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Pongal celebrated; Jallikattu ban, drought dampens spirit

Press Trust of India  |  Chennai 

Decorated earthern pots brimming with boiling rice, beating of drums and offering of sugarcane pieces to the Sun God at streets and temples marked the harvest festival of Pongal in today.

However, protests over banning of bull taming sport Jallikattu dampened the festive spirit in Madurai and the drought situation in delta districts affected the celebratory mood there.

Enthusiastic people across the state were seen preparing traditional food, offering prayers to the Sun God and using pots for boiling rice.

Streets in both rural and urban areas of the state were decked up with designs made of flour (called 'Kolam' in Tamil).

"Samathuva Pongal" (Egalitarian, community Pongal) was celebrated in several towns by local people including the state capital.

Residents converged in a common place and cooked Pongal (sweet rice made of jaggery with rice and milk, in a traditional mud pot) before offering it to the Sun God along with pieces of sugarcanes.

State government-organised Pongal fests were also held in places including Nilgiris where several foreign tourists participated in the celebrations.

However, anguished by the continuing ban on Jallikattu for the third year in a row, people in some villages in Madurai district observed the festival as "Black Pongal."

They hoisted black flags and held processions condemning PETA (an animal rights organisation) and demanded that the Centre take steps to conduct Jallikattu.

Even "Eruthattam" (an event in which bulls take part) which was organised in connection with the festival, was not permitted, according to some jallikattu supporters.

Aficionados of the bull taming sport staged protests in some parts of Madurai district, leading to detention of 149 protesters.

Venkatachalam, an organiser of Jallikattu, alleged that "excess police personnel" had been deployed at Avaniapuram, Alanganallur and Palamedu, much to the concern of people.

In Delta districts including Thanjavur, drought due to a failed monsoon and inadequate water supplies coupled with suicides of 17 farmers (due to various reasons) had a bearing on the Pongal celebrations.

Neelamegam, a Thanjavur resident, said as there was "no harvest, it was not a very happy Pongal."

He said in many places people had to make do with the free pongal gift comprising free rice and sugarcane pieces given by the government.

Chief Minister O Panneerselvam celebrated Pongal and his 66th birthday today in his native Periakulam in Theni district.

Panneerselvam offered worship at a temple and greeted

people who turned up to greet him. He also received petitions from them.

DMK working president M K Stalin celebrated Pongal at his residence in Chennai.

He was greeted by party functionaries and cadres. Keeping up the tradition followed by his father and party patriarch Karunanidhi, who is now ailing, Stalin gave away Rs 10 notes to supporters who came to greet him.

Across the State, people decorated their homes with mango leaves and strings of flowers.

Special prayers were held at temples.

For 'Kannum Pongal' festival on Monday, security has been strengthened at several places including Marina beach here, where people throng in large numbers.

The festival falls on the first day of Tamil month 'Thai', considered as the precursor of hope.

First Published: Sat, January 14 2017. 18:42 IST