Express News Service
THANJAVUR: The region where the Thanjavur Maratha kings donated land to the famed Nagore Dargah and built some of its minarets, and where the Nanjikkottai Mannayars donated land to a Dargah in Thanjavur city, still upholds its syncretic culture and maintains communal harmony.
This came to the fore when Hindu residents of a village near Thanjavur celebrated the ‘Allah festival’ on the eve of Muharram.
The residents of Kasavalanadu Pudur, also known as Kasanadu Pudu, who are predominantly Hindus except for a handful of Muslim families, started preparing ten days in advance for the festival. They cleaned the vicinity of the Allah Koil near the public square (Chavadi) in the village, painted it and arranged for a new green flag for the festival. It was also decorated with flowers and electric lights.
“On the eve of Muharram, natives of the village working in various places come for the festival. The women of the village take a large pot filled with sweetened water (Panagam) atop which a small pot with puffed rice and jaggery is taken,” says M Singaravel, a native of the village who works as a health inspector with the health department.
He said women from each street took out a procession on the eve of Muharram, which ended in the Allah Koil. Members of a few Muslim families in the village conducted the rituals at the Allah Koil and offered the puffed rice and jaggery.
Meanwhile, a hand symbol with five fingers, called “Five finger Allah”, followed by four, three, two and single finger symbols tied to a pole, was taken out in a procession through the village. Residents paid obeisance to the procession from their houses. Those who had vows offered garlands made of lemon and silk towels to the symbols.
“As my daughter got a seat in the desired course, I had offered a silk shawl,” said Singaravel. When the procession ended on the day of Muharram on Wednesday, those who were holding the finger symbols observed the firewalk (Thee Mithi) followed by others who had taken vows.
With this, the festival came to a close and the finger symbols were deposited in the Allah Koil. They will be taken out again next year on the eve of the festival, Singaravel said, adding that it was being celebrated for many generations.
Of the legend behind the festival, he said their ancestors saw a light from the flowing water in the Pudhu Aaru river which passes near the village and residents found a hand symbol with five fingers made of metal.
One of the villagers then had a dream in which a Muslim Pir said he would be residing in the village and bestow blessings. Following this, the festival was conducted on the eve of Muharram and concluded on the day of Muharram, Singaravel said.
The tradition of the Allah festival on the eve of Muharram is also celebrated, on and off, in a few other villages including Ko Vallundampattu near Thanjavur.