For farmers, calves born on the second of Thai (Tamil month) are gods to the people of several villages in the valley. They do not use them for commercial or domestic purpose. They treat them as their family deities and offer them to Sri Thambiran Maatu Thozhu, cow temple, in Cumbum.
Now, the temple has more than 200 cows and bulls. People neither collect milk from cows nor use the bulls for any work. Okkaliga Gouder community people have been maintaining this temple and feeding the cattle throughout the year. Pongal celebration is the major festival of this temple.
Since early in the morning on Sunday, people of 21 villages around Cumbum thronged the aesthetically-decorated temple and performed special pujas to these cattle. They were waiting in a long queue to have a darshan and perform pujas.
“A bull that was identified as ‘Pattathu Kaalai’ is treated as the main deity. We decorate them with bronze bells, silver and gold ornaments and cover the body with silk cloth. Hump was covered with new white cloth and horns with silver ornament.
There is no other deity in the temple. Cows and bulls that were offered to the temple are their deities. A kambam (dwajasthabam) was erected in the main hall of the temple, said R.P. Gandhavan, oor naattamai (village head).
People, irrespective of their community, clan and religion, offer such cattle to this temple. This system has been strictly followed in six villages around Cumbum. Cattle growers strongly believe that male or female calf born on Thai 2 has a divinity.
The temple received around 12 newborn cattle on this day. Bulls and cows in the temple were arranged in the mandapam for worship. Devotees applied ‘tilak’ on their foreheads and performed pujas. Cattle growers belonging to other religion too follow this tradition and offer calves to this temple. Cattle feed and fruits were the main offerings to them. “These special calves bring fortune to our family,” devotees said.
Even after death, these animals were treated as heavenly creatures. They were buried royally following all rites meticulously in a separate yard within the temple complex.