Maatu Vandi – Bullock cart

When I was living in Kumbakonam, Tamil Nadu in the early 1990’s, I used to see lots of bullock carts all over the show. As they were used for transportation. Now they are very few used for public transportation. They are mostly used for rural farming purposes.


bullock cart or ox cart is a two-wheeled or four-wheeled vehicle pulled by oxen. It is a means of transportation used since ancient times in many parts of the world. They are still used today where modern vehicles are too expensive or the infrastructure does not favor them.

Used especially for carrying goods, the bullock cart is pulled by one or several oxen (bullocks). The cart (also known as a jinker) is attached to a bullock team by a special chain attached to yokes, but a rope may also be used for one or two animals. The driver and any other passengers sit on the front of the cart, while load is placed in the back. Traditionally the cargo was usually agrarian goods and lumber. – Wikipedia


Races are held in the festive season of Jallikattu of Maatu pongal in the rural areas and maatu pandaiyam (bets) are made on each oxen. Money garlands are made and hung on the animals’ necks and horns.

The Oxen  are massaged with oil, washed, decorated and painted on the horns for this occasion. The cart itself is well decorated with flowers and paint.



Mattu pongal – The third day of Pongal is dedicated to cattle and is called Mattu Pongal. People offer prayers to the bulls, cows and other farm animals. Cows and bulls have always held a special place in India. Cows give nourishing milk while bulls and oxen help plough the fields. Thus, Maatu Pongal is a day when cattle are given a well deserved day of rest and are given pride of place. Therefore the farmers honour their cattle friends by celebrating it as a day of thanks-giving to them.

Jallikattu – A festival called Jallikattu is held in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur. Bundles of money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls which the villagers try to retrieve. Everyone joins in the community meal, at which the food is made of the freshly harvested grain. This day is named and celebrated as Tamizhar Tirunal (Festive day of Tamils) in a fitting manner throughout Tamil Nadu.


People show their originality with their cattles and Oxen. See the photos belows:

I remember the Rajahs (kings) used to travel on elephants in the early 1800’s. One can imagine how smooth the ride was.


Oxen being used for farming.

Bullock cart used in 1920’s – Jaipur.

In 1929 – Jaipur.

I remember the cart used to sway from side to side. I used to be so scared of bullock carts. It was the most scariest ride for me back then. I personally have not been on it more than 5 or 6 times. I remember the roads used to be dusty and rocky. My amma and I used to sit like in an arch like wooden structure  facing eachother on a paai (straw mat). A man would sit in the front with turban-like cloth on his head with a long stick. He would make, tongue clicking, sounds to guide the oxen thoughout the trip.


It was the good old days that I miss. I wish and hope these Maatu vandi will still be around for my children’s generation to experience.

Keep ‘mooing’ till my next post.



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