This year, do something different on Maatu Pongal. The author draws up a list of some nearby farms where you can take part in the colourful festivities

For those in cities, Maatu Pongal (January 15) is just another holiday. But, in villages, it means fun and festivity. In the days preceding the festival, farmers and their families have their work cut out. The maatu kombus have to be polished and painted bright, the cattle have to be scrubbed clean and their foreheads decorated with pottu. Pongal is made, the cattle are worshipped and fed. It is a day of thanksgiving. Happily, Coimbatore is still surrounded by villages. Take this opportunity to spend time in the sylvan countryside, taking in the fresh air and native customs and traditions.

Note: Call farms at least a day in advance before dropping in.

Periya Kaadu, Samathur

Maatu Pongal is celebrated as Patti Pongal in Samathur. It is a celebration that involves the entire village. They build an enclosure with wood and twigs where the cattle are let in. A small pond is built inside and an idol of Krishna, the cowherd god, placed there. Then, the villagers and other guests, numbering more than 2,500, gather to watch the cows being decorated and fed sweet pongal.

A cultural fest is also organised in the evening. There are competitions, a game of kabbadi, some kolaatam and finally, a burst of crackers.

Getting there: Samathur is 6 km from Pollachi; the farm is 1.5 km inside the village.

Telephone: 97877-77178.

Thenarasu Organic Farm, Aliyar Dam

Farmer Raja decks up his cattle on this day. The ropes that hold them are changed and their horns polished with oil till they shine. He also uses the opportunity to speak about why the horns must not be painted. All the farm hands join the celebrations where the guests of honour are the 15 resident cattle. They begin celebrations in the morning and close after lunch.

Getting there: The farm is opposite Aliyar Dam.

Telephone: 93445-55505.

Senaapathy Kangayam Cattle Research Foundation, Kuttapalayam

Sixty cattle and 17 calves — they will all enjoy a day-long holiday from work on Maatu Pongal. They will be bathed, lined up and their horns decorated with kaavi.

Pongal, cooked using rice from the farm, organic jaggery and ghee from the cows, will be served on leaves of the castor plant. There will also be bananas, fresh from the farm.

Getting there: The farm is on the way from Kangayam to Erode.

Telephone: 04257-294234, 320685

Pudunilavu Organic Farm, Arachalur

Owner and organic farmer Ramasamy Selvam worships his cattle and goats. On Maatu Pongal, their horns are painted in dual colours — a choice of blue, green, yellow or red.

After the pooja, the cattle will be fed a meal of venpongal and sakkarai pongal, all cooked using organic ingredients.

That’s what you’ll get to partake of too.

Getting there: The farm is 21 km from Erode, one km before Arachalur.

Telephone: 94436-63562.

Mani Naidu Natural Farm

Owner N.G. Prabhuram is the president of the Indian Natural Farmers Organisation. And so, the celebrations are low-key and involve organic produce.

His farm is nourished only by the dung and urine of cattle; so, Geetha and her calf Kasthuri are the stars here. Prabhuram too does not paint the horns; instead, a thick paste of turmeric is applied on the horns and the body.

Simple celebrations follow in the evening. Pongal is made using hand-pounded rice from the farm and jaggery from the last harvest. This is fed to the cows and the guests who gather.

Getting there: The farm is in Kuniamuthur, a little off Aathupaalam

Telephone: 90251-63636.