India shares a common heritage with her people. The
people of Tamil Nadu as those all over the country, celebrate victory
of good over evil, the birth of all the gods of the Hindu pantheon,
the onset of new seasons and, of course, functions within the family
rejoicing over marriages and births. The variations however occur in
the manner of celebration and the time for most festivals in India
are timed for past harvest periods.
In Tamil Nadu the main
harvest takes place on January 16 and it is the main festival of the
people of this state. Pongal festivities begin days prior to
the actual festival as new clothes are bought, houses cleaned out and
even new pots and pans acquired. The actual festival generally falls
on the 14th of January. On this day a dish called pongal
is cooked with the new grain and jaggery. In fact, as friends and
relatives greet each other on this day, they ask, Ponga pane
pongitha? or did the pongal boil over? The excitement of an
overflowing pot is considered to be a sure of sign of a prosperous
future. The day previous to this is celebrated as Bogi and the day
following is devoted to the celebration of the love between brothers
and sisters while the fourth day is devoted to the worship of cattle.
Pongal occurs in one of
the most beautiful months in Tamil Nadu. This month in the Tamil
calendar is called tai. People wake up early in the morning
and even before the sun has hopped out of bed, start singing a verse
called the Thirupavai. Every temple and almost every household
follows this tradition. Some get so carried away that they even start
playing the populist film songs early in the morning! It is the
spirit that matters.
Even while the hangover
of this festival of the masses is still lingering on, a small village
called Tiruvayyaru is getting ready for a major event. Here a story
is waiting to be told. Tiruvayyaru, sits on the banks of one of Tamil
Nadus major and holy rivers, the Kaveri. Here in the late 18th
century lived a saint by the name of Thyagaraja. Such a devotee of
Lord Rama was he that he composed many songs in praise of his Lord.
These songs are the backbone of Carnatic music, the classical music
form of Southern India. Till today, every year, people from all over
India gather here to pay respects to the saint and sing his
The panorama of Tamil
Nadu is dotted with temples, some powerful and rich, some in slow
states of ruination. Yet all of them have a thiruvizha
where they take their ruling deity out through the village or town
and sing and dance his praise. The thiruvizhas are grand and lavish
with near total participation of the local people. Huge processions
walk the major parts of the town. Shops are laid out, entertainment
programmes organized and people turn out in their fineries each day
of the celebration.
in Madurai is one such major festival celebrated at one of the most
beautiful temples of Tamil Nadu, the Meenakshi Temple. Chaitra
Purnamasi is another, later in the year, celebrated at a
place called Kanchipuram. Bhadrakali Amman temple near Pondicherry
celebrates this as a 11 day festival in May-June, followed by
celebrations at the Srimoolanadhar temple close by. Mangani
Tiruvizha or Karaikal Ammayiar Festival is
also celebrated in the same region. All these festivals have
interesting legends associated with them. Like this one at Karaikal
is also called the Mango Festival for it is believed
that here lived a pious lady who, due to her piety, could call for a
mango from the heavens. It is her praise that is sung during this
period. Guruvayur Festival celebrates this annual event
in October November, while Kapaleswar temple waits till the
new year. So a whole year in this state could be spent just moving
from one temple festival to another.
is a famous church in Tamil Nadu, just as Nagur has a famous mosque.
All events in these two shrines are attended by people of all
religions in Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil New Year
is celebrated on April 13th. One interesting festival is
called Kavero Rover festival. At this time thousands of
people throng to the shores of the river which floods it at this time
As they watch the water flowing in, they eat the mixed rice they have
brought along and sit by the banks chatting and socializing.
Another festival when
many people get together is called Mahamagam. In
Kumbakonam, legend has it that every year all Gods headed by Brahma
come for a dip in the waters of this tank. This is because once
several rivers went to lord Shiva and complained that sinners washed
their sins off in them. What would happen to them? Shiva advised the
rivers to bathe in Kumbakonam during Mahamagam so that not only would
their sins be washed away, but the sinners would not leave behind any
residue to contaminate the river.
As for the rest, there
are festivals like Diwali and Dusshera,
Janmashtami and Ganesh Chaturthi which are
common to all Indians. The uniqueness of the people of Tamil Nadu
lies in their penchant for taking the Lords out for a drive annually.