According to the calendar based on the solar system the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun northwards and Southwards. The former is termed Uttarayana and the latter is Dakshinayana. Uttarayana marks the Sun’s movement northward for a six month period and all important events are scheduled during this time. On the first day of Thai, the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters that of Capricorn, the latter is known as Makaram. The event thus is celebrated as Pongal.
|Gods leaving the Siva Sannidhi|
Early in the morning of Mattu Pongal (Cow Pongal) the Gods leave the Siva Sannidhi at Arunachaleswarar Temple, perform circumambulation of the outside of the Shrine and then proceed through the Temple leaving by the Thitthi Vasal gate which is adjacent to the Raja Gopuram East Gate.
|Lord Arunachaleswarar at Thitthi Vassal Gate|
|Goddess at Thitthi Vassal Gate|
The third day of this Festival is known as Mattu Pongal and is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands.
A legend associated with the Festival and in particularly connected to Mattu Pongal goes like this.
The Banishment of Basava
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.
As well as farmers and agriculturalists celebrating Mattu Pongal today, the cow (buffalo) is also worshipped at Arunachaleswarar Temple.
The Five Nandis
During Mattu Pongal at Arunachaleswarar Temple, apart from other celebrations, the five Nandis inside the Temple are lavishly decorated with garlands and foodstuff.