THAI THIRUNAL, TAMIL SANGAM’S HARVEST FESTIVAL, JANUARY 19, 2008
From humble roots in a Detroit basement, Tamil Sangam is a grassroots, non-proft organization that has now come to represent an abundance of shops, restaurants and other business catering to the needs of Detroit’s Tamil community.
For a more thorough explanation of the Tamil people, see the associated link. In brief, the Michigan Sangam represents a community whose identity is primarily to maintain the use of Tamil language, and is neither political nor religious in motivation.
On January 19, 2008, the Sangam’s mission to promote Tamil customs reached a cultural high watermark at Troy High School with the celebration of Thai Thirunal, an annual festival to celebrate the harvest; a family-based celebration not unlike Thanksgiving. ‘Thai’, incidentally, is not to be confused with residents of Thailand—it is the month in the Tamil calendar that coincides with the Western months of January/February. In Sri Lanka and the south of India, Thirunal festivals may take on religious significance as the blessing of the Sun God Suriyapakaran is instrumental in assuring a successful rice harvest.
At the Sangam’s joyful event, opening remarks were made by Tamil Sangam president Kanthi Sundar, and homage was paid to a number of significant local Tamilians, including the 2008 Youth Committee and the Sangam board. Another featured speaker, Naren Balasubramaniam (the immediate-past president of Tamil Sangam Michigan and the founding-member of the Board of Trustees) was pf particular significance to Visionalist, since he has graciously volunteered to serve as our facilitator to reach out to various Indian/ Regional cultural associations.
Although the Visionalist crew is woefully lacking in a command of the beautiful Tamil language, both Kanthi’s and Naren’s remarks were inspiring, based on crowd reaction.
Easier to understand was the variety entertainment programs that followed, with skits, singing, comedy, and especially, beautifully exotic dancing choreographed by such talent as Radhika Archarya, Shanthi Thiagarajan., Induvadana Malli, Renukha Ezhil, Malathi Subramanian,Viji Mukund, Lakshmi Ganapathy and Selvam Veluswamy.
Easier still was the magnificent lunch provided by India Spice restaurant. As it is at Thanksgiving, food is a core component of Thai Thirunal festivals worldwide, and the long hallways of Troy High School were redolent with the assertive smells of Indian spices. The rich spread included numerous crowd-pleasers and some of our all-time favorites Indian dishes like medhu vada (fried rice and lentil bread), sambhar (a vegetable stew based on tamarind broth) and a variety of chutneys.