About South Indian Harvest Festival
Festivals owing their origin to south India are unique. Some bear religious sanctions while remaining are marked with cultural extravaganza and community gatherings. The otherwise quiet states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala wear vibrant masks during the course of festivities. Food, illuminations, new clothes, dance are highlights of southern carnivals. Let’s take a quick look at leading southern fests.
The most important festival in Kerala is celebrated between August and September. This harvest fest is celebrated by Hindus. According to legend, King Mahabali, a demon ruled Kerala. Despite his negative streak, people were happy under his reign. Mahabali, who idolized Lord Vishnu was popular among his subjects. Seeing this, other gods plotted against him and requested Lord Vishnu to wipe Mahabali off earth. Disguised as Vamana, Lord Vishnu sent Mahabali underearth, but allowed him to meet his followers once a year. Onam marks the homecoming of Mahabali.This ten-day fest is celebrated with boat races, fireworks, music, feasts and dance. Educational institutions are mostly closed during this period. Malayalees flaunt new clothes to offer a vote of thanks to the Almighty for a good harvest.
Pookalam, a floral carpet is placed in front of every house to welcome the King. Home-cooked meals are mostly preferred. The delicacies are served on plantain leaf. A sweet dish, Payasam, is a must have! Other dishes include banana chips, puffed rice laddoos, banana pudding and Ada Pradhaman (made of dry fruits, ghee, sugar and palm jaggery).
Kathakali dance, elephant parade and Vallamkali (boat races) are a part of festivities too. Countless oarsmen row traditional snake boats to the rhythm of cymbals and drums. The snake boats are seen with elongated hulls and sterns that look like raised hood of cobras. The banks are thronged by thousands of spectators cheering their team. The backwaters of Kerala turn out to be naval battlegrounds!
Pongal, one of the biggest global harvest festival is marked with elaborate celebrations in Tamil Nadu. Scheduled on January 13, every year, people plunge into festivities with worship and feats. Lord Indra is thanked for bountiful harvest. The four day festival is observed with great enthusiasm among farmers.
On day one, called Bhogi, people clean their house and throw unwanted items in bonfire. Kolam (designs made of rice and colored chalk powder) adorns entrance of every house. People usually dance around the bonfire in evenings, followed by feats.
Day Two, Surya Pongal sees people worship the Sun God. Sakkarai, a sweet dish prepared with milk, rice and jaggery is cooked in an earthen pot.
Day Three — Mattu Pongal, sees people decking their cattle up with bright clothes, bells and coloring their horns. This is done to thank the cattle who help to plough fields resulting in good harvest.
Day Four — Kannum Pongal is marked by community gathering. People meet and greet relatives and friends, exchange gifts and feast together.
Delicacies include Melagu pongal (made of rice, pepper and pulses), Puli pongal (tamarind rice usually served for dinner) and coriander rice.
People from various backgrounds come forth to be a part of these secular festivals. Warm greetings, selfless participation free from religious barriers are a high of the harvest fests. If you want to explore southern livelihood, beyond nature’s bounty — book your tickets now!
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