Some of the popular festivals of Tamil Nadu are as follows:
Pongal: This is the most significant crop festival celebrated by the people of Tamil Nadu. It lasts for a time of 4 days and is usually celebrated from 13th to 16th January. This celebration mainly shows gratitude to the Sun God for showering the land with abundant agriculture. The people boil the first rice of the season as an honour to the Sun God. Pongal is also the name of a dish that is very renowned in the South and is cooked for most of the festivals there. The main Pongal falls on the second day and is called ‘Thai Pongal’. All the people wear traditional clothes. The gift also includes sugar cane and coconut.
Tourist Fair: This exhibition introduces people to Tamil Nadu's cultural wealth, places of tourist interest, economic scenario and much more. Organised by the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation, this fair hosts regular dance shows and food festivals to keep the visitors entertained.
Jalli Kattu or Bull fight: On the second day of the Pongal i.e. on Mattu Pongal day, Jalli Kattu or bull fight takes place in nearly all villages. Youths come onward to reclaim the bull as they come violently rushing on them. It is a traditional, spine-scary fight. The winner gets the prize money tied on the horns. Alanganallur near Madurai is famous for this sport.
Karthigai Deepam: This festival is popularly known as the 'festival of lights' all across the state of Tamil Nadu and is grandly celebrated in the months of November and December or on the full moon day of the Tamilmonth of Karthigai. Being a very big and prominent festival of the state it stretches on a period of 9 days. It is also known as an extended Diwali and is one of the most ancient as well as elaborately celebrated festivals of Tamil Nadu. A wide assortment of lamps lit in all sizes, shapes and colours adorn the temples and courtyards of the houses. This is believed to ward off the evils and usher in prosperity and joy.
Chitthirai Festival: Brahmothsavam or Chitthirai festival is the chief festival celebrated in all temples for 10 days. Every day 'urchavar' or the processional Goddess is carried on in different vahanas like horse, bull, swan, lion, sun, moon etc. The one at Madurai is with Lord Vishnu landing on a golden horse for his sister Meenakshi’s marriage. The one at Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai, is very famous, where the 63 bronze idols of the 'Nayanmars' or Saivaite saints are taken in procession. This parade is a magnificent sight.
Tamil New Year’s Day: Also known as Varushapirappu or Puthandu, the Tamil New year falls in mid April, the first month of the Tamil Calendar. The morning of Puthandu is marked as Women make beautiful Kolams at the entrance of their houses. On this day people wear new clothes and eat delicious food one of them being ‘Maanga Pachadi’ a sweet and sour dish made with mangoes, Jaggery and Neem flowers.
Natyanjali Dance Festival: This festival commences from the day of Mahashivratri and is celebrated for a stretch of 5 days. This festival not only provides the dancers with the best opportunity to showcase their talents but also pays a tribute to the 'Lord of Dances, Lord Shiva’. The festival has special importance in Chidambaram and is jointly organized by The Department of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu, The Ministry of Tourism, Government of India and The Natyanjali Trust, Chidambaram. This dance festival is also designed to promote a universal message of 'Unity in Diversity'.
Thaipusam: This festival is celebrated in Tamil Nadu on a full moon day in the month of Thai in the Tamil calendar. It celebrates the Birthday of Lord Subramaniya, the younger son of Lord Shiva. This festival is a day of penance, where the devotees take ‘kavadi’ and pierce their body with sharp objects and carries 2 pots attached to long stick containing rice, milk, and other things that the devotee wishes to offer the Lord in the Temple.
Mahamaham Festival: One of the Hindu festivals of Tamil Nadu which is celebrated one time in 12 years in a small town called Kumbakonam. On this day, people from all over the country come to take a dip in the famous ‘Mahamaham tank’ as it is considered holy.
Silk Festival: This festival is celebrated in the month of October in Kanchipuram. The popularity of the festival lies in the display of silk saris in all its resplendent glory and the skilled craftsmanship of the weavers of the region characterizes this much-admired festival.
Adi Perukku: It is the 18th day of the Tamil month Adi, on which most of the rivers will be in spate after rains. People go to the river banks and worship the river goddess and float their offerings on river. They also carry different varieties of cooked rice and eat them on the banks and spend their time merrily.
Kavadi Festival: This is celebrated in all shrines of Lord Muruga in the month of January. During this festival people take a vow to offer the Lord a Kavadifor the sake of tiding over a great calamity. Dancing to the rhythms of drums in a hypnotic trance and carrying the Kavadi all the way to the Palani hills to fulfil their vow is one of the major features which characterize this festival. Strange and ghastly traditions like piercing of lips with mini silver lace, the locking of the mouth with metal ring etc. strike the visitors with awe.
Summer Festival: This hill station of Tamil Nadu provides a magnificent view and fills the tourist with sensations of delight. When the Summer Festivals are held in the months of May and June, the hills are even better. Various cultural programs, adventurous sports, flower shows, boat races adds to the splendour and glory of the festival.
Thiruvaiyaru Festival: This is celebrated in Thiruvaiyaru, a town in the district of Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu. It is a music festival in honour of the well-known music composer and Saint Thyagaraja and is held every year in the month of January. It is celebrated every year on the Pushya Bahula Panchami day when the saint Thyagaraja attained Samadhi.
Cape Festival: The Cape festival is one of the most popular festivals of Tamil Nadu and is celebrated with much pomp and show in Kanyakumari, which is in the southern tip of the Indian sub-continent. It is during this auspicious occasion that the Hindus consider a bath in this confluence as very sacred.
Vinayaka Chathurthi: This festival is celebrated for the birthday of Lord Vinayaka or the elephant-headed God. A huge ‘Modhaga' or 'Kolukkattai' using about 80 kilos of rice, jiggery, coconut and dhal is prepared.
Shrine Velankanni Festival: Thousands of people visit the place through the festival, clothed in orange ceremonial dress to the sacred location. The Virgin Mary Church is believed to have amazing power of healing. This festival attracts people of all religions, Hindus, Muslims and Christians.
Vaikunta Ekadasi: This festival is a Vaishnavite festival and it is believed that the gates of heaven are thrown open on that day. In all Vishnu temples, an attractive gate is erected called 'Vaikuntha Vasal' or the entrance of paradise.
Saaral Vizha: This is a sole festival of current origin and is celebrated in Kuttalam or Courtallam where there are a number of waterfalls. During the season, water will be plentiful in them and thousands of people gather there to bathe in them. It is believed that the water has healing powers.