While the rest of the district celebrated ‘Kanum Pongal’ by visiting their relatives and having picnics at Mukombu, the people of Kodiyalam stayed put in their village busy with preparations for a grand event: the State department of tourism was bringing over 70 international tourists to their village and their job was to offer on a platter the culture behind celebrating Pongal, the harvest festival.
Jointly organised by the district administration, the event hoped to give the visitors from countries like France, Poland, Holland, U.S.A., U.K., Malaysia, China, the Netherlands, Ireland and Israel, a slice of Tamil arts and culture. The traditional welcome with aarthi and garlands; the bullock cart ride into the village on paths flanked by paddy fields; the display of the intricate and colourful kolams; and the servings of the traditional pongal dishes seemed to capture the fancy of the tourists. “We sent out invitations to the various hotels tourists are staying at asking them to participate in the Pongal celebrations at Kodiyalam,” said Collector Jayashree Muralidharan, who took part in the festivities. The Collector also walked the tourists through the village, explaining the rituals behind the four-day festival, the usage of rice flour to draw the kolams, the significance of celebrating a harvest festival and worshipping of cows and bulls among other things. Referring to ‘jallikattu’, the bull taming contest famous in Tamil Nadu, she said, “The winner of ‘jallikattu’ was once seen as the ideal groom for a bride because of his display of courage in front of a raging animal.”
The villagers had also set up an arts and culture corner, where the foreigners were given demonstrations in making pottery, Thanjavur paintings and art plates, terracotta statues, thalayatti bommais (toys), garland making. The kili josiyam stall, however, drew the biggest crowds.
While many of the tourists expressed their gratitude for the villagers’ hospitality, Maria Jawlowska from Poland won the hearts of the locals by speaking in Tamil. “I love the way in which you have welcomed us into your village and shown us a glimpse of your lives,” said Maria, who has completed her graduation in Tamil at Poland. Presently, she is part of an exchange programme at the department of Tamil at Annamalai University. The day wound up with folk dance performances and the traditional uriyadi sport, where blindfolded men tried to break a pot tied up in air with a pole.
Prizes were distributed to winners of a ‘kolam’ contest organised as part of the celebration.