The residents of the agraharam at Thuvariman, a village in the Tirupparankundram Panchayat Union of the district, were treated to a strange sight in the morning hours of Friday.

A column of nine bullock carts wound its way through their streets. Not a strange sight in itself, the drivers and occupants of the carts made the difference.

The occupants were foreigners who wielded the ropes, the stick and donned the ‘thalapas’ driving the carts around the streets. Enjoying every moment as they were, this was just the beginning.

Diverse gathering

The third day of the Pongal Tourist Festival, being organised in Madurai district annually by the State Tourism Department, saw more than 175 tourists from countries as diverse as Switzerland, Germany, Malaysia, Argentina, Norway, Italy, Netherland and Czechoslovakia, said K. Dharmaraj, District Tourist Officer.

After being accorded a traditional welcome of flower garlands and tilak, the foreigners were treated to some enchanting display of rural folk arts and martial arts.

Starting off with the ‘Oyilattam’ performed by Jothi Jegan and party, others folk arts such as ‘Poikalattam’ and ‘Karagattam’ were also performed by ‘Madapuram’ Karuppiah troupe. It was followed by a martial arts performance such as ‘Silambattam’.

If the fire dance that followed mesmerised the foreigners, the fencing and other performances using knives and ropes of fire took the audience’s breath away. The martial arts were performed by Ravi and his troupe.

Sumptuous lunch

The tasty ‘Pongal’ dish that was served as lunch after the two-and-a-half hour programme proved to be the icing on the cake.

Terming the display of arts and skills as “very good”, Erling B. Havgsand (17) of Norway said that this festival provided an insight into rural India and its culture.

According to Claudia Liboui (45) of Argentina, the programme was full of colour and it was enjoyable to share the culture of the place.

Thuvariman Panchayat President T. Kannan said a lot of care was taken in organising the arrangements to ensure the foreigners had a memorable experience.

The Day Two (Thursday) of the Pongal festival saw more than 300 foreigners enjoy the cultural programmes performed by M.S. Satyam and Party at King Tirumalai Naick Palace.

According to Mr. Dharmaraj, this was the first time that Pongal celebrations were being organised at this Palace by the Tourism Department. As the response had been very good owing to the publicity campaign, this could become a regular feature in future years also, he added.

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