Pongal is the most popular festival celebrated in the Madurai district and is also known as the 'harvest festival'. This festival is celebrated in order to pay tribute to the Sun God, Mother Nature and cattle for helping the people to get a rich harvest. The three day long festival is held with lots of pomp and glory. On the first day of Pongal, 'Bhogi' is celebrated. Houses of the people of this district are given a fresh coat of paint and old articles are replaced by new ones. The second day of Pongal is the main festival. Sugarcanes, festoons of mango leaf and Pongal (a sweet variety of rice) mark this auspicious day. On the third day of Pongal, 'Mattu Pongal' is celebrated and on this very day people pay tribute to the cattle for bringing in prosperity.
Jallikattu or the festival of taming the Bull is one of the most popular sports in the district of Madurai and it also forms a part of the Pongal celebration. This game of valour is held in the villages with lots of enthusiasm though only as a popular sport. People from neighbouring villages throng the open grounds to watch man and beast confronting each other with all their strength. It is observed in the month of January and is an important historical festive event.
Another well-known festival in the district of Madurai is the Chithirai Thiruvizha. This festival is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the Tamil month Chithirai with is from April to May. As per local legend, Lord Vishnu, as 'Alagar', rode over a golden horse to Madurai to attend the celestial wedding of Lord Sundareswarar or Lord Shiva with Goddess Meenakshi. The celebration of this festival is marked with serenity and solemnity. The Festival of the Cradle is a celebration when the deities of Goddess Meenakshi and Lord Sundareswarar are taken in procession to a mirror chamber. The Gods and Goddesses are placed on a nine day swing, which rocks gently. It is also known as the Meenakshi Tirukkalyanam.
Avanimoolam is another festival celebrated in the Madurai district of Tamil Nadu. It is organised during the month of September, when the coronation of Lord Sundareswarar or Lord Shiva takes place. A 'Lila' or play is also performed where the temple priest narrates the stories of Lord Shiva in sixty four miracles, which protected Madurai from adversity.
Also referred to as the 'Float Festival', 'Thepporchavam' is observed in 'Thai', a Tamil month which constitutes the period around January to February. It is celebrated to honour the king Thirumalai Nayak's birth anniversary. During this festival, the idols of Goddess Meenakshi and Her consort Sundareshwarar or Lord Shiva are beautifully decorated and marched in a procession till Mariamman Teppakulam from the Meenakshi Temple.
Santhanakoodu festivals are often observed in Madurai city on different days, as per the Islamic calendar year. Various Islamic saints are honoured and remembered with great respect in Santhanakoodu festivals.
Navaratri or nine nights is one of the festivals held in honour of Goddess Meenakshi in all her forms, which embody fury, compassion and wisdom, in the district of Madurai. In these nine days, Goddess Meenakshi is offered nine varieties of rice meals and nine varieties of flowers. Apart from these there are various other festivals celebrated in this district. The Dance Festival celebrated in the Madurai district is of great importance. The department of tourism organizes this festival where exponents of several dance forms from different parts of the country take part in this festival.
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