Thursday, July 18, 2024

Festivals & Fairs


Hindu - Religious Festivals

Tamil Nadu has perhaps the largest number of religious observances in the year. Most of the temple-festivals take place in September-October and in the post-harvest  months of March-June. The duration  of each festivals  is from three to  ten days  more. The main deity is dressed in colourful resplendent  costumes  and adorned with very valuable  and rare items of jewellery of the distant  past. The deity is mounted on specially constructed  carriers  called 'Vahanams' and taken round the temple in processions. Madurai, Srirangam and some other towns have been planned for this  purpose, each street being named after the temple festival, the route of which passes through it. The idea of taking out the portable deity in such procession is to enable the sick, the old, the disabled and the members of the communities forbidden to enter temples to get a direct view of the deity  and to offer prayer.

Caparisoned elephants, gaily bedecked  lead this processions  to the delight of children. Ornamental  silk umbrellas  are used to  protect the deity from the sun's scorching heat. On the main days of the festival, at night  when the deity is carried through important  streets every house hold  receives the deity with lighted lamps, coconuts, fruits, and flowers are offered to the deity and prayer is made in the form of archana (glorification of the lord). Through out the festival period, religious  discourses  devotional  song-recitals  by Thevaram and Prabandam  singers in groups, music concerts and performance of folk-arts  go on right  through the night and devotees  make it a point  to attend these  until the deity returns to the temple in the small hours of the morning. 

To invoke the blessing of the god, the common folk arrange street dramas, often on the Harischandra, the enacting of the scene where Harischandra appears along with his wife and dead child, in the crematorium is believed to bring in rains. 

Festival gatherings are made use of to take a look at prospective  brides and grooms to arrange  matrimonial alliances. These serve to strengthen the earlier alliances, invitations being extended to such kith and kin for feasts.

Folks believe that there will be rain or at least inclement  weather on important festival days. For fear of ill-luck at the individual or at the village level. Folks try to be clean as possible. Woman having their menstrual period are prevented from participating in the festival. They are considered to be in a state of pollution.

As a part of the festivals, prescribed songs are sung in the prominent  temples. The Kapaliswarar and Parthasarathi temples in Madras, the Ekambreswarar temple  in Kancheepuram and the Nellyappar temple in Tirunelveli, have certain traditions regarding such singing. 

In Chittoor, a village 40 km from Coimbatore the incidents connected with invasion of the ruler of Kongu on the Chera country are repeated in the festivals for the local deity Chittoor amman. Scenes of warfare are depicted and school children sing songs from a musical called Konkappadai.