Defying a ban, the villagers of Periyakrishnapuram on Wednesday celebrated this Pongal in what was said to be ‘traditional’ fashion — with a fox captured from the forest and brought into their village.
As per the ritual, immediately after the main pongal ritual, male members of the village disappear into the forests, spend days on end and run without food and water in search of a fox.
Once a fox is trapped, word is sent to the villagers, asking them to wait on the forest fringes to welcome the fox. For them, the once-in-a-year ‘darshan’ of a fox is considered auspicious. Until last year, the tradition was carried out with gaiety, but this year, a start up animal activist group put pressure on the forest officials, who in turn went around warning residents of villages where the practice is in vogue.
However, defying the ban, the male residents of Perikrishnapuram forayed into the forests and returned with a fox on Wednesday.
The fox was taken into the village in a procession with dance and beating of drums. At the village square, more rituals and fun was in store. Later, the animal was taken door to door for elders and women to have ‘darshan’. After the frolicking waned, the animal was let back into the forest.
“With wildlife dwindling, the hunt is becoming arduous,” said Palanisamy, a village elder. Meanwhile, Valapadi forest range officials claimed ignorance about Wednesday’s happenings in the village, but said they would investigate.
At neighbouring Renganur and Kottavadi, the hunt for a fox was still on.