"That man has reached immortality who is disturbed by nothing material." ~ Swami Vivekananda

Tamil Nadu


Tamil Nadu is a land of many festivals. January marks the festival season in the state. Pongal is celebrated with much enthusiasm. 'Pongal' is actually the name of a food cooked in South India. It is also the name of the harvest festival in Tamil Nadu and is celebrated on January 14, every year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in that week. 'Bogi' is celebrated on January 13, 'Pongal' on Jan 14, 'Maattuppongal' on Jan 15, and 'Thiruvalluvar Day' on Jan 16.

Bogi is celebrated to rid the society of evil. People clean up their houses of junk material and old clothes. Houses are painted white. Farm animals are given a bath and are decorated with colored powders and paints.

Pongal is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month, Thai considered to be an auspicious month. The Sun God is worshipped. In rural areas people gather in front of their houses and cook pongal in clay pots. Stoves are made with stones and wood is used as fuel. When the pongal is almost made, everybody shouts in ecstasy pongal o pongal. The overflowed milk is believed to be a sign of a prosperous agricultural season ahead. People visit their friends and relatives. Pongal food and sweets are exchanged among neighbors and relatives. The sugar cane crop ripens at the time of Pongal. Harvested sugarcane is available in markets and kids can be seen walking around everywhere, crunching sugarcane.

Festivals of India

About Tamil Nadu


Sapphire God

The next day is the day for farm animals - especially bulls. Most farmers still use olden day machinery for plowing and for irrigation. Survival without bulls would be difficult. Bulls, cows and other farm animals are worshipped on this day. Bull fights or Manju Virattu also takes place on this day. Every house nurtures at least one bull to be a fierce fighter. The horns are periodically sharpened. Traditionally it is believed that a family loses status if it has no warrior bulls. Farmers gather to display their fierce bulls. Each bull has a cloth tied around its neck containing money. The owner of the bull challenges the rest of the people to bring the bull under control and get the victory cloth away from its neck. The bulls are infuriated with lots of noise from the drums, whistles, shouts and even fume. Fatal accidents happen at times. The bulls are overpowered sometimes but it is a difficult task. If the bull is overpowered, the owner of the bull has to invite the conqueror to his house and serve a lavish meal.


Thiruvalluvar Day
Thiruvalluvar made a significant contribution to Tamil Literature with Thirukkural. There are 1,330 verses of two lines each in this work and they talk about all aspects of human life. People visit their native towns and villages during the harvest festival season.

Tourist Fair
In January, the sun gets into a holiday mood and Chennai gets a cool respite from the heat. Time for family outings to the colourful TTDC Trade Fair. The exhibition presents a panorama of Tamil Nadu - places of tourist interest, cultural wealth and economic progress.

Madurai brings you a spectacular re-enactment of the marriage of the Pandiyan princess, Meenakshi to Lord Sundareswarar. An ancient legend unfolds right before ones eyes as Lord Vishnu rides to his sister's wedding on a gleaming real-gold horse chariot.


Dance Festival
Held every year in January, the month long Mamallapuram Dance Festival brings Mamallapuram to life celebrating a cultural gala. Odissi, Kuchupudi, Kathakali and Bharatanatyam, the most expressive of Indian classical dances are performed against the serene backdrop of temple, sand and sea.

Natyanjali Dance Festival
The temple city of Chidambaram pays special tribute to Lord Nataraja, the cosmic dancer, in a divine setting. Chidambaram's gold-roofed temple with pillars depicting Lord Nataraja in 108 poses from Bharatanatyam becomes a venue of hectic religious activity at this time.


Held once in 12 years at Kumbakonam - the temple city that gets its name from Kumbha - the divine pot. Legend has it that Brahma, the creator, held a pot containing nectar and the seed of creation. Shiva, in the form of a hunter, shot an arrow at the pot - spilling the nectar into the famous Mahamagam tank at the Adi Kumbeswarar Temple.


Arubathimoovar refers to the 63 saints of Shiva canonised for leading exemplary lives of devotion and penance. Bronze figures of these 63 saints adorn the magnificent Kapaliswar Temple at Mylapore, Chennai. Once every year, they are carried in a colourful procession through the streets of Mylapore.

Summer Festival
The summer festival might find you in the 'Queen of Hill Stations', evergreen Ooty; exquisite Kodaikkanal or enjoying the salubrious climbs of Yercaud - where boat races, flower and fruit shows are specially organised. It also presents a splendid opportunity to go trekking in any of Tamil Nadu's hill stations that promise unforgettable holidays off the beaten track.

Saral Vizha
This festival makes a celebration out of a simple ritual bath. And indeed, a bath at the picturesque Courtallam waterfalls is no ordinary event. The healing waters of the roaring Courtallam are famed for their medicinal properties.


A truly secular festival - where devotees flock to the shrine of saint Quadirwali, believed to bless people of all faiths. One of the descendants of the Saint is chosen as a Peer or spiritual leader and is honoured with offerings. On the tenth day of the festival, the Saint's tomb is anointed with sandalwood - and later the holy sandal paste, renowned for its healing powers, is distributed to everyone.

Dancing in a hypnotic trance to the rhythm of drums, devotees of Muruga carry the KavadI, a flower-decked decoration, all the way up the Palani Hills to fulfil their vow. According to Hindu mythology, Idumban is said to have carried two sacred hillocks on two ends of a pole placed on his shoulders, up this hill.

Wondrous legends surround the church - the most famous being that of ship-wrecked Portuguese sailors who in the 16th century vowed to build a great shrine for the Virgin Mary for saving their lives in a terrible storm. The Velankanni festival attracts thousands clad in orange robes to the sacred spot where the ship landed. Equally famous are the Virgin Mary's miraculous healing powers - earning for the church the name 'Lourdes of the East'.


Literally, this means the festival of nine nights taking unique and different forms in different states of India - all to propitiate the goddess Shakti for power, wealth and knowledge.

Karthigai Deepam
Rows of glittering earthen lamps outside every home and the joyous burst of firecrackers mark Tamil Nadu's Festival of Lights.

Music Festival
In December, Chennai celebrates her priceless heritage of Carnatic music and dance.

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Editor: Romola Butalia       (c) India Travelogue. All rights reserved.