CHENNAI:The spacious grounds at Anna Gem Science Park Matriculation School in Kotturpuram turned into a small village on Sunday. Sandhais (typical name of weekly business centres in rural areas) were set up on one side of the ground, traditional village sports were played on the other side and hand-made food items, sweets and other eatables were also sold at the venue. There was no trace of products by any corporate houses.
Children played the dance forms of Irula and Padaga communities on the stage, while adults performed Parai dance and Sathirattam in the evening. There was a session on how traditional herbal medicines can change today’s ‘fast forward’ lifestyle, which is a cause for innumerable diseases. All these were part of the Pirandai Festival, organised by Semmai, a non-profit organisation working for restoring the wisdom of our ancestors in all fields.
Hot kanji (gruel) made from one of the traditional varieties of rice, poongar, with three side dishes — fried brinjal, raw onion and maavadu (made of baby mangoes), was served in earthen pots for the participants at the festival.
People who had shifted to the city on account of employment, revelled in their childhood days as well-known traditional sports like uriyadithal, lifting ilavattakkal (lifting a huge round shape stone), pamparam viduthal (playing with spinning tops), pallankuzhi (game with a wooden board with 14 pits), kolakolaya munthirikka, etc., were played with enthusiasm by the participants. Student volunteers of Environmental Foundation of India staged a street play on the importance of reducing the usage of plastics and saving the existing water bodies for the future generation.
There was a heavy crowd at the venue for lifting Ilavattakkal. As each person tried his or her luck with the spherical stone, the crowed cheered. The cheers went the loudest when a 60-year-old man lifted the stone.
Similarly, for uriyadi vizha, people competed with each other to hit the earthen pot tied at a height, with a stick. The pot was swung, adding to the participant’s difficulty. However, a 11-year old boy hit the pot even as the audience clapped loud.
Traditional Sport Trivia
Lifting Ilavattakkal is a traditional practice that was in vogue in many villages a few decades ago. Even now, it is played in rural areas. Ilavattakkal is also called maappillaikkal or kalyanakkal, as it is believed that a youngster who lifts the heavy spherical stone above his shoulder will get a suitable bride. In those days, most jobs involved physical exertion, the head of the family was required to be strong and sturdy. And to check whether the person is capable of doing work efficiently, the practice was used. The weight of the stone varies from 70 kg to 120 kg.
In southern districts, in some of the villages, ilavattakkal lifting is practised annually during festival days, even today. Ayanvadamalapuram is a village in Tuticorin district where this sport is still in vogue. In this village, girls and even married women try to lift the stone to prove their strength. There are rules on how to lift the stone gradually.
Kittipul is another traditional sport of Tamil Nadu. It is played with a long wooden stick and a small oval piece of wood. The player balances the oval piece of wood in an inclined manner. Using one end of the long stick, the player hits the smaller one and makes it flip in the air. The game is similar to cricket.
Pallankuzhi is a game played by two players, with a wooden board that has 14 kuzhis (hence the name pathinaalam kuzhi, which translates to 14 pits). The pits contain choli (cowry shells), seeds or small pebbles used as counters.