Festival of Andhra Pradesh & Tamilnadu

Pongal (January): The three-day festival is the biggest event of the year for the Tamils as well as for the peoples of Andhra Pradesh. Bhogi-Pongal is the first of the three days, and is celebrated as a family festival. Surya-Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the Sun (Surya). On this day, Pongal (rice cooked in milk and jiggery) is boiled by women who offered it to the Sun. Friends greets one another by asking "is it boiled?" and the answer is "it is." Great rejoicing follows. Mattu-Pongal, the third day, is the day dedicated to the worship and venerations of cattle (mattu). The Pongal that has been offered to the local deities is given to the cattle to eat. Their horns are polished and flowers are hung around their necks.

Coloured balls of the Pongal are also made and lift in the open for birds. In Madurai, Triuchirapalli and Tanjori in Tamil Nadu and several places in Andhara Pradesh, a king of bull-fight, calling the "Jellikattu" is held. Bundles containing money are ties to the horn of ferocious bulls, and unarmed villagers try to wrest the bundles from them. Bullock cart race and cock fight are also held. In Andhra Pradesh, every household display its collections of dolly for three days.

With ingredients provide by the freshly gathered harvest, community meals are held at night. Everyone, however humble, is invited to sit at dinner with the richest member of the community. Even passers-by are invited to the feast.

Tyagaraja Festival (January): Tyagaraja was a South India composer and saint born in 1767, and is celebrated for the many Telugu songs he composed in praise of Rama. His life and work are source of great inspiration to young poets and musicians. At Tiruvaiyaru, about 13 Kms. (8 miles) from Tanjore, South India musicians gathers at the composer's memorial to sings in this memory. Young artiest believed that they will be blessed with a melodious voice if they anoint the shrine with honey and sing Tyagaraja's songs at his memorial.

The Brahmotsavam (March/April & December/January): This ten-day festival is celebrated with great éclat in the famous temple at Madurai, Kanchipuram and Tirupati. Intricately carved figurines of the temple deities are decked in splendid apparel, seated in magnificent carriages symbolic in character and taken out in a procession. Beautifully decorated elephants lead the processions and fireworks and crackers are let off along the route. Devotees follow the procession chanting verses from the scriptures and singing hymns, while house-holder along the route offers gifts to the deities.

The Teppam (February/March): At Mylapur Kapaleeswarar Temple and in the Parthasarthy Swamy Temple at Triplicane in Madras, this festival is seen at its best. Seated in a beautifully decorated teppam (float), the temple deity is floated in the tank. To the accompaniment of chanting by the priests, the teppam is taken round the tank three, five or seven times. The illuminated teppam is a pretty singer.

The Tamil and the Telugu New Year's Days: They are generally celebrated in March-April.

On the Tamil New Year's Day, a big Car Festival is held at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam. Festival are also held at Tiruvadamarudur near Kumbakonam. Festivals are also held at Triuchirapalli, Kanchipuram and many other places.

Madurai River Festival (April/May): The bank of the river Vaigai presents a glittering spectacle. The two deities, the god Sundaresa (incarnation of Shiva) and the goddess Meenakshi (incarnations of Parvati), with pearl crowns on their heads and riding o a golden bull, are taken out in a splendid procession from the Meenakshi temple. The god Alagar (incarnations of Vishnu) gives his sister, Meenakshi, in marriage to Sundaresa amide great rejoicing. Devotees clothes in yellow and red dancing among the precisionists and spray colour water on them.

River Festival on the bank of the Kaveri (August): the village deities are taken out of the river in processions, preceded by ancient manuscripts and records possessed by the villagers. Milk, rice beads, red bangles and other artiest symbolizing fertility and prosperity are also carried in the procession and immersed in the river. The river goddess is invoked and deities are bathed.

Festival at Velanganni (September/October): Roman Catholics believe that a miracle took place at Velanganni, about seven miles from Nagapatnam. An image of the Virgin Mary was miraculously brought up in a fisherman's net. It has since been housed in local church. Thousands of pilgrims flock to this 'Lourdes of the East' to be cured of their infirmities.

Navaratri (October/November): The first three days of this nine-day festival are dedicated to the goddess Lakshmi, the next three days to Shakti or Parvati, and the last three to Sarasvati. Every home has a Kolu, a decorated stepped platform covered with toys and clay figurines, representing gods and goddess and animals. Gifts are exchanged. In the main room a Kalasam (a silver, copper or clay vessel with a cocoanut in it, representing goddess Durga) is placed, and girls dance and sing.

Karthika Festival (November/December): This is the South India festival of lights, and is celebrated on the night of the full moon. The hill of Arunachal at Tiruvannamalai is the venue of the main celebrations. A huge become is lit before the Shiva temple there and remains ablaze for the several days. Devotees to Shiva believed that he embodies the universe. So in the five great South India Shiva temples, he is worshipped in the form of the five elements which make up the universe-air, water, earth, ether and fire.

Vaikunth Ekadashi (November/December): Legend has it that Mohini, the divine temptress, tried to persuade the pious King Rukmangada to partake of food on a day the scriptures ordained that a fast should be kept. In sore distress, he prayed to Vishnu, who saved him from the temptations and took him to his celestial abode (Vaikunth). An interesting feature of this festival is a gateways that is thrown open to the thousands of pilgrims who come to the temples on this days. This gateway is called the 'Vaikunth Vasal' or "Vaikunth Dwara" and to pass through it is to earn admittance to paradise. At Srirangam, a river-island tower near Tiruchirapalli, this festival is observed for twenty days.

St. Thomas' Day (December): St. Thomas Didymus, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, is belived to have been the founder of the Christian Church in South India. Impressive processions are taken out, and services are held in Churches.

The Fire-Walking Festivals: Fire-Walking festivals are held in the villages in honour of the local deities and to ensure good harvest. They are held once a year, and the time is fixed by the local soothsayer.

The chief priest of the temple and the twelve "hero-youths", who are to perform this feat, go out in a procession from the temples to bathe. An elaborately decorated image of the temples deity is held above the Chief priest's head. The 'hero-youths' carry colorful chhatris (fringed Umbrellas) over their heads. Returning to the temples, the procession presents a weird sight. Smeared with turmeric powder, they begin the dance that culminates in fire-walking. They walk over long pit covered with live coal and come out unscathed. After this, singing and feasting containing late into the night.

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