Chennai, the Gateway of South, is a land of culture and tradition. This is exuded in the array of fairs that make the city swirl with verve and the different hues of festivities that make it come alive. These events mirror the diverse socio-religious beliefs common to Tamilians and are a true reflection of their lives. This blog seeks to unravel the different facets associated with these festivities and fairs.
The central festival of Chennai, Pongal is celebrated in the month of January over a span of 5 days. On this harvest festival, a sweet rice pudding made using jaggery called ‘pongal’ is prepared and served to everyone. It is a way to say thanks to the bounties of nature and is a major festival among the agricultural community of Chennai. It commences with offering reverence to Indra, the Lord of rain. It also entails the worship of cows.
Natyanjali Dance Festival
This festival is celebrated to commemorate Lord Nataraja, the ‘Cosmic Dancer’. It is celebrated every year in Chidambaram wherein a large scale Natyanjali Festival is held. This festival usually occurs during the months of February-March and stretches over the duration of 5 days. It seeks to promote the famous folk dances germinating from Tamil Nadu such as Bharatanatyam, Kavadi Attam and Poikkal Kuthirai.
Translated literally as the ‘Festival of Lights’, since it falls in the month of ‘Karthigai’ (the period between November to mid-December) as per the Tamil Calendar, it is a popular festival of Chennai. This festival is celebrated on the day when the moon is perfectly aligned with the constellation Karthigai. It is a harbinger of great times and is celebrated to keep negative energies at bay. The city is seen brimming with joy di vivre as elated people adorn new clothes and drop by at their relatives’ place to exchange gifts. It is believed that on this day, Lord Shiva made his appearance at Thiruvannamalai hills. As a way to pay tribute to Lord Shiva, a huge bonfire is lit atop this hill as people excitedly chant “Annamalaiyarku Arohara”.
Occurring in mid April, it marks the commencement of a new year according to the Tamil calendar. On the morning of Pathandu, Tamil women decorate their homes by designing pretty Kolams at the entrance of their houses. Coinciding with spring, it sees the blossoming of Neem flowers and mangoes – the two things that are known to symbolize prosperity. Therefore, people incorporate these two species of plants to celebrate this festival.
Celebrated every year on a full moon night, this festival is celebrated to honor the birthday of Lord Subramaniam, Lord Shiva’s younger son. Devotees throng shrines dedicated to Lord Subramaniam and offer their prayers. It is a day to apologize for their sins and to observe penance. Devout followers called ‘Kavadis’ begin their journey to the sacred shrines dedicated to Lord Shiva.