Pongal celebrations on the hills took a new dimension with a boating regatta conducted for the first time on behalf of the Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation at the Kodaikanal lake on Thursday.
About 30 pedal boats took part in the race and tourists who won the race were given attractive travel coupons. A total of 15 rowing boats were engaged in a separate race and rowers working in the TTDC clubs participated.
The regatta attracted over 600 spectators all around the lake. The races were held for three hours as part of Pongal festival, said T. Phoubalan, manager (in-charge).
The Tourism Department organised a special event at Vattakanal where about 75 tourists from various foreign countries participated. They were given traditional welcome with garlands. They evinced interest in preparation of pongal in the traditional manner. Later, they tasted sweet pongal served to them on banana leaves.
Tourists from Italy, Israel and Canada and domestic tourists were delighted to see folk dance performances such as karagattam, oyilattam and a Bharatnatyam show. A special lunch was prepared for them. The idea was to promote tourism in lesser-known pockets of Kodaikanal hills such as Vattakanal, said M. Anandan, Assistant Tourism Officer, Kodaikanal.
Traditional games such as vazhukku maram (slippery pole) and elavatta kal (stone of youth) were organised in the evening.
In Sirumalai Hills, farmers celebrated Mattu Pongal on Thursday with ponies and milch animals. The ponies were given a bath, decorated with flowers and taken on a procession through the village. Sweet pongal and sugarcane were served to these animals.
Farmers of Sirumalai use ponies to transport horticulture produce up and down the hills everyday as many hamlets do not have road facilities. They urged the government to construct a veterinary hospital atop Sirumalai Hills for the benefit of ponies as these animals were attacked by Indian gaurs now and then and suffer injuries.
There are about 250 ponies in Sirumalai used for farming and transport.