Seval Sandai – An Ancient Sport of Tamil Nadu

Though times are changing, and modern concepts are taking over our lifestyle, some traditions just don’t die out. Similar is the case for sports in the state of Tamil Nadu; though modern sports like football, cricket and tennis that have foreign origins are being ardently followed by the common Tamilian, ancient sporting activities like Seval Sandai are still popular among the rural communities.

Seval Sandai is basically cockfighting. It’s a blood sport that has a history of over 6000 years as can be seen from documentations, seals and decorations on walls and pottery among other things. It has been mentioned in ancient literatures like Kattu Seval Sastiram, Manu Needhi Sastiram and Sangam literatures. The origins of this blood sport were in southern Asian countries with its being a favorite pastime of ancient warriors during the peace times.

It’s referred to as a blood sport due to the wounds the cocks/roosters inflict on each other; further injury is promoted by attaching 2-4 inch long metal spurs to the natural spurs of the cocks. Some fights end in death of one rooster or at least some serious injuries. In earlier days silver spurs were used and interestingly enough, there are many cases were the owners die of wounds inflicted by their own roosters!

This sport is based on the knowledge that male roosters bear inherent aggression towards males of the same species. These birds are conditioned like professional athletes with special diet and stress to increase their stamina and strength. They are trained for about two years and given the best of care. The cocks are then made to fight three or four rounds, each lasting 15-20 minutes with a gap of 15 minutes between each round. There is serious betting done and wagers are made on the outcome of the match. Sadly, many of the matches end in the death of one rooster or if it is seriously injured, it is thrown away like a useless rag.

Animal rights have often raised objections to this blood sport, and in some countries it has been outright banned while in other countries, it is still being practiced as a mainstream event. This sport creates a lot of frenzy and excitement among the males of our species who advocate its relevance in society with references to culture and religious practices! During festival times, it becomes an even bigger source of entertainment. It is believed that chickens from the Harappan culture (2500-2100 BC) were not used for food, but for sport only. The sport is believed to have spread from the Indus Valley to the rest of the world and is expected to have reached European shores by 524-460 BC.