14 January 2009

Happy Pongal 2009

The festival of Pongal, the harvest festival of South Indian, is believed to be over a 1,000 years old and celebrated in Tamil Nadu and by Tamilians worldwide. Although it started as a farmers festival, nowadays it is an important festival in urban areas as it is in rural ones. It follows the solar calendar and marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six month period and all important events are scheduled during this 6-month period. Four festivals are celebrated at Tiruvannamalai (and throughout Tamil Nadu) for four consecutive days during Pongal; 'Bhogi' on January 13th, 'Pongal' on Jan 14th, 'Mattupongal' on Jan 15th, and 'Thiruvalluvar Day' on Jan 16th.

On Bhogi old clothes and materials are thrown away and set on fire, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the 'Pongal' day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. People also prepare savouries and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic. Most families adorn the front of their homes with kolam (rangoli drawings) every day, but during Pongal, the kolams are amazing in their detail, colour and intricacy.

Here are the two most popular legends attached to Pongal celebration

The raising of Mount Govardhan
The first day of the festival Bhogi Pongal connected with Lord Indra (the Vedic God of clouds and rains) and with Lord Krishna. In previous times, people used to worship Lord Indra who was the King of the Gods. This honour given to Lord Indra made him full of pride and arrogance. When baby Krishna came to know about this he thought of a plan to teach Indra a lesson. He persuaded his cowherd friends to worship Mount Govardhan rather than Lord Indra. This angered Indra and he sent forth his rain clouds to flood the land. At that time, Lord Krishna lifted the huge Govardhan on his little finger to protect the cowherds and cattle from the ravaging storm of Lord Indra. The rains continued for three days, till at last Indra realized his mistake and the superior power of Lord Krishna. He humbly begged Krishna's forgiveness. Since then, Krishna let the Bhogi celebrations continue to be celebrated in honour of Indra. Thus the festival also is known as 'Indran' from this legendary story.

The Banishment of Basava
Another legend associated with the festival relates to Lord Shiva. The third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. According to the legend, Lord Shiva once asked the bull to go to the Earth and deliver a message to the people, to have an oil massage and bath daily and to eat food once a month. Basava mixed up the message, and told the people to have an oil massage and bath once a month, and to eat food daily. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to this mistake there would be shortage of grains on Earth. He banished the bull to live on Earth forever in the form of cattle, and help people plough the fields. Thus, Mattu Pongal has an association with the cattle.

1 comment:

Claire said...

And hope you had a happy pongal too Meenakshi Ammal.