One can still observe the rituals of Aadi Perukku at home, rather than going out to bodies of water, out of safety concerns in the COVID-19 pandemic hit world.

So said retired academician Dr K Thilagawathi, when contacted by Astro Ulagam to talk about the Tamil festival celebrated on the 18th day of the Tamil month of Aadi (mid-July), to pay tribute to water's life-sustaining properties.

"In today's technology-equipped world, temples can livestream their pooja sessions and devotees can observe them from the safety of their own homes.

"Even in remote villages in India, people go to whatever bodies of water that is available to them (such as water tanks) to perform rituals for the festival," she said.

"We have to adapt where we can," said the retired former Associate Professor, and head of Department of Indian Studies in Universiti Malaya.

According to her, devotees can place a kumbam (metal pot filled with water) at their home and worship it by lighting lamps and adorn it with other prayer items, as they would perform the ritual at any other bodies of water.

Devotees can also cook and present offerings to Goddess Amman during the prayer session, she added.

Dr Thilagawathi noted that the festival originated as one for farmers to worship water, and Mother Nature, for showering grace, peace, and prosperity on them.

It is also synonymous with newly-weds replacing and renewing the thali string, which is the sacred yellow string tied by the groom to the bride during a traditional Hindu wedding.

On this days, married women replace the yellow string on their Thali with the hopes of getting abundance of happiness after worshipping Goddess Amman at temples located near river banks. The women then get a new thali string from elderly married women, who bless them to live long, prosperous married life.

The old thali strings are then left in the river, or other bodies of water frequented by the couple.

According to Dr Thilagawathi, this ritual generally signifies new beginnings, as how the farmers of old prayed and hoped for a better crop season after the water levels rise during the monsoon season in the Aadi month.

It is during this time that the monsoon peaks and the rivers of Tamil Nadu often swell to near full levels, enriching the crops along the river banks.

This particular ritual (changing of string) can also be done by unmarried individuals, with strings tied on their hands and so on, to pray for new beginnings, and better prospects, she noted.

In Tamil Nadu, the festival is commonly celebrated in a grand manner in the banks of river Cauvery, but the COVID-19 pandemic has dampened this year's festivities.

It was reported that many district administrations have banned congregations from bathing at the river and conducting prayers at temples, due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Perhaps Aadi Perukku is indeed a time of new beginnings and to wash off the olden undesirables.

Astro Ulagam wishes all our readers a very happy, and prosperous Aadi Perukku celebration!