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Fish hunting festivals are happening after a long gap in Tamil Nadu.

Just as good rains and farming are related, brimming lakes and ponds is directly related to fish population in them.

Tamils welcome crop harvest as an auspicious day. They celebrate many festivals dedicated to farming. There are festivals for separating the seeds for the next crop, separating the hay, engaging the plough, making mud horses during harvest, as well as mango festivals, betel leaf festivals, sweet meat festivals and so on.

There is another festival relating to rains. If the northeast monsoon is good, the fishing festival is celebrated in a big way next summer as fish hunt

Last winter’s rains helped to fill ponds, lakes and reservoirs. Crops have been bountiful as a result. After nearly 15 years, fish hunting festivals have been happening in villages since March in Tamil Nadu.

After a long time, the rains have filled all these waterbodies. People who had migrated to other places for livelihood have come back. Some 4,900 hectares of land saw cultivation and good harvest.

Ayyaru is a river that originates in Kollimalai in Namakkal district, and flows through Tiruchy, Thanjavur districts before merging with Cauvery at the Kollidam Pathukann bridge. The monsoon rains led to good flow in the river and helped to fill waterbodies in villages that are fed by channels from the river.

For instance, in Tiruchy district, the river supplies 18 lakes in Thuraiyur taluk and 15 lakes in Musiri taluk. Some 21 check dams are there.

After a long time, the rains have filled all these waterbodies. People who had migrated to other places for livelihood have come back. Some 4,900 hectares of land saw cultivation and good harvest.

Since the waterbodies are on both sides of the river, the rains brought back to life many living beings. Colourful birds have multiplied. Fish population is thriving.

Youth going with fishing gear for the fish hunting festival.

Villagers make fishing in lakes a community event and celebrate it as fish hunt. They gather on an appointed date at the lake. The mood is festive. There is much joy around.

These fish festivals have started happening in Madurai and Tiruchy. Last week, for instance, a fish hunt festival happened at Tinnakonam village in Musiri block. Men, women, children and senior citizens come together to celebrate the festival.

The headman of Tinnakonam village swirls a towel to signal the start of the fish hunting festival.

The people enter the lake with fishing gear and other accessories. The village headman swirls a towel over his head and announces the beginning of the fish hunting festival. At once, the people start scouting for catch.

No one is barred from taking apart. All the catch is shared with friends and relatives.  If the catch is much, some of it becomes fodder for cows after drying.

Yoganathan, head of the Ayyaru Protection Movement and a conservator of native crop seeds, said the Tinnakonam festival was happening after 33 years. The lake has filled after 15 years, he adds. Farm produce has increased this year because people who had left the village have come back and taken up farming.

This is a good time for the government to strengthen the banks of waterbodies. Prosopis juliflora, the invasive species, should be removed and palm trees planted instead, says Yoganathan, adding this would help save farming and make the areas prosperous.


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