Temple festivals dominated our lives as children at Tenkasi. There were so many of them throughout the year. As a group of kids we were extremely busy during those days. Decorating our street with festoons, used to be so much fun! We required tender palm leaves for making those small articles. We would ear mark certain homes at the street, whose owners would have got into rift with us at some point in time for plucking the tender palm leaves!
Most of the times, the problems would start with we shouting during calm lazy afternoons, hitting the cricket balls into their homes or our cricket ball breaking their tiles (Glass windows did not form a part of Agrahaaram homes). The common reaction mostly would be that the uncle (owner of the house) would come out with a stick and land a couple of blows on the nearest target (usually somebody who would be watching the game!), or abducting our play things or complain to our parents! Each of these would hurt us! These things would be discussed in our afternoon meetings and we would plot for revenge plans. Normal revenge plans would include puncturing cycle/scooter tyres, throwing cow dung rolled in a paper at their door steps so that when they open their door in the morning their first step would land on cow dung, tearing their cycle/scooter seats with our compass, stealing coconuts and Guavas from their trees etc. In some extreme cases we would also damage their water meters!
Such houses would become our primary target to steal tender palm leaves! We would plot a plan, a day before the festival day! We would gather at around Ten at the night and two of the courageous souls would venture out into the dark backyards! Before the dawn we would have done with the palm festoons and so nobody could exactly claim that their trees were stolen!
We had heavy duties during the Tamil month of ‘Marghazi’! The weather would be at its fantastic best as we lived near the Western ghats. Air would be so fresh and smell nice! Trees, plants, flowers would blossom around our street! The entire street would wear a divine look!
All of us used to get up very early in the morning. The ladies and girls would spend atleast an hour in decorating the street the big ‘kolams’ (Rangolis) as we walk around the street. In the center of the kolam would sit a set of flowers (usually Hibiscus) inserted into a small lump of cow dung. We would bathe early, and be at the temple as early as 6am. The bhajans would start! Before us, group of young girls reciting ‘Thirupaavai’ (a Tamil verse by Andaal on Lord Vishnu) would walk through the street! The group of men would walk through the street singing Bhajans.
Each one of the families in the street would bear the Pooja expenses for one day during the month of Marghazi. Some well to do families would provide the Bhajan party hot coffee! (In the picture). The female group used to be lucky that they would get some nice small gifts ranging from hair clips to bands to bangles to what not! We had to be satisfied with the coffee! Bhajan sessions used to be fully engrossing. The main competition would be on who would get to play the ‘Harmoniam’!
K used to dominate on this as well! We would also compete to get the best pair of ‘Jalras’! Jalras are bronze or brass plates bent to a concave shape and attached to the ends of a string – these were used as the percussion in all the Bhajans. Those who come early would get the best one! We learnt good music, a lot of songs on various gods and we had loads of fun! The Bhajans and the Thriupaavai groups would reach the temple with a grand Archana and Deepa aaradhana. Then the distribution of prasaadams would start and we would compete for that also. At the evenings we would recite ‘Vishnu Sahasranama’ & some other exerts from Vedas at the temple and would close the show with Prasaadams!
(Very recently, there are not many people around at the street as of today but in my childhood days these were really big events - Missed to preserve them as snaps :-( But truly happy that atleast the practice is not still lost!)
... to be continued ...