The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday granted permission to hold Jallikattu, a popular bull-taming sport held during Pongal, across the state despite the coronavirus pandemic. However, the government announced certain restrictions.

According to an official press release, not more than 300 participants would be allowed per game in Manjuvirattu, Vadamadu – other forms of bull taming sports – and Jallikattu. In the traditional bull race known as Eruthu Vidum Vizha, only a maximum of 150 participants would be allowed.

All participants have to get a certificate from a government-recognised lab that they are negative in the test for Covid-19, the government said. “All these sports must be held only in open grounds and 50% of the total capacity of visitors alone will be allowed to watch the sport,” it added. “All visitors will be checked with thermal scanners, must wear masks compulsorily and follow physical distancing.”

The Tamil Nadu government is also expected to release a Standard Operating Procedure for conducting the events.

The traditional jallikattu sport requires participants to pounce on a running bull, try to hold on to its hump and move along with the animal without falling or getting hurt. The person who is able to cling on to the animal is declared the winner. The game requires quick reflexes and a fleet foot to tame the bull, which will continuously shake off the participants or try to move away from them.

Over the years, Jallikattu has faced major criticism from animal welfare groups, who have called the game “barbaric”. Several participants and spectators are routinely injured during these games. But, political parties and some people of the state claim these events are matters of Tamil pride and part of the tradition.