Our love affair with the monsoons is timeless. Despite the smut and spores, the mustiness and flooding, we seem to be hopelessly in love with this time of the year. And Bollywood has played its part, to the T, in romanticising the rains. From penning melodies to splashing it on the canvas to weaving tales around the dewy petrichor, the monsoon fever has captivated our curiosities for centuries. A respite to the parched souls, as the midnight heavens thunder impotently, and the pitter-patter of the rains hit the surface, it stirs something soulful within us. But for Indians, it’s a lot more than just a season. It’s a cultural mainstay.
In Tamil Nadu, aadi marks the onset of monsoons. The fourth month of the Tamil Calendar, it is said that for the ‘devas’, Aadi is the dusk of their day; when their day transitions into night. Falling between July-August, it is believed that this is when the Sun God changes the direction of his chariot from north to south, thereby paving the way for climatic changes.
Those who grew up in Tamil Nadu would be familiar with all the fervour associated with Aadi Masam. Perhaps the most hectic time of the year for Tamilians globally, what intrigued our curiosities is the rigid dichotomy that it is caught in. Having grown up in Delhi, for most part of my life, I wasn’t completely aware of how huge it was. But little did I know that a year in Chennai was all I needed to catch up on all the cultural trivia.
Coming back to the dichotomy part, despite being the most important time of the year, Aadi was traditionally considered the most inauspicious time of the year, especially for weddings or for beginning new ventures. The non-festivity often led to a dull shopping season. To pick up sales, store owners across the state started announcing offers and discounts that have now come to stay. With attractive hoardings of ‘60 per cent off’ and ‘BOGO’ flashing outside outlets, even those least interested in shopping find it hard to resist. What was once a lean patch is today aggressively wooing buyers.
Well, Aadi is a lot more than just Aadi sales. Right from Aadi Pirappu to Aadi Perukku, this month marks the beginning of all kinds of festivities.
The first day of the month, Aadi Pandigai signifies new beginnings. The day begins with decorating the doorway with mango leaves and intricate kolams bordered with kaavi, followed by a special ritual and a sumptuous feast consisting of payasam, boli or puran poli and vadai.
Aadi Chevvai and Aadi Velli refers to the Tuesdays and Fridays that fall during this month, when services are dedicated to Goddess Amman. From performing ‘kolattam’ a traditional dance with sticks to preparing traditional delicacies like koozhu, a healthy curry made of seven fibre roots, all the rituals are carefully performed to venerate Maha Shakti.
Adi Amavasai or the no moon day, observed in places like Agni Theertham in Rameshwaram and Triveni Sangamam in Kanyakumari, is meant to pay obeisance to ancestral souls. Many can be seen offering ‘bali dharpan’ to those who have departed.
Aadi Pooram, celebrated with all pomp and show, marks the tenth day of Aadi Masam. The festivities can be witnessed in all their glory at Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple, Srivilliputtur Andal Temple and Melmaruvathur Aadhiparashakthi Temple. Also known as ‘thirukalyanam’ or the divine union of Goddess Aandal and Lord Vishnu, it is believed that goddess Laxmi reincarnated as Aandal to marry Lord Ranganathan (Lord Vishnu).
Aadi Perukku, the 18th day of Aadi Masam holds great significance in the Kaveri delta. Also known as Pathinettam Perukku, ('pathinettam' meaning eighteen and 'perukku' meaning rising) the festival is intended to celebrate the rising of water levels due to the arrival of monsoons. A time for reverence and celebrations, a variety of rice dishes including coconut rice, lemon rice, tamarind rice and curd rice are prepared to mark the occasion.
Deeply rooted in traditions and customs, the extraordinary cultural legacy of Tamil Nadu has only flourished over the years. Passed from one generation to the next, it has kept families together and has withstood the wisdom of ages. A brilliant amalgam of vibrant landscape and rich history, the remote interiors of the state reveal how the ancient heritage has been kept intact till date.