Tamil Nadu is a part of South India. It is very close to nature. The culture is expressed through dance, art, music, and literature. Hinduism is at the core of Tasssmil Nadu and is visible in the festivals celebrated here. Let us have a look at some of the festivals of Tamil Nadu.

1) Pongal

Pongal is a harvest festival in which food and cattle play an important role. Pongal means “spilling over” The festival celebrates new beginnings and marks the spillover of prosperity. Pongal is a 4-day festival in which the first day is worshipping the God of rain. People thank him for abundance. The second day belongs to the sun God. On this day, rice is boiled with milk in earthen pots till it spills over. The main offering includes a sweet dish made of rice, ghee, lentils, milk, and jaggery. The third day is for cattle worship. They are cleaned, painted, and decorated with flowers. On the fourth day, crows are fed by the female devotees as they pray for their families and brothers. Customary visits to friends and family are made on this day. Homes are traditionally decorated with fresh mango leaves at the entrance and rangolis are made. However, not everyone has access to fresh mango leaves, hence we suggest https://amzn.to/3UlzdPg


Where– Tamil Nadu

Experience– People enjoy around bonfires. Homes are beautified with rangolis made of rice flour.

Woman boiling rice in milk in an earthen pot during Pongal. Photo credit: tamilnadutourism.com

2) Natyanjali dance festival

Natyanjali dance festival pays tribute to the deity of Lord Nataraja (dancing Shiva). It is organized by the Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, Ministry of Tourism- Government of India, and Natyanjali trust, Chidambaram.  It started in 1981 and begins on Mahashivratri. The festival promotes the message of unity in diversity through dance and music. Natyam means dance, while the word Anjali denote offering. It is a way to offer prayers to the deity through dance. Natyanjali is celebrated on the temple premises. It is a blessing to be able to perform the first dance (arangettam) in this holy place.

When– February- March

Where– Nataraja temple in Chidambaram

Experience– Dancers from all over India come and dance in the temple as an offering to Lord Shiva. The beauty of the golden roof temple in the backdrop with dancers performing is beyond words.

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Performers at Natyanjali dance festival. Photo credit: bananivista.com

3) Mahamaham festival

Mahamaham festival is celebrated in the Mahamaham tank, a 20-acre square tank. The tank is surrounded by Shiva mandaps and is a holy union of nine river goddesses. According to Hindu legend, the Holy Rivers of Ganga, Saraswati, Yamuna, Cauvery, Sarayu, Mahanadi, and Narmada wished to be free of the sins people were washing in them. They prayed to Lord Brahma, who told them to bathe in Mahamaham together to attain purity. Thus on the day of the festival, it is believed that the Goddesses along with Shiva gather to rejuvenate the waters. When devotees enter the tank, water is sprinkled on them through sprinklers. The last Mahamaham was in 2016, tht saw 50-60 Lakhs of devotees.

When– Held once every 12 years. The next one is scheduled in 2028

Where– Kumbakonam in Tamil Nadu

Experience– Devotees throng in large numbers to dip in the holy tank. Doing this is believed to wash away one’s sins. Special flag hoisting in the Holy shrines of Kumbakonam marks the start of the festival.

Devotees gather at Kumbakonam for Mahamaham festival. Photo credit: cultureandheritage.org

4) Puthandu

Tamil New Year is called Puthandu. People clean their homes the previous day, and rangolis are drawn with rice flour at the entrances. These are called Kolam. The center of the kolam has a lamp called Kuthuvillakku that dispels darkness. Kuthuvillakku is available easily to buy from the comfort of your home. We recommend https://amzn.to/3DNXdon

Young children receive small gifts from the elders. Prayer offerings include mango, banana, jackfruit, flowers, money (coins), betel leaves, mirror, gold/silver jewelry, and areca nut. The star food item is Mangai Pachadi, a dish made of raw mango, jaggery, red chilies, neem leaves, and mustard. People sing devotional songs to invite good luck and prosperity in their homes. Turmeric baths are common among women. Mythology says that Lord Brahma made the universe on Puthandu, thus the New Year brings new hopes and dreams for everyone.

When– 13th or 14th April

Where– Tamil Nadu

Experience– Visiting temples, taking blessings from elders, and enjoying a meal feast that includes sambhar,vadas, payasam, and sweet polis make the festival special. Folk dances and performances such as Kummi and Kolattam, can also be enjoyed.

Offerings made during Puthandu. Photo credit: timesofindia.indiatimes.com

5) Chithi Rai festival

Chithi Rai festival is the enactment of Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi’s wedding. The festival starts with flag hoisting. After the re-enactment of the wedding, a large-scale feast with 3-course meals is served. Food includes Panagam and a spicy buttermilk drink. Over one million people gather every year to celebrate the festival and participate in the pulling of the huge wooden car on the streets of Madhurai.

When– April or May for 15 days

Where– Madhurai

Experience– Visiting the Chithi Rai expo that has budget-friendly goods. It is spectacular to sightsee the car fest of Meenakshi temple that goes through the streets of Madhurai.

Devotees gathered during Chithi Rai festival. Photo credit: thenewsminute.com

6) Karthigai Deepam

It is one of the festivals being celebrated since many generations. People believe that lights lit during 5 pm will keep them close to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva will bless everyone during this auspicious time. The lighting of lights everywhere signifies the end of darkness. People clean their houses in advance. Deepam is lit daily at the entrance for 30 days. A small floral rangoli with oil lamps around is set up at the home entrance. These are available at https://amzn.to/3DtICOr

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People visit temples to pray, where puffed rice and jaggery is mixed together as an offering to God.

When– November or December

Where– Tamil Nadu

Experience– The whole place is beautifully lit with lamps to dispel darkness. A large fire is lit, and devotees call out to Shiva while gathered around the fire. They pray for the end of their troubles.

Beautifully lit rangoli for Karthigai Deepam. Photo credit: templefolks.com

7) Thaipusam festival

Thaipusam festival is a dedication to Lord Murugan. Devotees follow a strict vegetarian diet and fast before the start of the festival. Kavadi Attam is a ceremonial ritual. Kavadi means burden. It is a semi-circular wooden canopy kind of structure. It is supported with a rod in which devotees carry puja offerings called Paal Kudam to the Lord. Paal kudam is milk carried in a vessel in the form of a pot carried on the head to offer to Lord Murugan. We recommend https://amzn.to/3DyiDpd

The belief is that performing these rituals gives the courage to face all tribulations in life. People pierce cheeks and tongues with spears. They believe that the more pain endured, the more their prayers will be answered. Those celebrating at home offer milk, flowers, and fruits. Bright colors like orange and yellow are worn.

When– January or February

Where- Temple of Palani, Tamil Nadu

Experience– The chief priest of the temple and 12 youth go in procession from the temple to bathe. They put turmeric powder on themselves and begin the ritualistic dance. The image of the temple deity is held by the priest, and the devotees hold the kavadis. They then walk on a burning coal pit and come out unharmed. Watching all this makes for a unique experience. Singing and feasting follow.

Devotees during Kavada Attam at Thaipusam festival. Photo credit: tamilnadutourism.com