Palamedu The Place for Jallikattu 1 of the ancient festivel.


Palamedu like neighbouring Alanganallur, both venues for the famous ‘jallikattu‘, the traditional bull-fighting sport of Tamil Nadu, needs no introduction. Agnese Cupido stakes out the place as it contemplates the recent ban on the sport, while simultaneously dealing with the dwindling returns on rain-fed agriculture, the lifeline of most of its inhabitants

Palamedu Jallikattu

Location of Palamedu

Palamedu a village in Tamil Nadu, near Alanganallur in Madurai district is around 20.5 km from

Madurai. Reaching Palamedu is very easy, as it is well connected especially with Madurai, and the best way to reach it is by bus or by cab. The journey is not long (about thirty minutes by bus) and during the journey you can contemplate a beautiful landscape: coconut trees, fields of grass, cows grazing, thatched huts. It seems the perfect setting for our Madurai Messenger story.

Place and Population

Today Palamedu can be considered a big and developed village. It has a population of around 10,493 people with a high literacy rate with about 3,000 students studying in the two schools in the village, one a government-run school and another run by the Nadar Uravinmurai. It can boast of having produced about 300 IT graduates. Unlike many of the surrounding villages, Palamedu is lucky enough to have basic civic amenities such as road connectivity, a hospital, water facilities, buildings, etc. all due

Palamedu Jallikattu

to the efforts of its erstwhile chairman Kajendran, about whom we will talk later.

However, conditions in Palamedu were not always this way and even thirty years ago, it was pretty backward. For example, the nearest hospital was located in Alanganallur 6 kms away. There were no proper schools and only about four people were educated. Roads were also in a bad condition.

While on the surface it seems just like any other village, Palamedu has earned fame among the villages in southern Tamil Nadu, thanks to its festivals: the Mariamman Festival and the jallikattu. The former is celebrated in the month of Panguni (the last month of the Tamil calendar which falls in March-April) for two days and attracts around 50,000 people. But far more famous here is the sport of jallikattu.

Held in January every year during the Pongal Festival, jallikattu has brought Palamedu into national and perhaps international prominence. To visitors, especially those from Europe, the sport is reminiscent of the annual bull running at Pamplona in Spain. Traditionally, the sport evolved to test the bravery and mettle of prospective grooms but it now attracts scores of young men who are proud to flaunt their physical skills and bravery, with around 500 bulls, trained specifically for this purpose taking part. There is one winner for every bull – if someone is able to catch the bull!

Production and Labour

The main occupation of people in Palamedu is agriculture. In the past, agriculture was mostly rain-fed and the crops grown included paddy, groundnuts and sugarcane. But now the cultivation pattern has changed due to the diminishing rainfall and guava, mango and coconut orchards flourish in the lands in and around the village. However, like all over Tamil Nadu, the failure of the monsoons in the past few years has had its consequences on agriculture, but the people still manage to make a decent living owing due to the rise in the valuation of their land.

Another common activity in Palamedu is the breeding of bulls for the traditional sport of jallikattu. Many people work hard to rear big and strong bulls for the jallikattu. However, this thousand- year tradition of Tamil Nadu faces a bleak future due to the recent ban on jallikattu by the apex court of India, the Supreme Court, following an appeal filed by the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA has taken the stand that this sport is a form of cruelty and is very dangerous for the animals as well as for the bull fighters.

Bull fighters

While the government has been strictly regulating the conduct of jallikattu in the state after the passage of the Tamil Nadu Jallikattu Regulation Act in 2009, it is alleged that PETA collected old videos of people catching the bulls by their tails or throwing stones at the bulls to strengthen their claims of animal cruelty in the Supreme Court and were thus able to get the ban order passed.

People During our exploration of Palamedu, we were able to meet one of the important denizens of the village, the ex-chairman of the panchayat (local government) S. Kajendran. He received us warmly and with a smile, ready to tell us something about himself and his role in Palamedu.

Kajendran (66) was born and brought up in Palamedu where he still lives with his wife and his son, with one of his daughters living in California while another daughter is settled in London. Kajendran did his schooling till the tenth standard at St. Mary’s High School in Madurai, but discontinued his studies after that due to father’s premature death at the age of 41. He then took up the responsibility of taking care of his family’s agricultural lands, which at that time spread over 300 acres.

He was chairman of Palamedu panchayat from 1970 till 1980 and again from 2000 to 2005 and also was the president of the Nadar Uravinmurai for fifteen years. During his tenure as Chairman he played an important role in developing the village and helping the people of Palamedu to get basic amenities such as hospitals, buildings, roads and water facilities, as at that time, Palamedu was still quite backward and underdeveloped. He also helped maintain the Badrakali Amman milk factory, the Badrakali Amman School and the Badrakali Amman theatre.

Agriculture was mostly rain-fed and the crops grown included paddy, groundnuts and sugarcane. But now the cultivation pattern has changed due to the diminishing rainfall and guava, mango and coconut orchards flourish in the lands in and around the village.

He helped many families living in the village who were all from agricultural backgrounds to educate their children. It is thanks to him that Palamedu has got its own hospital today – after Kajendran personally met the late MGR, the then Chief Minister and obtained special permission to establish a new hospital in Palamedu. But at present, Kajendran has retired from public life, choosing instead to concentrate on his business interests which include a Hero motorcycle showroom and an IOC agency Problems

Today the most challenging problems facing Palamedu are the lack of the rain and the ban on the conduct of the jallikattu.

About the first problem, the government has tried to solve it by providing drinking water to the people on alternative days, but there is no water for agriculture, so many trees like guava trees, mango trees and coconut trees have perished due to the severe drought. Kajendran has likewise been affected since the income from his agricultural land has dwindled and is sufficient only to cover the costs, which is one of the reasons he has diversified into other business ventures.

The ban on jallikattu has had the people all up in arms against it but so far, they have displayed their protest peacefully by organising a dawn-to-dusk hartal involving closure of all the educational institutions and business units in the whole region. Kajendran also spoke out against the ban as the sport is closely intertwined with the culture of Palamedu and has played an important role in attracting tourists and as such, represents an important economic factor of the village.

In Palamedu itself, there are around fifty bulls being reared for jallikattu, which are a source of livelihood for their owners. After the ban, bull owners and tamers are faced with the dilemma of what to do with the bulls, whose upkeep runs into thousands of rupees per day – many now have to reconcile themselves to

This thousand-year tradition of Tamil Nadu faces a bleak future due to the recent ban on jallikattu by the apex court of India, the Supreme Court, following an appeal filed by the animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

selling their beloved bulls for slaughter, something that seems an anathema considering that cows and bulls are seen as sacred in India.


The ban on jallikattu has come as a rude shock to the people of Palamedu, who plan to file a counter petition against PETA. The people of Palamedu fear that if the jallikattu is stopped, the curse of the gods will fall on the village and people could die of cholera, jaundice, fever or other diseases. This discontent is expected to have its repercussions in the village and hence a solution in the near future is the need of the hour.


Kajendran is of the view that due to its proximity to Madurai, Palamedu would grow and develop exponentially in the next 10 to 15 years. Pointing out that the government should offer more incentives for farmers like what is being done in the U.S.A, for example, Kajendran said that the government has failed to act on its promise to compensate farmers for the losses incurred on their crops due to the prolonged drought. In spite of the big strides in development, the village still faces a lot of problems but Kajendran spoke optimistically about the future.

The trip in Palamedu was very enjoyable. It gave me the chance to see places and landscapes that I had never seen before. It also gave me the chance to meet and talk with the people and helped me to understand the extent to which the people are attached to their ‘home soil’ and their culture.

At first you might feel like a foreigner, but after a few minutes, you will feel at home surely. People are happy to talk to you, show you their lives and their activities; people are disposed to open their houses to you and make you feel at home. Despite the daunting circumstances in which they live, the strength of the place lies in the soul of people who add beauty to their environment.


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