Chennai, Jan 15: The harvest festival of Pongal was celebrated across Tamil Nadu today, though the festivity was low key in southern districts, including Madurai, following the Supreme Court ban on the bull taming sport of Jallikattu.
People ushered in the auspicious month of 'Thai' and celebrated the festival by decorating the porches of their houses with colourful 'kolam' (rangoli) even as the faithful offered prayers to the Sun God.
The aroma and taste of traditional sweet Pongal, made of jaggery, rice and milk, tickled the taste buds, as people shared the delicacy with neighbours and relatives. Folk arts, including village dances like Karakattam, marked the occasion, with people taking part with gay abandon.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had greeted the people of the state in Tamil. The mood was not as upbeat in Madurai and nearby areas, the hotbed of the bull taming sport, as joy following a Central government notification allowing it was short-lived due to the January 12 Apex Court ban staying Jallikattu and other sports involving the bovine.
Joy had given way to anxiety following the ban with sport enthusiasts protesting in various parts of Madurai and nearby districts like Theni today. They also staged demonstrations with their bulls in tow even as police disallowed such protests.
Yesterday, some people in these areas had tonsured their heads and blocked roads, demanding for the sport to be held. Social platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook were agog with messages on opinions for and against holding the sport.
Prior to its ban by the UPA dispensation in 2011, Jallikattu was organised as a grand spectacle with the event in Alanganallur, Palamedu and Avaniyapuram in Madurai drawing huge crowds, including domestic and foreign audiences. Pongal also has its other share of politics, with arch-rivals DMK and AIADMK differing over celebrating the day as Tamil New Year.
While the new year is traditionally celebrated in the Tamil month of 'Chithirai' (April), the M Karunanidhi-led DMK government revised the calendar in 2008 to celebrate it coinciding with Pongal, the first day of 'Thai' (January).
However, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, who had opposed the move even as Opposition Leader then, reverted the celebtaring the festival in April soon after her party captured power in 2011.
While the AIADMK chief refused to celebrate Tamil New year in January till DMK was defeated, her arch-rival however stuck to celebrating the first day of Thai as Tamil New Year and Pongal. Governor K Rosaiah, Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi and other leaders also extended greetings to the people on Pongal.