Bull-Leaping - Did It Spread From The Indus Valley To Syria, Egypt, And Crete

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Jumping over a bull was a popular sport amongst the Indus people. A seal from Banawali (c.2300 – 1700 BCE) shows an acrobat leaping over a bull. Another seal from Mohenjo-Daro (c.2600 – 1900 BCE) depicts two people participating in the sport simultaneously: one person jumps from the back of the bull and lands in front, and is shown in various stages of leaping, while another person jumps from the front.

Some scholars have wondered whether bull-leaping was a ritual associated with bull worship. Going by the seal images that seems unlikely. No ritualistic paraphernalia are depicted on the seals. Besides, jumping over a bull is a sign of domination and not of worship.

Incidentally, a bull-taming sport called Jallikattu is still performed annually in some parts of the state of Tamil Nadu in India, as a part of Pongal celebrations (Pongal is a four-day long harvest festival). Jallikattu, quite intriguingly, had started off as a wedding custom amongst the cowherd community since the time of Lord Krishna.

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