Thiruvizha: For girl child, bask in the celestial moonlight

Since prehistoric times, many cultures have personified the moon as a deity. Back home too, Chandra, the Hindu god of moon, is extolled.

Published: 30th January 2022 05:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 30th January 2022 06:03 PM   |  A+A-

‘Nila Penn’ V Pratiksha adorned with Aavaaram flowers at Kottur village on January 18 | Express

‘Nila Penn’ V Pratiksha adorned with Aavaaram flowers at Kottur village on January 18 | Express

Express News Service

DINDIGUL: Since prehistoric times, many cultures have personified the moon as a deity. Back home too, Chandra, the Hindu god of moon, is extolled. But, peerless veneration can be found in the observance of the ‘Nila Penn ‘Thiruvizha’’ at Kottur village in Dindigul’s Vedasandur town.

For Kottur dwellers, ‘Nila Penn ‘Thiruvizha’’ is as much as the celebration of the moon as it is of their girl children. Contrary to reports of higher number of female infanticides in rural areas, this village treasures its daughters, and the festival held in their honour is a momentous spectacle. It all begins with the ordaining of the ‘Nila Penn’.

Every three years during this annual festival, the villagers get together in January (Tamil month of Thai) and handpick a girl child, who has not yet attained puberty, and ordain her the ‘Nila Penn’. “The festival is spread across eight days and we believe it augurs the well-being of people across the world, and ushers in good health and adequate rain for our village,” says K Jayakumar (49), a resident of the village. This year, the spotlight is on 11-year-old V Pratiksha.

For Pratiksha’s father, T Vishwanathan (45), the selection was a joyous moment. He says his ancestors founded the Maasadaichi Amman Temple as well as the festival centuries ago. “We have kept the tradition alive for seven generations. So, I was overwhelmed when my eldest daughter was chosen ‘Nila Penn’,” he says. Offering a glimpse into the different stages of the festival, Jayakumar says, “On the first day, girl children in the village bring milk from their houses and take out a procession to the temple.

Family members and villagers, mostly women, accompany them. At the temple, the children offer the milk to the goddess and then drink their share. They also place food in front of the deity, and later mould the food in the shape of a doll. Afterwards, the doll is buried near the stones at Saralaimedu, a little away from the temple. This practice is called ‘Utkai’,” Jayakumar notes. 

All villagers, who have migrated near and far, return and partake in the rituals. “They come before Pongal and leave only after the ‘‘Thiruvizha’’. For us, the ‘Thiruvizha’ is more special than the harvest festival,” he adds. Following the rituals, the ‘Nila Penn’ is chosen. As the sun begins to set on the Full Moon day of the Thai month, the Thai Poosam, heralding the Moon’s advent, the villagers take the ‘Nila Penn’ to Saralaimedu and adorn her with Aavaaram flowers. From there, a procession is taken out to the Amman temple with the ‘Nila Penn’ holding the remaining flowers.

At the temple, women perform ‘Kummiyattam’, a folk dance, and the festivities continue till late night, sometimes even till 4 am the next day. “But this year, we had to cut the festivities short owing to the pandemic,” says Panchayat President P Palaniyammal, who has been singing ‘Kummiyattam’ songs for several years. After performing pujas, villagers accompany the ‘Nila Penn’ to a village well. She sends afloat the bunch of flowers along with an oil lamp, and prays for everyone. “The ‘Nila Penn’ is considered nothing short of a deity; parents see it an honour to have their child chosen,” Jayakumar adds.

Idealists may argue that deification of women works counterproductive to the feminist struggle. However, in Kottur village, the respect the girls get during the festival leans on the village’s ethos, and instils the discernment to be below none in the minds of girls. Under the bright moonlight here, girls march ahead, without any inhibition.


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