Mysore, Karnataka
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Yellow Cows at the Sankranthi Festival
Yellow cows are a common sight during January and February in India's southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu where the Sankranthi or Pongol festival is celebrated. The festival occurs every January 14th-18th and is a thanksgiving ceremony for the rice harvest. One day of the festival gives special thanks to cattle for their contributions to the rice harvest. People continue to farm rice paddy's with cattle who fertilize and plow the fields and transport the rice on ox carts. To give thanks to these beasts of burden people bathe their cows in turmeric water, believed to have medicinal properties. This dyes many cattle a vivid shade of yellow that lasts nearly a month. People also decorate their cattle, painting their horns bright colors and often ornamenting their foreheads with a crown of flowers or sea shells. The most wild part of the ceremony happens in the evening where cattle jump over several rows of fire. This purification ceremony also burns ticks and flies eggs off their legs and bellies. The cows and their handlers are followed by a jubilant crowd full of people happy to leap over the rows of fire themselves. The cows are then blessed and given a plate of food prepared specially for them. The plate includes fresh coconut, a lump of raw cane sugar, and a specially made rice dish called "Pongol". The day ends with a time honored tradition of Thanksgiving, people gathered together to eat a huge feast made fresh from the harvest shared with friends and family.
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