive.


Cousin Marriage


In  the opinion of the Kallans the best alliance is between man and his first cousin on his father’s side. Disparity in ages is considered of no consequence. A boy of fifteen should marry such a cousin, if she happens to be thirty or forty and if he has no cousin he should marry his aunt. When a wedding has taken place, the bridegroom’s sister goes to the bride’s house and takes the bride home with her to a feast that has been prepared. For the celebration sheep will have been roasted and a goodly supply of toddy bought. When everyone is intoxicated, the bride and the bridegroom go to their own house.


During the first year of their marriage the bride’s mother is supposed to present the pair with rice and chickens, pots, cocoanuts, and cloth, as often as she can afford the gifts. It used to be the custom for the bride and bridegroom to stand side by side during the marriage ceremony, and to sell all the wedding presents to the assembled guests, the money brought by the sale becoming the bride’s wedding portion.


Infant marriage is permitted amongst the Kallans, but it is not popular because it entails a present which must be given by the parents of the bride to the contracting pair until after the first year of the conjugal state. In adult marriage the time is shortened, and consequently the expenditure is less. For the betrothal ceremony the consent of the maternal uncle is necessary.


A pregnant woman, during the seventh month of pregnancy stands before her sister-in-law with bent head, while the sister-in-law pours the milk of a cocoanut down her, the pregnant woman’s, back. Sometimes patterns are traced on her back with turmeric paste before the liquid is poured. On the same date the husband decorates a grindstone with paste tracings, a blessing on his wife, and prays that she may have a male child as strong as the stone. When a child is born the entire family is under pollution for thirty days, during which time entrance into a temple is forbidden.


This caste performs circumcision. It is uncertain how this practice came into being.

Before any undertaking they place one red flower and one white flower in front of their idol, the white bloom signifying success. A child is asked to pick up one of the flowers, and if the red one is chosen, the undertaking is abandoned for the time.


Their local gods are carried through the streets on the sacred vehicle at the car festival, and their god Aalagarswami, exhibits the long ears characteristic of their caste.


It is said that if the men of this caste are successful in a marauding expedition, they put some of their ill-gotten gain before the god in the local shrine. The banks of the River Vaigai swarm with Kallans at their great annual festival, when the god Alagarswami is draggee through the steets. No blood is spilled as Alagarswami is a vegetarian, but ack of sanguine offering is due more to Brahmin influence than to Alagarswami’s vegetarian propensities.



Tree Devils

The Kallans believe that certain trees are occupied by devils, and under such trees they make offerings to the demon inhabitants. Rice and milk are left for the devils at night and a little fire is lighted in order that they can see the offerings. To-day, if such a tree grows in the jungle, and is consequently off the beaten path, a sheep or a goat is sacrificed and its blood spilled at the roots. When an animal offered, the devil will come out of the tree and enter the body of the worshipper, who becomes the devil’s mouthpiece and predicts what is going to happen in the near future. When the spirit of darkness has had his say, he returns to his tree and the worshipper recovers his senses.


Disputes and petty crimes occurring in the caste are usually settled by some member in authority. This dignitary frequently is one who, because he has acquired more money than any of the others, has won the respect of his people. Fines he inflicts are credited to the caste fund, and as this fund must be augmented the attentions of the police are not solicited.



Read my old article:-

BULL FIGHTING: Indus Valley to Spain via Tamil Nadu by London Swaminathan, 21 January 2012