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So festive that even foreigners feel at home

IT WAS altogether a different and unforgettable experience for a few hundreds of foreign tourists, who had an opportunity to have a feel of the traditional Tamil festival, Pongal, at Periya Oorseri, a remote village near Madurai, all thanks to the State Tourism Department.

As soon as the tourists entered the village, womenfolk gave them a traditional welcome with `kumkum' and garlands. The warm reception made them so ecstatic that they did not remove the garlands till they left the celebration spot, Muthalaman Temple.

Following the traditional welcome, there was a line-up of programmes, which reflected the native culture.

The tourists, who got a first-hand knowledge of how important the festival was for the Tamils and of the way it is celebrated, were treated to an out-and-out folk arts feast, `karagam', `kummi', `kolattam' and martial art forms such as `silambattam', being a part and parcel of the rural extravaganza. Some of them joined the artistes and tried their hand at the dance forms. But, it was 'silambam', which threw up a lot of surprises so much so that they did not dare to participate, but only watched the performance with a bated breath.

At last came the actual feast — a sumptuous and sweet pongal along with other traditional south Indian food items.

The entire arrangements, including meals, were organised by the villagers themselves with financial assistance from the Tourism Department.

Finally, when the tourists were leaving the village, the charm and warmth of the celebrations were so engraved in their minds that they promised to come there for the next Pongal.

This festival is conducted in different villages every year to give foreign tourists a chance to know about the Tamil tradition.

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