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COVID casts a shadow on Pongal festivities in TN

COVID casts a shadow on Pongal festivities in TN

Published:14 January 2022

The third wave of COVID-19 had a bearing on the 'Pongal' festivities in Tamil Nadu on Friday, though the people celebrated the harvest festival with zeal at their homes.

 Chennai | The third wave of COVID-19 had a bearing on the 'Pongal' festivities in Tamil Nadu on Friday, though the people celebrated the harvest festival with zeal at their homes.Bright and colourful 'Kolams,' drawings made using rice flour, both dry and wet paste at homes heralded the arrival of both the first grand festival of the year and the Tamil month of 'Thai,' considered auspicious.Attired in their choicest clothes, people offered worship praying for a fresh start and prepared sweet dish 'Sakkarai Pongal' made of rice, jaggery and other commodities, which is synonymous with the festival and exchanged greetings.The effect of the pandemic is however hard to miss. Licensed Merchants Association (Koyambedu vegetable market in Chennai, one of the biggest in the country) chief S Chandran told PTI that the overall sale, be it sugarcane, ginger, raw turmeric bunch used for Pongal or other vegetables, the business this year is comparatively less. The prices have also witnessed a drop, he added.Only about 50 to 60 per cent of usual festival sale was seen on the eve of Pongal and the remaining stock is being sold on January 14 at reduced prices in view of sluggish demand, he said.

A bundle (20 full pieces) of sugarcane that was sold for Rs 300-Rs 350 on January 13 is sold on Friday for Rs 250-Rs 300, he said, adding despite the comparatively low prices the sale is not brisk. The price of a sugarcane bundle was Rs 400 and above during the corresponding period last year, he pointed out. Similar is the case of other things, he said.Traders have procured comparatively less quantity of fresh, raw turmeric bunch this year, V M Velayutham, President, Kalingarayan Canal Farmers Association based in Erode district of Tamil Nadu told PTI. Farm fresh turmeric bunches adorn the decorated Pongal pots used for preparing Pongal.Only about two tons have been procured and it was 3 tons the previous year and while the price per bunch is Rs 5 this year, it was Rs 7 in 2021, he said pointing to data for the local region.President Lower Bhavani Project Ryots Association, C Nallasami said people's interest in buying raw turmeric for Pongal has witnessed a decline.Entertainment industry tracker M Bharat Kumar said the occupancy in about 900 screens in Tamil Nadu was very poor, approximately ranging from a mere 5 per cent to 40 per cent including urban centres.

"Few cinemas have even cancelled shows due to poor patronage," he said.Factors like only 50 per cent occupancy in cinemas, night curfews that disallow night shows and Sunday lockdown due to the third wave of the pandemic have prompted producers to defer release of big ticket movies Ajith-starrer 'Valimai' and ace film maker Rajamouli's multilingual venture 'RRR'. This is also an important reason for the dismal turnout at cinemas, he said."Many owners of cinema theatres fear that the festival weekend could be a washout as hardly people turn up." Prabhu Deva's 'Thel' a Hari Kumar directorial was released on January 14 and M Sasikumar's 'Kombuvecha Singam Da' and Vidaarth-starrer 'Carbon' and 'Nai Sekar' in which comedian Satish essays the lead role for the first time and 'Enna Solla Pogirai,' were among the other flicks that saw Pongal releases.Only local people (subject to a maximum of 150 spectators or 50 per cent occupancy, whichever is less) where bull taming 'Jallikattu,' events are held are allowed to witness the rural sport. Double dose vaccination and a negative RT-PCR test result are mandatory for locals to witness such events. Similar conditions apply for bull tamers as well.

People from elsewhere have been advised to watch it on television or the internet.In view of the rising virus cases, the government has enforced several curbs and night curfew and a bar on visiting places of worship on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays are among them.The government has specified 11 guidelines and compliance is a pre-requisite for approval to conduct Jallikattu events, a major attraction in the hinterland during Pongal season.


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