Its been a long time since one blogged… So a big Hi first, how have you been, and a Very Happy Maattu Pongal to all!
I was listening to an old recording of Swami Akhandananda’s discourses… (He was a great sage of Brindavan… A rare combination of a shrotriya [master of Veda-Shastra] and a Brahmanishtta [a Self-Realized Sage])…. Swamiji mentioned an interesting point about Dharma… He said that Dharma gives one a certain latitude to non-conform as well.
For eg, take the festival of Holi. It is well known that on that day many people indulge in Bhaang and other herbal-highs… On the day of Holi, such indulgence has been permitted in tradition… On days other than Holi, it is not. It is not even legal, one presumes. Supreme Court wouldn’t hear of it I am sure. But on that one day, the law just looks the other way – and perhaps winks.
Or take Diwali (Deepavali)… On Diwali night, many people offer Lakshmi Puja by gambling the whole night! That is the tradition… On other days, the same people would (mostly) refrain from gambling….
Now, these ‘exception’ days, act as a safety-valve of a pressure cooker. That one day of diversion, allows the adrenalin in man an outlet… And keeps him in bounds of mainstream law on other days… That is the way the traditional society manages emotional needs of man… Rather than putting a blanket ban, give a controlled exception… Have some plasticity… Make the structure earthquake-proof (by giving that “play’ in the foundation)… It is to keep the overall structure of society within bounds of Dharma that some exceptions are permitted in tradition, when a person can non-conform…
Ok now… Take a deep breath… This whole brouhaha about Jallikattu.
“Mattu Pongal – In Tamil Nadu Makara Sankranthi is celebrated as Pongal. The day following Pongal festival is known as Mattu Pongal. The day of Mattu Pongal is dedicated for livestock worship. People in rural areas worship cows and bulls and decorate them with different colored items.
The day of Mattu Pongal is notoriously famous for Jallikattu. Jallikattu is a bull taming sport played in Tamil Nadu as a part of Pongal celebrations on Mattu Pongal day.”
Today is Maattu Pongal. Happy Maattu Pongal!
On this day, cows everywhere in Tamil Nadu, are celebrated.
Here is a picture of a cow being offered worship in Sri Ramanasramam (Click here for blog source )
The post describes the festival – “Maattu Pongal the third day of the Pongal or Harvest festival is the day consecrated to the cows. Everywhere, on this day, cows are bathed and decorated with flower garlands and then puja is performed to them with offerings of sweet pongal and fruits. In Ramanashram too, it has always been the tradition right from the time of Bhagavan to celebrate Cow Pongal in a graceful way. Devotees will remember that Sri Ramana was very fond of the cow Lakshmi and He used to feed sweet pongal to Lakshmi with his own hands on Cow Pongal day.”
Here is a picture of Ramana Maharshi with a new born calf.
Indeed, one should witness Maattu Pongal in Tamil Nadu to experience the sheer joy of cooperative joyousness of man and cow. Cows with bells on horns, horns gaily painted, turmeric and kumkuman applied on head and body, garlanded with lovely flowers, and sometimes with garlands of murukku and other eats…. Being offered worship, formally… And being given a Pongal feast…. What a joy…
And as one of the sideshows of this day, happens the Jallikattu…
Why create a ruckus over it?
It is an “exception”.. A safety-valve release of adrenalin…
And what better release than this? Here are a couple of quotes about bullfighting from Ernest Hemingway…
And one must hasten to add that Jallikattu has a fundamental difference from Spanish bullfighting. In Jallikattu, the players compete to hold and hang on to the hump of the bull, and the one who manages to hold on till the bull reaches the finishing line wins. No ropes, sticks, whips, weapons are used. It is hand to hump sport… (For more info please click this link )
So, I think we should take the balanced view on Jallikattu, and understand the context as well… The numbers are not many… Happens once a year, as per tradition… And it is outweighed heavily by the celebration and worship of all cattle that day…
The numbers and cruelty is not even remotely comparable to what is routinely accepted in society when it comes to Butchery of birds and animals for food – day in and day out…. Here is a youtube video of Paul McCartney…
So – if you really want to protest about cruelty to animals, you know where to go…
Now coming to the matter of Law…
Law is known better as “letter of law”, and is a technical thing. And I am not qualified to speak of that. There are many experts weighing in on that, and we can hear them…
I wanted to share a more general view on Law – from ancient tradition.. And this has nothing to do with Jallikattu specifically.
I have an interest in Indian epics.
Here is a scene from Ramayana…
When Bharata comes to forest to ask Rama to return to Ayodhya… Rama questions him on how the Kingdom administration is being carried on by Bharata. One of the verses is:
कच्चिदष्टादशान्येषु स्वपक्षे दश पञ्च च।
त्रिभिस्त्रिभिरविज्ञातैर्वेत्सि तीर्थानि चारकैः।।
Rama asks Bharata: Do you keep under your surveillance, employing in each case three spies, each unknown to the other and to the rest of the world, the activities of 18 important authorities of other countries and the fifteen of your own?
Now, one of the 18 authorities that Rama is alluding to is one called as “prAdvivAka” – an official of justice.
Who is a prAdvivAka?
Govindaraja’s ‘Bhushana’ commentary on the above Ramayana verse says:
प्राड्विवाक: व्यवहारप्रष्टा । तल्लक्षणमुक्तम्– “विवादे पृच्छति प्रश्नं प्रतिप्रश्नं तथैव च । प्रियपूर्वं प्राग्वदति प्राड्विवाकस्तत: स्मृत: ।।” इति।
(PradvivAka is an examiner of worldly matters. His characteristic is mentioned as “In a dispute, he asks questions and counter questions. He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”)
(prAd – questions, with vivEka – discerning intellect – and so prAdvivAka)
Now, the fundamental attribute of a person holding the office of prAdvivAka is that he should be a scholar of Dharma Shastra, and a thorough knower of prathA (tradition).
“Raghunandana, the 15th/16th commentator from Bengal and an encyclopaedic author of 28 treatises clearly stated in his discourses on Vyavahara (Vyavahara tattva) that Lokavyavahara or popular custom, convention or the existing social practice enjoyed far superior edge over Sastric norms. He elaborated that if there was a dispute of larger dimension which could not be solved locally, the parties would report to the king or the Zamindar. The king would appoint an expert – Pradviveka (usually Brahmin, but occasionally a ksatriya with exceptional ability) proficient in both Sastric norms and customary practices. He questioned both parties, and after careful consideration he was expected to offer his opinion. Finally, the king would pronounce the final verdict as the supreme authority, though he was expected to ratify Pradviveka’s opinion under usual circumstances.”
So… In our traditional concept of prAdvivAka administering justice, local tradition, custom, practice is extremely important to be understood when viewing what is right or wrong. And our Ancient system of justice provided for it. And please note, Bhushana’s definition mentioned earlier – “He puts his questions in a pleasing manner, and so he is known as prAdvivAka”… Will the learned courts take note!
So here’s my two rupees (still a valid coin!)
Local tradition has jallikattu. It is a controlled affair, and a part of one day of Pongal harvest festival which is dedicated to celebrating cows. It is a sport. It releases Adrenalin. Let it be. Regulate it, where needed. Let it be an exception to be allowed on a special day. Remember Holi, Diwali etc… Add Pongal…
Some cud to chew…