MADURAI: In what could be described as a unique case of caste-Hindu and Dalits coming together, residents of six villages adjoining the city, hailing from both the communities, joined hands to celebrate the three-day ‘Banana festival’ (Masi Kanimatru Vizha) at Andarkottaram on the outskirts here, on Tuesday night. Strangely this has been in practice for years but has unfortunatley gone unnoticed.
Devotees gathered in huge numbers on Thursday - the last day of the fest - to pray to their folk Deity Kadavu Katha Ayyanar and offer bananas. The festival is also an attempt to maintain the age-old social order of harmony between caste-Hindus and Dalits in a restricted sense. “It is not possible for us to organise the festival without Dalits. On the second day of the celebration, caste-Hindus would assemble at the temple of Dalit deity Nondi Swamy located in a Dalit settlement and offer prayers,” said Swamy (62), a caste-Hindu. On the final day, a caste-Hindu priest (Sangli Swamy) and Dalit priest (Nondi Swamy) will go dancing around the Ayyanar temple in a state of trance as a mark of commencing the banana fest, said Swamy.
However the Dalit communities offers their prayer only standing at the entrance of the temple. But Dalit priest Ganesh claims, “We don’t find any discrimination in this practice because we are doing it voluntarily to maintain the tradition,” he said.
Once the festival was declared over by priests, people start throwing hundreds of bananas for the next 15 minutes thanking HIM for granting their wishes. The bananas are later collected by people as Prasadam (sacred food).