Translated from Tamil by Benolin
Valli is one of the most revered goddesses of Tamil Nadu who became the second wife of Lord Murugan. Every year, the Adivasis/tribals of the state worship her and offer her a feast by preparing a spread from animals hunted from the forest. Valli was born to a tribe of hunters and was a princess of great beauty and intellect. Hence, her worship is done by offering hunted meat and hunting paraphernalia such as bows and arrows.
The three-day worship is marked by grand celebration in many temples across the state every year. The Tamil god Murugan is worshipped along with his wives Valli and Dheivanai. Murugan fell in love and married Valli who is from the Kuravar tribe. Valli’s descendants, the tribal people have been living in many places across the state. The Kuravars (not Nari Kuravavar) have built many temples for Valli and have been worshipping her as their patron god.
About 250 tribal families who are descendants of Valli herself have been living in Ellis Nagar, Madurai. They have built a temple to worship Valli. In the month of Purattaasi (October), a 3- day festival is held in that temple to pay respect to their ancestor princess and goddess.
During this festival, the Kuravar tribes of the Kurinji land (hill and hillside areas) venture into the forest to hunt pigs, doves, quails, and rabbits. They also collect forest produce such as honey, jack fruit and millet. These are offered as a feast to the gods as per tradition. Last year, venturing into the forest was restricted because of the COVID-19 lockdown. Thus, the festival was postponed for a few weeks.
When the lockdown was lifted slightly, devotees of Valli carried out a procession. Women bore hunting equipment and little children got dressed as hunters. The children held small bows and arrows and danced Koothu all through the way. The offerings were laid on a banana leaf before the goddess inside the temple premises. After the procession, everyone gathered before Valli and worshipped her.
The festival was reported by many media outlets. Eventually, when we visited the place to take photos, the experience was enthralling.
Listening to the songs and watching the children dress as hunters made for a memorable evening. I took several pictures so I can share with people from other states. This is done for people who do not know about the various traditions of the tribal people of Tamil Nadu.
This article has been created as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.