FESTIVALS

Tamil Nadu is a land of many festivals. January marks the beginning of the festival season in the state. Pongal is the first festival and it is celebrated with much enthusiasm. It is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. “Pongal” is actually the name of a rice and lentil dish cooked in Tamil Nadu, and on this festive day Pongal is cooked. It is celebrated on January 14, each year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. Bhogi is celebrated on January 13, Pongal on Jan 14, Maattu Pongal on Jan 15, and Kannum Pongal and Thiruvalluvar Day on Jan 16.

BHOGI

BHOGI to rid the society of evil. People clean up their houses of all the junk that they have accumulated in the past year. All the waste stuff is burnt. Houses are freshly painted. Farm animals are bathed and decorated with colored powders and paint.

PONGAL

Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai. It is considered to be an auspicious month. The Sun God is worshipped. In rural areas, people gather in front of their houses and cook pongal in new pots. Stoves are made with clay and wood is used as fuel. When the pongal is almost made, everybody shouts in ecstasy pongal o pongal. When milk is boiled, if it overflows, it is believed to be a sign of a prosperous agricultural during the coming season.

People visit their friends and relatives. Pongal food and sweets are exchanged among neighbours and relatives. The sugarcane crop ripens at the time of Pongal. Sugarcane is harvested and it is available in markets and children can be seen crunching sugarcane.

MATTU PONGAL

The next day January 15, is the day for farm animals especially the bulls. Most farmers still use them to plough and till the land for irrigation. The farmer would find it difficult to survive without the bull. Bulls, cows and other farm animals are worshipped on this day. Bull fights or Manju Virattu also takes place on this day. These fights are also called Jalli Kettu.

Every house nurtures at least one bull to be a fierce fighter. The horns are periodically sharpened. Traditionally it is believed that a family loses its status if it has no bulls to participate in this fight. Farmers gather to display their fierce bulls. Each bull has a cloth tied around its neck containing money. The owner of the bull challenges the crowd that gathers to bring the bull under control and victoriously retrieve the cloth with the money from its neck. The bulls get restless and angry with the noise from the drums, whistles, shouts and even crackers that are burst. These bull fights can be fatal at times. The bulls are overpowered sometimes but it is understandably a difficult task. If the bull is overpowered, the owner of the bull has to invite the conqueror to his house and serve him a lavish meal.

THIRUVALLUVAR DAY

The poet saint Thiruvalluvar made a significant contribution to Tamil Literature with his Thirukkural. The book contains 1,330 verses in couplets. Each in these couplets talks about the different aspects of human life. People visit their native towns and villages during the harvest festival season.

Besides being Thiruvalluvar Day, it is also Kannum Pongal Day. On this day, the farmer and his entire family, go the sightseeing.In the days gone by the mode of transport used to be the bullock-cart. Today, they use the modern modes of transportation.

CHITHRAI FESTIVAL

Madurai brings you a spectacular re-enactment of the wedding of the Pandiyan princess Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarar. This ancient legend unfolds before your eyes as Lord Vishnu rides to his sister's wedding on gleaming real-gold horse chariot.The festival is celebrated mid April.

TAMIL NEW YEAR

The Tamil people rise early, bather, dress in their new clothes on the morning of April 14, and gather around the household altar or pooja room for a special religious ceremony. It is the Tamil New Year’s Day. Lord Ganesha is worshipped in the New Year. He is offered fruits, sweets and fresh flowers. In the afternoon people visit the temples. The rest of the day is spent visiting various relatives, friends and exchanging New Year greetings. Presents of money, fruits, betel leaves and areca nuts are given. Gifts are also given to the postman, council workers, domestic workers and others. Business people usually start new account books for the new year on this day. Bonuses are often paid on the eve of the New Year.

MAHAMAGAM FESTIVAL

This holy festival takes place once in 12 years and it will bring you to Kumbakonam the temple city that gets its name from the Kumbha or the divine pot. Legend has it that Brahma, the Creator, held a pot containing nectar and the seeds of creation. Shiva in the form of a hunter shot an arrow at the pot and spilt the nectar into the famous Mahamagam tank at the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple.

ARUBATHIMOOVAR FESTIVAL

Arubathimoovar Festival Literally the word Arubathimoovar refers to the mathematical number 63. There are 63 saints who were ardent devotees of Shiva canonised for leading exemplary lives of devotion and penance. Bronze figures of these 63 saints adorn the magnificent Kapaleeswar Temple at Mylapore, Chennai. Once, every year, they are carried in a colourful procession through the streets of Mylapore.

KANTHURI FESTIVAL

This festival attracts devotees to the shrine of saint Quaderwali, believed to do equal good to people of all faiths. One of the descendants of the Saint is chosen as a Peer or spiritual leader and is honoured with offerings. On the tenth day of the festival, the Saint's tomb is annointed with sandalwood past and later this sandal paste, renowned for its healing powers, is distributed to everyone.

KAVADI FESTIVAL

Dancing in a hypnotic trance to the rhythm of drums, the devotees of Muruga carry the 'Kavadi' which is a flower decked decoration that is carried on the shoulders, all the way up the Palani Hills to fulfil their vow. According to Hindu mythology, Idumban is said to have placed two sacred hillocks on two ends of a pole and carried them on his shoulders.

VELANKANNI FESTIVAL

Wondrous legends surround and several miracles are attributed to this church. The most famous being that of the Portuguese sailors, who in the 16th century, vowed to build a great shrine for the Virgin Mary, if their lives were saved during a shipwreck, in a terrible storm, off the coast of Nagapattinam. The sailors faithfully carried out their promise. The main altar at Velankanni Church carries blue and white tiles of this legend. Miracles of being restored to good health have given the church the name Arokiya Matha Church, meaning the Church of Our Lady of Good Health.

The festival attracts thousands f pilgrims. Many clad in orange robes come to the sacred spot where the ship is said to have landed many centuries ago. The Virgin Mary's miraculous healing powers have earned for the church the name Lourdes of the East. The Velankanni festival is in the month of September.

NAVARATHRI

Literally, this means the festival of nine nights. Nava meaning nine and rathri meaning night. This festival takes different forms in different states of India. The festival is held to propitiate the goddess Shakti, for power, wealth and knowledge.

KARTHIGAI DEEPAM

Karthigai Deepam Rows of glittering earthen lamps that are lit can be seen outside every home, and the joyous burst of fire crackers mark Tamil Nadu's Festival of Lights.

DEEPAVALI FESTIVAL

Deepavali Festival is a five day Hindu festival, It occurs on the fifteenth day of the Tamil month of Karthika. During this time, homes are thoroughly cleaned and the windows are opened to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity. Oil lamps are lit to greet Lakshmi. Gifts are exchanged and festive meals are prepared during Deepavali. Deepavali being the festival of lights, thousands of oil lamps are lit inside and outside every home on that day.

The deepam or lamp is the symbol of knowledge and enlightenment. Lighting the lamp of knowledge within us means to understand and reflect upon the significant purpose of each of the five days of festivities and to bring those thoughts in to our daily lives.

According to Ramayana, it is believed that Deepavali commemorates the return of Rama, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu and the eldest son of King Dasharatha of Ayodhya, from the 14-year exile that he had taken with his wife Sita and brother Lakshman after killing Ravana, a demon king. The people illuminated the kingdom of Ayodhya with earthen diyas or oil lamps and fireworks to celebrate the return of their exiled king.

In rural areas, Deepavali signifies Harvest Festival. Deepavali occurs at the end of a harvest season and so along with the religious significance of the festival as explained earlier, it is also reinforced that a good harvest meant prosperity. This celebration was first started in India by farmers after they reaped their harvests. They celebrate with joy and offer praises to God for granting them a good crop.

When Lord Krishna destroyed Narakasura on the day before Deepavali the news travelled very rapidly throught the land. It gave people who were already in a joyful mood, another reason for celebrating Deepavali with greater pride and elaboration.

In the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata, the Pandavas returned from the forest during Deepavali time. Once more, the celebrations extended beyond the boundaries of India to wherever Hindus lived.

It is on the same day of Amavasya Swami Dayananda Saraswathi, that leonine sanyasin who was one of the first to light the torch of Hindu Renaissance during the last century, passed into eternity. Swami Ramatirtha who carried the fragrance of the spiritual message of Hindu Dharma to the western world, also passed into eternity.

The lights kindled on this day also mark the attempt of their followers to immortalize the sacred memories of those great men who lived to brighten the lives of millions of their fellow beings. The passage of these great men has indeed brought a national as well a spiritual tradition of Deepavali right up to modern times.

MAMALLAPURAM DANCE FESTIVAL

Mamallapuram Dance Festival Sit before an open-air 'stage' created 13 centuries ago the incredible monolithic rock sculptures of the Pallavas, next to the sea in this ancient city of Mamallapuram. Lovers of dance will be treated to very unique and unforgettable recitals in Bharathanatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Odissi dance forms presented by the very best exponents of the art, as well as folk dances.

NATYANJALI DANCE FESTIVAL

The temple city of Chidambaram pays special tribute to Lord Nataraja the Cosmic dancer. The setting is within Chidambaram's gold-roofed temple. The pillars of this temple depict Lord Nataraja in 108 poses or mudras from Bharatha Natyam, Tamil Nadu's classical dance.

MUSIC FESTIVALS

In December, Chennai celebrates her priceless heritage of Carnatic music and dance recitals to the public. Artistes both old and new participate in the festivals.

SUMMER FESTIVAL

The summer festival might find you in the Queen of Hill Stations, the evergreen Ootacamund or Udhagamandalam. There is a flower and fruit show and the boat race.

In the other hill resorts, Kodaikkanal or the salubrious heights of Yercaud too there are boat races, flower and fruit shows that are specially organised. It offers a splendid opportunity to go trekking in any of Tamil Nadu's other hill stations that promise you an unforgettable holiday.

Makes a ritual and a celebration out of a simple, daily bath! And indeed, a bath at these picturesque waterfalls is no ordinary event. The healing waters of the roaring falls are famed for their medicinal properties.