An eight-km stretch of the arterial Avanashi Road in the city turned into a colourful canvas on Wednesday evening, with a 40-float pageantry depicting various memorable phases of Tamil Nadu's culture, literature and history.

The three-hour procession of tableaux was part of the inauguration of the World Classical Tamil Conference that began here in the morning. The floats symbolised the spirit of the conference, providing an insight into the rich legacy of Tamils.

After inaugurating the conference in the morning, President Pratibha Patil, along with Governor Surjith Singh Barnala and Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi watched the floats from specially erected dais.

The floats provided vivid images of the achievements of the Tamil people, right from literary excellence to economic strength. Love, friendship, devotion, valour, love for nature, unity, architecture in the State, pioneering shipping for trade, the bravery of women, the sacrifice of revolutionary warriors, the contribution of farmers and toilers and an emphasis on environment protection were among the 40 themes presented by the floats.

Riding horses, men in traditional attire waved flags of the conference and led the pageantry. They were followed by a group playing the nagaswaram.

The first float was a part of this musical treat. Titled “Ceremonial Music,” it had the statue of saint-poet Tiruvalluvar. The second float titled “ Kurinji” showed how Tamils related themselves closely with nature. The hospitality of Tamil people was brought out in a float “Palai.” The verdict of King Manuneedhi Cholan ordering the execution of his son for killing a calf, Kannagi's fury that burnt Madurai for injustice meted out to her, Manimegalai providing food to the poor with “akshayapatram,” the concept of sharing promoted by Pandya King Ezhamperuvaluthi, poet Mahakavi Bharathi's unity of mankind and his sync with nature were also the subjects of floats.

The last float had LED screens playing the conference theme song. The crowd erupted into a roar when a shot of Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi at a literary work appeared on the screen.