SALEM: An annual temple festival by and for women in a remote tribal village in Yercaud was held on Tuesday under the watchful eyes of women officers from the Revenue and Police departments. While the women enjoyed their day out, they were resentful of the notoriety associated with the festival and the constant reminder of the same in the form of the officers’ presence. And yes, boys and men -- five years onwards -- stayed away from the village from dawn to dusk.
The third day after Pongal, women from the Malayali tribes of the Sheveroyan Hills came together to offer prayers to the Mariamman and Kalliamman temples. It was believed that until a few generations back, women offered prayers in nude for the well-being of the village. Men were prohibited from entering the village and the villagers believed that if a male happened to witness the event, it angered the Gods and the man would face dire consequences. A wooden pole was laid across the entrance of the village to indicate the women’s festival was being held. This history led to extensive media coverage and official presence in the last two decades.
On Tuesday, women prepared ragi rotis at the crack of dawn, packed the rotis for the men and sent them away at 6 am. The men were found spending the time in the town, mostly in cinema theatres. The women worshipped the Goddesses, played traditional games, cooked and ate together.
Yercaud Thasildhar M Krishnan said that the Revenue Inspectors reported that nothing controversial was observed on Tuesday in Vellakadai. The police too filed a similar report.
People from Vellakaddai said that women do not strip any more, yet continue the practise of keeping the men out of the village, leading to murmurs and whispers.