Tamil Nadu is known for its magnificent festivals, outlined with rangolis, bright silks, flowers, temples celebrations and of course lots of festival food ! Here are 7 festivals of Tamil Nadu you can plan your visits around!
This is the most important Harvest festival celebrated by the people of Tamil Nadu. It lasts for a period of 4 days and is normally celebrated on the 13th of January till the 16th.
This festival is actually mainly celebrated to thank or show appreciation to the Sun God for giving energy towards agriculture. The people boil the first rice of the season as a tribute to the Sun God. Pongal is also the name of a dish that is very famous in the South and is cooked for most of the festivals there.
One month before the festival the females of the houses make patterns at the entrance of the houses known as Kolam with rice and colored powder. This month is called Margali and houses are whitewashed and kept ready for Pongal.
The first day is known as Bhogi and is mainly to honour Lord Indra who provides the farmers with rain. Also on this day, people get rid of something old and get something new as a sign of a new beginning. At dawn all that was gotten rid of is burnt in the bonfire.
The houses are all decorated for the forthcoming day, the horns of the buffaloes are painted. Sugar cane is an important crop on this day at least that’s what I remember because I used to be so excited each year in the hostel for the sugarcanes that our friends would bring for us.
The main Pongal falls on the second day and is called Thai Pongal (Thai is the 10th month in the Tamil Calendar). All the people wear the traditional clothes, also on this day, the husband and the wife throw away some vessels that were used for the Puja. The offering also includes sugar cane and coconut.
Mattu Pongal, the third day of the festival is mainly for the cows. Many beads, bells, flowers are tied onto the cow and most importantly a garland. They are fed Pongal and other dishes and are worshipped. They are also taken around the village so all the people can join in on this auspicious day.
The last day is called Kannum Pongal day. On this day Women put a turmeric leaf and fill it with various leftover and rice and pray for their households prosperity. It is also the day where families visit each other and many gifts are exchanged as a perfect end to a perfect festival.
2. Tamil New Year’s Day
Also known as Puthandu, the Tamil New year falls in mid April, the first month of the Tamil Calendar. The morning of Puthandu is marked as Women make beautiful Kolams at the entrance of their houses.
In this month, you can also see the mangoes hanging from the Mango trees and the flowers on the Neem tree bloomed. The people celebrate this day with these two items to show prosperity. People spend the day looking at things like Gold, Betel leaves, nuts, fruits etc. A bath and then a visit to temple Kanni is very important.
On this day people wear new clothes and eat delicious food one of them being ‘Maanga Pachadi‘ a sweet and sour dish made with mangoes, Jaggery and Neem flowers.
3. Natyanjali Dance Festival
‘Natya’ means dance and ‘Anjali’ means offering. This is the day where dancers offer their Dance as tribute to the one and only Lord Nataraja. This festival is a day best celebrated in the Nataraja temple, Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu.
It is a day when almost 300-400 dancers from all over India bring out their uniqueness onto one floor like Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Mohiniyattam, Kathak etc.
It is celebrated either in the month of February or March. It is five day long festival normally beginning on the day of Maha Shivratri. The dancers are all dressed up in their traditional outfits representing their rich and diverse culture.The festival spreads its main message of ‘Unity in Diversity’ by bringing together diverse dancers together for one cause.
This festival is celebrated in Tamil Nadu on a full moon day in the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar. It celebrates the Birthday of Lord Subramaniam, the younger son of Lord Shiva. This is the day when people with utmost faith make and keep their vows. They pray to the Lord for help and once granted they keep up to their vows.
This festival is a day of penance. The main highlight is when the devotee takes the ‘Kavadi’. The ‘Kavadi Bearer’ wears the clothes of a ‘Pandaram’(a person who lives on alms alone). The devotee carries two pots attached to long stick containing rice, milk, and other things that the devotee wishes to offer the Lord and he carries this till the Temple.
But some devotees prefer to carry empty pots and fill it up by begging and even choose to walk barefeet till the temple.It also sees people pierce their body with sharp objects, they feel very close to God and are said to feel no pain, their wounds do not bleed and no scars are left behind.
The most difficult Kavadi offering known as the Agni- Kavadi is one where the devotee while carrying the Kavadi over his shoulder walks on burning coals. Almost 10,000 Kavadi bearers reach the temple at Tamil Nadu.
It is day that will leave you inspired as you see the faith of the people strong as ever almost changing your view about the world.
5. Mahamaham Festival
This is a Hindu Festival that is celebrated once in 12 years in the State of Tamil Nadu in a small town called Kumbakonam. On this day, people from all over the country come to take a dip in the famous ‘Mahamaham tank’ as it is considered sacred. The last time it was celebrated was back on March 6th, 2004.
It generally occurs in the month of Masi in the Tamil calendar that is February to March. Once in twelve years when Jupiter enter the Leo sign in the Constellation is when this grand festival is celebrated.
It is a bath which is believed to purify you of your sins and wash away your sins. This festival sees the arrival of more than 1 million people.
The tank is a 6.2 acres one and is surrounded by shrines and wells. The day of this festival begins by praying at the Temple, then dipping in the 20 wells, then a visit to the Kumbeswarar Temple, then a dip in the holy tank and lastly to complete it a dip in River Cauvery.
6. Thiruvaiyaru Festival
This is celebrated in Thiruvaiyaru, a town in the district of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. It is a music festival in honour of the famous music composer and Saint Thyagaraja and is held every year in the month of January. It is celebrated every year on the Pushya Bahula Panchami day when the saint Thyagaraja attained samadhi.
The festival is held near his Samadhi, on the banks of River Cauvery. This is one of the biggest music festivals of India and welcomes music-lovers from all the the country. Apart from the music, rituals and Pujas are also conducted during the two days of this festival.
This festival promotes Carnatic and classical music and is so global that it is also celebrated in USA, Mauritius and Nigeria.
7. Karthigai Deepam
It is known as the ‘Festival of Lights’ and falls in the month of Karthigai (November to mid-December) according to the Tamil Calendar. This happens on the day when the moon is aligned with the constellation Karthigai.
The main idea of this festival is to keep away bad things from life and welcome the good ones. Tamil Nadu celebrates this festival for 10 days. All the people wear new clothes and enjoy themselves without any worry. They exchange gifts and try to meet all their relatives during the festival.
People believe that on this day Lord Shiva appeared in Thiruvannamalai hills and they mark this by lighting a huge fire on the top of the hill. Ghee and camphor are used to light the huge fire and people shout saying Annamalaiyarku Arohara.
There is even a fair held on this day which is one of the main attractions. It is one of the best celebrations of Tamil Nadu and trust me when I say this you need to be there !