Dozens of young men were injured on the first day of a traditional bull-wrestling festival in southern India that has attracted the ire of animal activists, officials said Wednesday.
During the Jallikattu festival in Tamil Nadu bulls festooned with marigolds are released from pens and men try to grab their horns to win prizes such as scooters and whitegoods.
Critics say the bulls are fed alcohol and chilli powder is thrown in their faces to agitate them before the clash. Organisers insist the animals are not mistreated.
Nearly 500 bulls and a similar number of “tamers” were involved on the opening day of the festival in Madurai, said S. Natarajan, a government official from the city.
“Forty nine people were injured yesterday. Nine were taken to hospital for minor injuries,” he told AFP.
Wednesday’s festivities will see almost double the number of bulls and competitors in the ring, Natarajan added.
In past years, competitors have been gored to death by bulls.
India’s Supreme Court outlawed Jallikattu in 2016 after a plea by animal rights groups but Tamil Nadu insisted Jallikattu was a crucial part of its culture and identity.
Growing tensions in the state capital Chennai, and other cities, led Prime Minister Narendra Modi to issue an executive order that the centuries-old festival go ahead.