Tamil Nadu

Fishermen celebrate Pongal by offering worship to Kadal Matha


The unique custom is practised only in one coastal hamlet


When people elsewhere in Tamil Nadu were busy buying clay pots, sugarcane and turmeric plants to offer worship to the Sun God on the occasion of Pongal on Sunday, fishermen in Morepannai in the district were busy selecting Saptha Kannikas and making a miniature sail boat to offer worship to the Sea Goddess (Kadal Matha).

Fishermen in this coastal hamlet had been celebrating Pongal, marking the birth of the Tamil month of Thai, in a different style for the third generation now. Their ancestors began the practice of offering worship to Kadal Matha when farmers offered worship to the Sun God.

The entire village wore a festive look on Saturday (January 13) on the eve of Pongal, when village leaders assembled in front of Sri Ranabathrakali Amman Temple to select Saptha Kannikas (seven girls who are yet to attain puberty) to lead the festival. After the girls were selected, the festivity began at an auspicious time on Sunday morning.

The Saptha Kannikas were dressed like brides, when a select group of fishermen gave finishing touches to the miniature sail boat. After the girls, assisted by elders, prepared pongal in separate pots in front of the temple, the temple priest made deepams with small portions of the delicacy and placed them in the sail boat as villagers stood in reverence.

After completing the rituals, the girls, wearing garlands, were taken in a procession to the sea by hundreds of men and women. Then the girls, carrying kalasams filled with holy water on their heads and led by village leader M. Vellikaruppu (57), entered the sea to offer worship.

Standing in waist-deep water, the girls poured the holy water in the sea and took a holy dip as the village leader set the sail boat in the sea, hailing the Kadal Matha as their source of wealth. “We don’t know how it started, but we have been celebrating this style of Pongal for the third generation now,” said Durai Balan, a social activist.

If the Sun God blessed the farmers with bountiful harvest, the Kadal Matha blessed the fishermen with good catch throughout the year, he said.

This practice was unique to pattam katti fishermen only in this hamlet and fisherfolk in other hamlets did not follow it, he said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:49:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/fishermen-celebrate-pongal-by-offering-worship-to-kadal-matha-ramanathapuram/article22444351.ece

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