November 3, 2016
Thanjavur: While people all over Tamil Nadu splurge on clothes, crackers and sweets as part of Diwali celebrations, Thuraiyundarkottai village, in Thanjavur’s Orathanadu taluk, is quiet during the festival of lights. The residents have not celebrated Diwali for over four decades, in adherence to an unwritten local law that stems from the socio-economic culture of the area.
Some 40 years ago, the villagers were unable to celebrate Diwali due to poverty brought on by a drought prevailing at that time. Apart from this, village elders ruled that Diwali was not the festival of Dravidians, as it marks the celebration of the death of Narakasura. It was felt that it was inhuman and not in the culture and nature of Tamils to revel in someone’s death, however cruel he might have been.
Moreover, celebrating Diwali meant hardship and brought the burden of debt on poor farmers, said N Thulasi Ayya, a 78-year-old resident of the village. “Why should we get into debt in order to celebrate one festival?” he asked.
M Rajagopal, a 75-year-old resident of the village, added that when the village was in the grip of drought all those years ago, the poor suffered, but the rich did not restrain their grand celebrations, which prompted elders to rule against celebrating the festival; a tradition which is still followed, he said.
“My eldest son Manokaran is now 45. He has not seen a Diwali celebration at home ever since he was born,” he added.
T Chinnadurai, 77, points out that Diwali is not the festival of farmers. “Pongal is the festival of farmers, celebrated to thank Mother Nature and the Earth. We celebrate only Pongal in a grand manner in the village,” he said.
Kalaiselvi, 47, who has settled in Thuraiyundarkottai village since her marriage to Gopal here, said, “I have been here for over 30 years. In the beginning, I felt like a fish out of water not celebrating Diwali, but now I have become used to it”.
Senior citizens, however, said that the youngsters here do not strictly follow this tradition.