“The pageant titled ‘Iniyavai Naarpathu,' or ‘Sweet Forty,' was scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. from the Lakshmi Mills Junction. But, Avanashi Road started filling up as early as 11 a.m.

The wide roads along the 10-km stretch could not contain the deluge of public who came to witness the procession of 40 tableaux that was taken out as part of the World Classical Tamil Conference here on Wednesday.

Even though the pageant was being telecast live, people from all walks of life, from different age groups, and from various districts in the State and also other States had come to witness a resplendent show of Tamil glory.

In addition to the tableaux there were 2,000 dancers divided into 40 groups of 50 each who performed as many traditional dance forms of the State. They were positioned between the tableaux and added colour and vibrancy.

Mercy Suguna (39) beat most others in terms of distance travelled. She came all the way from Mumbai. Left with only the waiting room of the railway station for her accommodation, she was sitting on a pavement eating biscuits for lunch. Being robbed of most of her belongings on her way to Coimbatore had not deterred her love for her mother tongue. Given a chance she would love to speak of the lingual fervour of her fellow Daravi-ites.

Azhagarswamy (85) came with his entire family of children and grandchildren . The family from Saibaba Colony had packed lunch and snacks since they had reached Avanashi Road by 11 a.m. They planned to accompany the tableaux till the destination, as in a pilgrimage. The family would visit the conference during the following days.

K. Mahalingam with his wife and two children aged 17 and 13 came all the way from Villupuram. They came straight from the railway station to view the pageant. “It's a rare opportunity to show the children what our culture and tradition are made of,” Mr. Mahalingam, who is a Health Inspector, said.

There were many like them who had braved the heat, the traffic diversions, and other inconveniences to be part of a unique occasion. Among the onlookers were pregnant women, women with infants, children, and the aged. Many were perched on rooftops, terraces, and the new stainless steel traffic umbrellas.

The police in all their strength had to take great efforts to control the crowd. P. Sivanandi, Inspector General of Police, West Zone, said everything had been done to ensure smooth progress .

Expressing happiness over the fact that the pageant had attracted so many, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi said that even the rehearsal that was held the earlier night had attracted an excellent response.

The pageant was not a solemn one but a vibrant one where people alongside the dancers applauded and shook a leg. The joie-de-vivre brought out by the dancers was a way of making known the greatness and glory of Tamil in their own way.