PUDUKOTTAI: Several hundreds of people participated in a fishing festival held almost after a decade at Melathaniyam in Ponnamaravathi block of Pudukkottai on Monday.
The festival could not be held all these years as there wasn't enough water in the lake. After two years of the pandemic and the lockdowns, the festival was held with almost 3,000 people in attendance. Village panchayat president Murugesan, along with other dignitaries, kicked off the festival at 4.30 am. Men, women, children, with their different fishing gear, entered the lake with great enthusiasm. This festival is held during the month of Chithirai, which is the first month in the Tamil calendar, Murugesan said. The festival is held during summer when water levels start receding and the lake is full of fish.
"During Thai, Masi and Panguni months, water fills the lake and fishes breed. After Chithirai, water level starts receding. Therefore, the festival is held at this time and villagers catch as much fish as possible," said Murugesan.
Fish caught during this festival are not sold , but cooked and eaten. This particular lake in Melathaniyam belongs to the Public Works Department, and at any time of the year, sale of fish is not allowed. Being a festival, the catch is considered sacred, which is another reason for not selling it.
Kadamban, who has seen several fishing festivals in his life, said this was initially started during Thondaiman rule in the district. "Pudukkottai was extremely barren at that time. As a way to give work to people, they were asked to create lakes, and were given a salary. These lakes and tanks were for public use. Anybody could catch fish. Since people started fishing at any time, the concept of equality was lost. Therefore, the rulers decided to let the fish grow, and conduct a festival," said Kadamban.
Another unique thing about this festival is that people can catch fish with whatever they have. From nets to bare hands, a person is free to choose his equipment.
"This festival is also a time when people of all communities, social standings and income, unite and catch fish. It truly celebrates social equality," Kadamban added.
Once the date is decided, people from nearby villages are also informed so that they can enjoy the catch. Murugesan said villagers in a 10-km radius came for the festival on Monday. Locals expressed happiness and said that this was one of the important festivals, just like temple festivals.
"We haven't been able to hold this festival for 10 years as there was not enough water in the lake. We are all getting together after such a long time. It is after two years that entire families are stepping out and celebrating," said Saravanan, a villager.