Magnificent views of rice fields, farms, and harvest fields paint the landscape of a town in India. On a typical day, you will see farmers at work, villagers talking to random tourists, their neighbours, and their children playing together. You will hear chatters from villagers, sounds of the animals from the farms, the rustling leaves as the wind blows. During the festive seasons, this very scene amplifies.
Intending to visit her extended family in September 2016, Nur Farah Farhaanah, a 20-year-old student residing in Singapore, visited Koothanallur, a town located in the state of Tamil Nadu in South India. During this period, the villagers in Koothanallur observed Eid, also known as Hari Raya Haji in Singapore, so she had the opportunity to experience the festive atmosphere in Koothanallur.
During the festive season, colourful flower decorations around the villages paints the landscape of Koothanallur. Instead of seeing farmers working, you’ll see them take a break to celebrate with their loved ones, villagers sharing home-cooked dishes and delicacies to neighbours, children will go out and play after finishing the mandatories – such as completing prayers and visiting their relatives. The chatter gets louder as relatives and neighbours make time to catch up with one another, with the villagers singing songs and getting into the festive mood.
Farah’s numerous trips to this Indian village to experience the festive season made her fall in love with the villagers’ way of making visitors feel welcome. One thing she highlighted about the hospitality was the food , typically meat dishes cooked in different styles like Curry, a dish cooked with traditional, fragrant indian spices or Sambar, a stew made from Tamarind (a spice), were served alongside rice as a staple, and everyone will gather as one to eat. In the event that the food is not enough, the villagers would ensure that the guests will have enough to eat. For the villagers’ own meals, they would cook a simple alternative.
As residents in Koothanallur Village are mostly Muslims, they observe the Islamic way of greeting known as the “Salam” . The “Salam” is performed by shaking hands with the other party and the greeting “Assalamualaikum” which means, “may peace be upon you”. She added that whenever she visits, the villagers will “Salam” her and this gesture always makes her feel more than welcome.
Difference in festive atmosphere
Apart from the warm hospitality of the villagers, she also learnt that the festive season feels different in India and Singapore. Typically, in Singapore, on the first day of a festive occasion, family members and relatives visit one another and once the family members and relatives are done visiting, doors will then be opened to other guests like neighbours and friends. In Koothanallur, however, Farah witnessed that villagers open their homes to any guests during the first day, and not necessarily solely for family members and relatives alone.
As the saying goes “the more we get together, the happier we’ll be”, the villagers in Koothanallur are more than happy and believe in welcoming people to their humble abode to celebrate together. This community spirit of the villagers, is what makes Koothanallur worth visiting during the festive seasons.