Festivals do unite people togather, come closer and celebrate together. And when we talk about South India festivals, the two that strikes your mind first are Onam and Pongal. These are two of the most popular festivals celebrated widely in the southern subcontinent.
The annual harvest festival of Onam calls for a grand ten days’ celebration during August-September. Usually celebrated at the end of monsoons, Onam reflects several aspects of Kerala’s tradition and culture. Onam is one of the most vibrant and colourful festivals of the south. It is also considered as the ‘festival of flowers’ due to the extensive flower decorations that are made in and out of all homes in Kerala. The festival is celebrated by everyone, crossing the barriers of caste and religion. It unites the people of Kerala in a special way; this is what makes it a unique fest.Mythologically, it is believed that Onam marks the time when the demon king, ‘Mahabali’ came home while, another folk tale says that it was the day when Parashurama founded the state of Kerala from a sea bed. Irrespective of the different tales and concepts, you will get to witness spectacular celebrations all over the state, especially in Kochi, Trivandrum, Thrissur and Kottayam. Don’t miss the celebrations if you happen to visit the state during this time of the year!
Locals wear new clothes, decorate homes artistically with bunch of flowers all around, create ‘pookalams’ (floral carpets) at the homes’ entrances and prepare a grand feast known as ‘Onamsadya’ served on banana leaf thali. The Thrikkakara Temple associated closely to Onam has huge gatherings.
The world-famous Aranmula Snake Boat Race tops the list of the most overwhelming activities during the fest. This more traditional ritual receives numerous participants and attracts hordes of spectators (both local and international); with great enthusiasm and sport. Thrissur witnesses a grand street parade of gold decorated elephants along with artisans and dancers. Onathallu takes place to conceive the martial spirit of warriors, where men of all ages indulge into a bare-handed mock fight. ‘Pulikali’ that is said to be introduced by the Maharaja of Kochi over 200 years ago, is a tiger dance, where hundreds of artisans painted like tigers dance to traditional drum beats, followed by hunters. The Kaikottikali folk group dance, Thumbi Thullal dance and Onakalikal (playing indoor-outdoor games) are some other attractions of Onam.
Pongal is another harvest festival of the south that goes for four days. The celebrations begin with worshipping the sun god and earth on ‘Bogi Pongal’, the first day of the fest. Pongal is actually a dish prepared by boiling rice with milk making use of the first harvested paddy. The festivities are carried out with different rituals in almost all southern states, Tamil Nadu in particular.
‘Bogi Pongal’ also marks to be a day when people trash out and burn away all the unnecessary assets in the house, marking the beginning of a new year and a new life. A special bonfire is prepared at night for all rugs to be burnt and people believe that the fire that night takes away all their worries, unhappiness, sins and confusions. People get their homes white washed and cleaned, buy new clothing, new mud pots and sugarcanes and distribute sweets to friends and relatives as a token of love.
More than a harvest, Pongal is a thanksgiving festival; thanking the sun god for a good harvest and the profit that it brings. You can consider travelling to Tamil Nadu for tasting the exotic flavours of rich culture and delectable cuisines in the ‘Land of Chettityars’. Along with fresh cut rice dish, Pongal which is prepared with different flavors, you will get to enjoy several distinct flavours in this known for its delicacies place. The sweet using jaggery and a plain salted Pongal is the famous flavor of the Pongal dish.
Mattu Pongal is a thanksgiving day for cows for their great help in ploughing the fields and irrigation. People offer sugarcanes and the Sakkara Pongal to cows. It is indeed a day of vibrant celebration, which none of the tourists should miss. People paint the horns of the cows and make them have a comfortable bath.
This is followed by ‘Jalli kattu’, the bull taming show at Alanganallur that receives spectacular and hilarious crowds. The day reflects the two core aspects of Tamil Nadu culture, love and valor intertwined beautifully.
‘Kaanum Pongal’, the last day of the fest celebrates the love between generations. It is a day to show respect to ancestors and old age people. The younger ones can be seen taking blessings from their parents and elders and the older ones bless them with sweets or money along with lots of love and good wishes. The day is often, a time for families to flock together to beaches or events, cultural shows, etc. Everyone spends quality time together indulging in activities like lemon on the spoon race, slow cycling, cracking the pot, dances, skits and more.
These festivals bring hopes and excitement and call for a break from the regular routine life. Each of them has a specialty of its own; some specific sweets, rituals, crops, seasons and festivities.
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