Rural people celebrate temple festivals in different ways. From foodgrains to cattle and roosters to goats, their offerings vary, depending on their livelihood activities.
But residents of Sevugampatti, 30 km away from Dindigul on the Batlagundu highway, organised a gala ‘banana party’ for thousands of devotees in the annual festival of Sri Solaimalai Azhagar Temple.
During the festival on the evening of Saturday, it was a peculiar sight for visitors to see bunches of bananas thrown on devotees waiting outside the temple. But it is a traditional custom followed for the past two-and-a-half centuries on the third day of Tamil month Thai. Offering banana in bunches is the tradition.
The offerings of banana bunches were brought in baskets. Each pilgrim carried at least 20 to 25 dozens of bananas and offered them to the Lord.
At the outset of the festival, hundreds of devotees gathered on a street near the temple with baskets full of bananas on their shoulders, along with youths carrying holy umbrellas. They entered the temple in a procession. Each house has to offer at least one basket of bananas. The fruits were kept before the God as offering. After special pujas, the bananas were taken to the roof of the temple. The donors threw bananas on the crowd that gathered outside the temple. Several men, women and children, irrespective of their age and social standing, grabbed them.
Some devotees personally handed over the bananas to each and every devotee who did not receive it. Even people waiting on the roadside were not left out.
The devotees brought different varieties of bananas in mini lorries, vans and lorries from villages in Dindigul, Theni, Tiruchi and Madurai districts.
The devotees take a vow to “throw the fruits” (‘soorai viduthal’) as an act of propitiation — mostly for blessing them with a bumper harvest or for protecting the village from endemic diseases. They can bring any number of baskets.
The festival makes for a good community outing. At the same time, no resident of Sevugampatti would be allowed to take home a single banana offered to the temple, says A. Jegannatha Naidu of Sevugampatti.
Most of the villagers are banana traders in Chennai, Bangalore, Batlagundu. Sevugampatti, Thummalapatti, Lakshmipuram, Singarakottai, Salaipudur, Thandigudi, Batlagundu, Marudhanadhi dam site are some of the major banana producing centres in Dindigul district.