Around 50 foreign tourists get a glimpse of Tamil culture
A bumpy bullock cart ride, the traditional ‘melam', a diffusion of intricate kolams, a cocktail of folk arts and martial arts, and the spill over of sweet pongal. The concoction of celebratory gestures brewed by Tiruchi Travel Federation (TTF) and the Department of Tourism and Culture at the Pongal Tourism Festival was an attempt to replicate a rural ambience for foreign tourists at Mukkombu on Thursday.
Around 50 foreign tourists hailing from England, France, Italy, South Africa Sweden and the U.S.A had a foretaste of the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu and a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Indian culture. While some carried off the sari elegantly, a few took on the reins of the bullock cart, others shook a leg with ‘karagams' perched on their heads and all joined in the chorus of ‘Happy Pongal' when the pongal spilled over.
T.H.Radhakrishnan, Media Coordinator, TTF said the festival intended to promote Tiruchi as a centre for culture tourism and showcase Indian culture.
The complimentary package for the visitors kickstarted with a bullock cart ride and traditional welcome with garlands and ‘arathi'.
Preparation of Pongal was the highlight of the event and the spillover of pongal cooked in brightly painted earthenware was greeted with enthusiastic cries. Folk artistes from Thanjai Kalaimagal Nadaga Mandram notched up the celebratory mood with folk music to the tune of nadaswaram, thavil and other instruments.
A spate of folk arts like oyilattam, thapattam, kavadi and karagattam, to the accompaniment of rhythmic beats had the tourists in a thrall. And euphoria mingled with excitement as the guest tried their hands at ‘uriyadi' or pot breaking.
“What I love best about India is the warmth of the people. They make immediate eye-contact and you feel an instant connection with them,” said Paul, an American tourist, while Katie Langdon who was enamoured by the drums as much as the sugarcane juice, had this to say, “You can see that people are proud of their culture and very eager to showcase it. It is was festive and fun.”
A rangoli competition, keeping with the spirit of the festival was organised and women from various self help groups who assisted in preparing Pongal participated. Collector Mahesan Kasirajan, the chief guest welcomed the foreign tourists and gave away mementoes.
V.Vasudevan, president, M.A.Maluk Mohamed, joint secretary N.Rathnakumar, treasurer, were among those present on the occasion. Members from the TTF felt that monetary support from the government could have made it possible for the event on a bigger scale.