Most Important Festivals of Tamilnadu That Are Worth Watching and Experiencing


What could be more special and rewarding than being a part of the culture and traditions of a state through its vibrant and vivacious festivals? The beautiful state of Tamilnadu not only allures you with its remarkable temples and mesmerizing landscapes but also with its innumerable variety of festivals that are celebrated with sheer enthusiasm and devotion all across the state. With vibrant colours, rare rituals, and happiness all around, you will get to witness a completely different side of Tamilnadu, if you visit the state during the festival time.

The Festivals of Tamilnadu give the perfect glimpse into the centuries-old traditions and vibrant culture of the state as well as the extraordinary local life of its people. Attending them can be an experience of a lifetime for sure.

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If you wish to witness Tamil culture at its best, here’s a list of the Most Important Festivals of Tamilnadu that are Worth Watching and Experiencing.

Puthandu – Tamil New Year’s Day

The first month of the Tamil Calendar which falls in mid-April, is observed as Puthandu or Tamil New Year. Women make beautiful and colourful Kolams or Rangolis at the entrance to their homes on Puthandu morning to mark the occasion. A bath and then a visit to the Temple Kanni is an integral part of this festival. Temple Kanni is regarded as the most auspicious temple for starting new ventures. The main highlight of Puthandu is the delicious ‘Maanga Pachadi‘, a sweet and sour dish made with mangoes, jaggery and Neem leaves.

Pongal – Harvest Festival of Tamilnadu

Pongal is the most popular and significant Harvest Festival of Tamilnadu. Celebrated with great religious fervour, Pongal is the time to give thanks to the Sun God, Mother Nature, and all the farm animals who contributed to a bountiful harvest. It’s a four-day festival that starts with Bhogi Pandigai or Bhogi Pongal. People offer prayers to Lord Indra, the God of Rains on this day. The main festivity of Pongal falls on the second day and is called Thai Pongal.

People celebrating Pongal festival in Tamilnadu.

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Thai Pongal is dedicated to the Sun God and a special sweet dish called ‘Pongal’ is offered to him for embracing the harvest with his warmth and energy. The third day, Mattu Pongal, celebrates cows and their holiness. The Pongal Festival ends with Kaanum Pongal, also known as Kanya Pongal during which women and young girls perform a special kind of ritual called Kanu Pidi and pray for the well-being of their brothers. The Pongal Festival usually commence on the 14th day of January every year.

Thaipusam – Dedicated to Lord Subramaniam

Thaipusam Festival is a very popular Tamil festival that falls in the Thai month of the Tamil calendar on a full moon day. It marks the birthday of Lord Subramaniam, the younger son of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi. Lord Subramaniam is also known as Muruga, Karttikeya, Sanmukha, Shadanana, Skanda, and Guha. Thaipusam Festival is all about faith, endurance, and penance and the main highlight of the festival is the Kavadi offering. The “Kavadi Bearer” dresses like a “Pandaram” (a person who relies solely on alms), carrying a Kavadi on their shoulder and walking barefoot all over the streets towards the temple.

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The Kavadi is actually a wooden stick with two pots attached at both ends of it, that contain rice, milk, and other items the devotee wishes to offer the Lord. Some devotees prefer to carry empty pots and fill them by asking and begging for alms. You can also witness devotees piercing their bodies with sharp objects and also performing Agni Kavadis where the devotees walk barefoot on burning coals while carrying the Kavadi over their shouldersYour perspective on the world will almost certainly change as a result of witnessing the people’s enduring faith in God during the Thaipusam Festival.

Karthigai Deepam – The Festival of Lights

Karthigai Deepam, also known as the Festival of Lights is one of the most spectacular traditional festivals of Tamilnadu. It falls in the month of Karthigai according to the Tamil Calendar, usually between November to mid-December. This 10-day festival is celebrated by lighting up diyas around the house which symbolizes the eradication of negativity and bringing peace and prosperity into one’s lives.

Karthigai Deepam festival at Tiruvannamalai Temple in Tamilnadu.

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People believe that Lord Shiva appeared in Thiruvannamalai Hills on this day and they mark this by lighting a huge fire on the top of the hill, singing and shouting slogans and mantras like “Annamalaiyarku Arohara”. This year, Karthikai Deepam will be celebrated on November 26, 2023.

Thiruvaiyaru Festival – A Tribute to Saint Thyagaraja 

Thiruvaiyaru music festival

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Thiruvaiyaru Festival is one of the biggest music festivals in India and is truly a delight for any music lovers across the globe. A tribute to the famous music composer and Saint ThyagarajaThiruvaiyaru Festival is held every year in Thiruvaiyaru town of Thanjavur, on the Pushya Bahula Panchami day when the saint Thyagaraja attained Samadhi. Apart from music, pujas and other religious rites play a significant role in this festival. Thiruvaiyaru Festival promotes Carnatic and classical music and is so popular that it is celebrated in USA, Mauritius, and Nigeria as well.

Natyanjali Dance Festival – A Tribute to Lord Nataraja

Dancers from all over the world mark their presence at the Natyanjali Dance Festival, which begins on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivarathri, dedicating their ‘Dance’ (Natya) as ‘Offering’ (Anjali) to the Lord of Dance, Lord Nataraja. Formerly celebrated at the Nataraja Temple in ChidambaramNatyanjali Dance Festival is now celebrated in shrines of tourist destinations namely Chennai, Thirunallar, Thanjavur, Thiruvanaikoil, Nagapattinam, Kumbakonam, and Mayavaram.

Natyanjali Festival

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This 5-day-long vibrant dance festival usually falls between February and March. The best part is that you can enjoy various dance forms of India like Bharatanatyam, Mohiniyattam, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi, Pung Cholam, etc. under one roof. By showcasing the culture of different states through different forms of Indian classical dances, the festival spreads its main message of ‘Unity in Diversity’.

Mahamaham – A Rare Duodecennial Festival

Mahamaham is a unique festival celebrated once in 12 years in a small town called Kumbakonam in the State of Tamil Nadu. It generally occurs in the month of Masi in the Tamil calendar when the planet Jupiter aligns itself with the star sign Leo in the constellation once in twelve years. People from all over the country come to Kumbakonam on this day to take a dip in the famous ‘Mahamaham tank’ as it is considered sacred and purifies you of your sins.

Chithirai Festival – The Re-enactment of the Celestial Wedding of Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi

One of the grandest festivals of Tamilnadu, the Chithirai Festival, also known as Chithirai Thiruvizha showcases the enactment of the crowning of Goddess Meenakshi and the divine union of Lord Sundareswarar and Goddess Meenakshi.

Chithirai festival in Madurai

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This two-week-long grand festival takes place at the famous Madurai Meenakshi Temple in the Tamil month of Chitrai which falls between April and May. The main highlight is the car festival of Madurai Meenakshi Temple which runs through the streets of Madurai during Chithirai.

Jallikattu Festival – Tamilnadu’s Traditional Bull-Taming Festival

An impressive display of sport and culture, Jallikattu Festival honours the spirit of hard-working Tamil farmers while showcasing the bravery and strength of the bulls they have tamed and domesticated.

A young brave men taming the bull

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Jallikattu takes place in an open ground where a ferocious bull is let loose amid hordes of people who try to tame it by controlling its horn. The bulls that triumph in the festival bag the highest price in markets and are used for breeding. This extreme spine-chilling spectacle is often celebrated on Mattu Pongal, the third day of the Harvest Festival of Tamilnadu, Pongal.

Navratri – The Festival of Dolls

Navratri - The Festival of Dolls

Navratri is a highly revered religious festival in India, celebrated for nine days to honour Goddess Durga in all her avatars (forms). Tamilnadu celebrates Navratri in a very unique way, different from the rest of India. Navratri in Tamilnadu is considered as the ‘festival of dolls‘ and is known as Bommai Kollu in which idols of gods and goddesses are arranged in a simple tier-wise manner on wooden platforms that represent the story of the battle of Goddess Durga with the demon Mahishasura, as well as stories from the great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is interesting to note that all the stories revolve around the same theme of “Victory of Good Over Evil”. This year Navratri will be celebrated from October 15 – October 24, 2023.

Kulasekharapatnam Dasara Festival – Where Devotees Dress Up as Goddess Kali to Seek Blessings

Kulasekharapatnam Dasara Festival also known as Kulasai Dasara is a unique religious and cultural festival celebrated annually at the 300-year-old Mutharamman Temple, located in Kulasekharapatnam, a remote coastal town in the Tuticorin district of Tamilnadu. The temple is dedicated to the ferocious Goddess Kali. A fusion of music and dance, Kulasekharapatnam Dasara Festival is an enthralling spectacle to experience. During the festival, the devotees are seen dressed up as Goddess Kali, kings, monkeys, and beggars, begging in the streets or dancing vigorously to the pulsating beats of thara thappattam, holding fire-bearing clay pots in their hands as a part of the ritual and walking towards the temple. There, they present the money they have collected as an offering to the presiding deity, Goddess Sri Mutharamman.

Kulasekharapatnam Dasara Festival

The Kulasekharapatnam Dasara Festival is often celebrated on the tenth day of Navratri, called as Dasara which falls generally during October Month as per the Calendar. The festival comes to an end with a theatrical slaying of the demon Mahishasura by the Goddess on the beach. This year, the Kulasai Dasara is expected to take place from October 21 to October 25, 2023.

Koovagam Festival – The Unique Transgender Festival of Tamilnadu

The annual 18-day-long Koovagam Festival is dedicated to the transgender community. Hundreds and thousands of transgenders gather at Koothavandar Temple near Koovagam village in the Kallakurichi district of Tamilnadu as part of this festival. The temple is dedicated to Lord Aarvan. Although the Koovagam Festival lasts for about 18 days; the core rituals take place at the last two days. On the 17th day of the festival, the transgender women dress as brides and visit the Koothavandar Temple to marry the deity ‘ Lord Aravan.’ To symbolize marriage, the temple priests wear the “thali” or “mangal sutra” around their necks. As Lord Aravan would be assassinated on the 18th day, his “wives” would embrace widowhood by donning white saris without jewellery or makeup. The priests take away the thalis and the women fiercely break their bangles, signifying their widowhood. 

Koovagam Festival at Koothavandar Temple near Koovagam village in the Kallakurichi district of Tamilnadu

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The Koovagam Festival offers the transgender community across the state a venue to celebrate their identity and take part in a traditional Hindu festival. Aiming to foster a more accepting and inclusive society, the Koovagam Festival also seeks to increase awareness of the problems faced by the transgender community.

Diwali – The Festival of Lights

The beautiful state of Tamilnadu comes alive with dazzling festival lights and vibrant festive spirit during Diwali, making it a spectacular sight to behold. Diwali commemorates Lord Krishna’s victory over the demon Narakasura and Tamilnadu celebrates it in a simple and traditional manner.

An eye-catching view of firecrackers cracking at the sky on the occasion of the Diwali festival in Tamilnadu.

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The Diwali celebration starts with people taking an oil bath in the morning before sunrise as it is the most important custom of the festival, revered as holy as a bath in the Ganges. Apart from the ritual bath, Diwali celebrations in Tamil Nadu also include decorating the entrance of homes with beautiful Kolam (Rangolis), bursting firecrackers, and eating sweets and other special Diwali delicacies. This year Diwali will be celebrated on November 12, 2023.

The Festivals of Tamilnadu are just extraordinary and full of life, showcasing the centuries-old traditions passed down by its ancestors. If you can, do not miss the opportunity to be a part of these vibrant festivals during your holiday in Tamilnadu.

If we missed anything to add to this list, please let us know in the comments below.

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