Webpages of Tamil Electronic Library (C)K. Kalyanasundaram
Hindu, Muslim and Christian faith-basedTamil festivals
Click here to go the webpage listing of specific dates of Hindu, Christian and Muslim Festivals for the year 2006
PONGALPongal is one of the major festivals for Tamils and often referred to as "thamizhar thirunaaL". At the beginning of the tamil month "thai" it is celebrated for three days: first day devoted to getting rid of old things (Bhogi), second day involves main Pongal celebrations followed by Maattu Pongal on the third day. Many extend these to a fourth day called "kannip pongal" or "kaaNum pongal" when youngers go around and seek the blessings of the elders. On Bhogi day, a bon fire is lit with all the agricultural and household wastes.
On the Pongal day, Sun makes its moves towards north/enters Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn the goat) and marks the beginning of Uttaraayana punyakaalam. Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. After he fell to the arrows of Arjuna Bhishma used his boon to choose the time of his death. He waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth.
To formers Pongal marks the beginning of the harvesting season. People take oil bath early in the morning and wear new clothes. Sweet pongal and special sweets are prepared for the occasion. Freshly cut Sugarcane is used for decoratation and later consumption by all.
Mattu Pongal is a celebration by the agrarian community that thankfully acknowledges the participation of the animals mainly bulls in ploughing the fields and assisting the farmers in raising a good crop. The animals are decorated and are included in some races, both to entertain and to boost their endurance capacity. The festival is known as "Jallikattu". These races include cock fights, bull fights and ram fights. "Thiruvalluvar Day" is celebrated on this Mattu Pongal day when Tamilnadu Govt announces awards for best tamil literary works.
Thai PoosamKartikeya, the son of Shiva and Parvati is worshipped in Tamil Nadu on Thai Pusam. Special Poojas and festivities take place on this Poosam day in the Murugan Temples of Palani, Thiruttani,... and also at the Vandiyur Mariamman Temple (near Madurai). Many temples have the boat festival (theppa utsavam) on this day when the Lord would be coming out over a float on the temple pond.
As a mark of dedication and respect, people engage in "fire walk"- walk over a path of burning coal. They exit the path miraculously without being scorched, signifying Kartikeya’s everlasting protection. A webpage on thaipoosam
Maasi MahamCelebrated on the Makam day in the tamil month of Maasi. On this day, the deities are taken around in procession to the nearby rivers/tanks/sea for bath. It is an important festival day for Lord Muruga. Once in 12 years, the Maham festival is celebrated in a grand manner (known as Mahamaham) in Kumbakonam.
Maha Sivarathri is a festival day devoted to Lord Siva, celebrated on the amavaasai day in the month of Maasi. Sivaratri also signifies the end of winter and the arrival of spring. Unlike each Hindu festival which begins with the ritualistic worship of the presiding deity followed by a feast, Sivaratri differs in that one dedicates the entire day of twenty-four hours to the worship of Lord Siva. In the evening people generally go to a nearby temple where in the company of many others they listen to recitals of the legends and their meanings. They do not sleep that night, but remain awake. The worship continues throughout the night either by way of chanting the Rudram, singing in eulogy of Lord Siva or/and listening to religious discourses interpreting the legends associated with the festival. Mahasivarathri is celebrated in a grand scale in the temples of Madurai and Rameswaram. In the rituals, leaves of a forest tree Bilva (Aegle marmelos/wood apple) are traditionally used in the services.
Ugaadi, Telugu New Year's DayIt is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this Ugadi day. Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month and new day. Special dishes are prepared for the occasion: Mixed rice made with a specially made spiced Tamarind Paste (known as Puliyotharai /pulihora/puliogure in Tamilnadu, Andhra pradesh and Karnataka). As with the Pongal day for Tamils, Ugadi day celebrations are marked by literary discussions, poetry recitations (kavi sammelanam) and recognition of authors of literary works through awards.
Sri Rama NavamiSri Rama Navami as a festival marks the birth of Lord Rama but is celebrated and worshipped in the form of re-creating the wedding between Lord Rama and Sita by the Hindus seeking well being of all people. Such community celebrations are held in not only Rama temples but also in many other temples too. Usually such ritualistic wedding celebration in homes is quite uncommon. The ritual of Rama's wedding is concluded with prasadam of 'vada pappu' (soaked lentil) and panakam (sherbat made of jaggery dissolved in water to which pepper powder and cardamom powder are added).
Panguni UthiramPanguni Uthiram is celebrated as the Wedding day for the Gods/Celestial couples in all temples of Tamilnadu. It is celebrated over a 10-day period in many Murugan Temples. Inscriptions indicate existence of these celebrations as early as that of the Chola King Rajaraja Chola.
Tamil New Year DayAs the name indicates, this day marks the beginning of the Tamil New Year (and the tamil month Chithirai).
BaisakhiThe Hindu Solar New Year Day. People bathe in rivers and go to temples to offer puja (worship). Baisakhi is of special significance to the Sikhs. On this day in 1699, Guru Gobind Singh organised them into the 'Khalsa', brotherhood of man. In Punjab, farmers start harvesting on this day with great fanfare. Villagers perform the 'Bhangra' folk-dance.
Chitra PournamiThe pournami day in the tamil month of Chitrai is celebrated in a grand manner for nearly a week ("chithirath thiruvizha") in Madurai Temples. Located 21 kms northwest of Madurai is a Vishnu temple called Azhagar Temple. Here 'Vishnu' presides as Meenakshi's brother 'Kallazhagar'. During the Chitrai festival when the celestial marriage of Meenakshi to Sundareswarar is celebrated, Azhagar travels to Madurai. A gold processional icon called the Sundararajar is carried by devotees in procession from Azhagar Kovil to Madurai for wedding ritual. Hundreds of special Mandapas are erected all along the route to Madurai to welcome Kallazhagar. According to the Legend, Kallazhagar arrived late for the marriage of his sister Meenakshi. Taking note that the marriage has already taken place, he plunges into the river Vaigai and walks through to nearby Vandiyur. Adults and children join together in spraying water at Lord Kallazhagar as he walks towards the river bank of Vaigai in total disappointment. The whole city of Madurai takes on a festive mood for this whole week.
In Srivilliputhur, Chaitrotsavam festival takes place for 9 days. On the day of chitra pournami Andal in Sesha Vahanam and Rangamannar in Kudurai Vahanam stop near a stream on the way to Thiruvannamalai where the "Vayyali" function takes place.
Vaikasi VisakamThe pournami day of the tamil month Vaikasi is celebrated in grand manner in Murugan Temples (Palani, Thiruchendoor,...) when large number of people go to the temple carrying "Kavadi". Valli Kalyanam is celebrated in Murugan Temples on Vaikaasi Visaakam day.
Vaikasi Visakam also marks the birthday of Alwar Saint Nammalwar and this is celebrated in Kancheepuram Varadaraja Perumal Temple as "Garuda utcavam". Lord Varadaraja is taken in a Garuda vahana to Nammalwar sannadhi for blessing of the latter.
Aadi pandigaiAadi perukku
Celebrated on the 18th day of the tamil month Aadi in Kaveri River basin districts of Tanjore and Trichi when the water level in the river rises significantly high. Prayers are made and offerings given to Goddess Kaveri deities made out of clays.
Aadi amaavaasaiAadi pooram
Andal, the incarnation of Mother Earth, Bhoodevi, is one of the twelve Alwars, great devotees of Vishnu. "Aadi Pooram" and "Aani Thirumanjanam" are important festivals to Andal.
Krishna Jayanthi/GokulashtamiThe birth of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu in the Dwapar Yuga, is celebrated all over India as Krishna Janmashtami. This day is marked by religious festivity and devotion. Lord Krishna or "He who is all-attractive", descended on this earth to subdue the rakshasas ruthlessly and save mankind from all evils. He is regarded as the epitome of transcendental qualities which made him the most loved one.
The modern day festivity recreates the birth of the Lord. It is celebrated with utmost gaiety and fervor in Mathura and Brindavan. The towns are colorfully decorated wearing a festive look. The main temple at Mathura and Brindavan are bedecked with flowers and Lord Krishna is clothed in jewellery. The rituals begin ahead of time in the evening and culminate at midnight, the time of Krishna's birth. A crawling image of Krishna is cradled amidst singing of bhajans and chantings of Hare Rama Hare Krishna.
In South India, Janmashtami or Gokulashtami, as it is called, is celebrated with prayers, devotional renditions and offering of fruits and special prasadams to Lord Krishna. People usually observe fast on this day. In the houses, mango leaves are tied to the doorways to mark the auspicious occasion. Colorful floral designs are drawn on the front yard. Inside the house, a small woodden mandapam is erected and decorated with flowers and plantain leaves. An icon of a crawling Krishna in a silver cradle or leaf is placed in the mandapam. In some houses, a typical setting of Gokulam is arranged with mud images of Devaki, Vasudeva with little Krishna perched in a basketon his head, a cow, besides other things related to Krishna's legends. Small foot marks produced by impressions with rice powder mixed with water are believed to symbolically recreate the coming of Krishna into peoples' homes.
The birth anniversary of Lord Krishna, the incarnation of Vishnu and the author of the Bhagavad Gita (Song Celestial), is observed all over. It is celebrated with special eclat at Mathura and Brindavan where Lord Krishna spent his childhood. Night-long prayers are offered and religious hymns are sung in temples. Scenes are enacted from Lord Krishna's early life.
Ganesha ChaturthiGanesha, the elephant-headed son of Shiva and Parvati is widely worshipped as the munificent god of wisdom. Ganesh Chaturthi is a festival in his honour and is celebrated in the states of Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. Ganesha (also called Ganapati /Vighneshvara or Vighnahartaa) is the Lord of and destroyer of obstacles. People mostly worship Him asking for siddhi, success in undertakings, and buddhi, intelligence. He is worshipped before any venture is started. He is also the God of education, knowledge and wisdom, literature, and the fine arts.
Throughout India the festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm and devotion, even lasting for nearly 10 days in Maharashtra and Andhra pradesh. During long periods of anti-British rule protests and freedom struggle of the 19th Century, more and more people become unduly religious, particularly in Maharashtra. This lead to development of religious events such as Ganesha Chaturthi as a major community event. To appreciate this occasion, one must go to Mumbai where preparations begin months in advance. Images of Ganesha are installed within homes as well as in places of assembly. Elaborate arrangements are made for lighting and decoration and Ganesha is fervently worshipped for about 7-10 days. On the day of the Chaturthi, i.e. the last of the days dedicated to the elephant-headed god, thousands of processions converge on the beaches of Mumbai to immerse the holy idols in the sea. This immersion is accompanied by drum beats, devotional songs and dancing.
Dasara/Navarathi, Saraswathi Pooja, Vijaya DhasamiThis is among the most auspicious days in the Hindu calendar and comes as the finale of the nine-day festival, Navaraatri. this festival of victory is preceded by worship of Saraswati the Goddess of Learning and of Durgaa the Goddess of Strength. Grand processions of all Gods and goddesses are taken out in every town and village on this day, signifying the victory of the forces of righteousness over those of wickedness.
Vijaya Dashami is preceded by the Aayudha Pooja on the Mahaanavami day, when not only the weapons are worshipped by the warriors, but the blacksmith, the potter, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the typist, the musician, the artist and every type of technical worker - worships his instruments and tools. Buses, trucks and huge machines in factories are all decorated and worshipped
Dussehra and Durga Puja
Among the most popular of all festivals, it symbolises the triumph of good over evil. Every region observes this 10-day festival in a special way. In the North, 'Ram Lila' recitations and music recall the life of the legendary hero, Rama. Large fire cracker--stuffed effigies of Ravana, symbolising evil, explode to the cheers of thousands of spectators. In Kulu against the backdrop of snow-covered mountains, villagers dressed in their colourful best assemble to take out processions of local deities accompanied by music on pipes and drums. In Karnataka, Dussehra is celebrated with magnificent pomp and pageantry. In Bengal and the East, it is called 'Durga Puja'. Images of Goddess Durga are worshipped for four days and, on the last day, taken out in a procession and immersed in a river or the sea.
Vijayadashmi or Dussera
Vijayadashmi or Dussera, the day of victory, after nine days of battle is celebrated by all Hindu families. Dussera is one of the four auspicious days of the year. On the same day, Rama, an avatar of Vishnu fought Ravana, a ten headed demon and restored dharma (righteousness ) on earth. In rural India, children returned to school on Vijayadashmi which is also dedicated to Saraswati. On this day their teachers would draw the symbol of Saraswati, the Goddess of Learning on their slates. On Vijayadashmi, people worship weapons, tools and implements of their trade. In the second half of Ashwin, Diwali lights up the sky, the festival of lights that celebrates the return of Rama and his coronation in Ayodhya. People light lamps and adorn doorways with flower garlands to welcome Rama, Sita and Lakshmana home after fourteen years of exile. Dhanteras follows Diwali when wealth in worshipped. Narakchaturdashi is a festival that honours the heroic Krishna who rescued 16,000 princesses from Naraka's bondage.
Deepavali, the festival of lights, comes close on the heels of Dasara.
It is a festival that marks the victory of good over evil. Deepavali means a
"row of lights", and it brings along with it glowing happiness and the touch
of sparklers all around. In India, Deepavali is synonymous with the nightly
bursting of fire- crackers and the beautiful decoration of the houses with
earthenware lamps which is a feast for the eyes.
Ekaadasi, the 11th day of the lunar fortnight is auspicious to Vishnu. Vaikunta Ekaadasi, falling in December- January, is celebrated as a special festival when the "gates of Heaven" ceremoniously open for devotees to enter.
Full moon in the month of Phalgun (late February or early March).
This is pre-eminently the spring festival of Bharat. The trees are smiling with their
sprout of tender leaves and blooming flowers. With the harvest having been completed
and the winter also just ended, it is pre-eminently a festival of mirth and
merriment. Gulal (colored powder) is sprinkled on each other by elders and children,
men and women, rich and poor alike. All superficial social barriers are pulled down by
the all-round gaiety and laughter.
Kerala's most popular festival, celebrated with great enthusiasm, it is
primarily a harvest festival. The most exciting part of the festival is the
snake-boat race held at several places in the palm-fringed lagoons.
Onam festivities honor the ancient Asura king Mahabali.
According to legend, the gods were jealous of the king and sent
him into exile in the nether world, permitting him to return to
his people only once each year, during Onam. An over-the-top
welcome is prepared in every town. Dances and songs proclaim
the munificent reign of the king, and elaborate carpets of
flowers and colored powder are laid out on floors and streets.
The birth anniversary of the Prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster), who was born
at the beginning of the first millennium BC. It is one of the most
important Parsee festivals.
The poornima or the full moon in the month of Vaishak is an auspicious
day when one of the Dasaavataras the Buddha avatar came into being.
The poornima is significant for more reasons than one in the life of the Buddha.