“Amma what’s for lunch?” Rice! “Amma what’s for dinner?” Rice! “Ammaaa…!” This is a standard...
Pongal O Pongal
Waking up amidst a thick cloud of smoke, one is in a state of joy as the celebratory spirit kicks in. It is the first festival of the year and it brings with it an abundant joy that is very similar to the abundant produce that we celebrate. For those who still haven’t figured out the festival I’m talking about, it is Pongal, also known as Sankranti, Baisakhi, Lohri in different parts of India. Pongal is the harvest festival and it celebrates the Sun God’s grace in spreading abundance in the form of crops and produce that make life on Earth possible for us humans. The Sun God is responsible for light that makes survival on this planet possible. You don’t want to imagine a dark planet without days, those must be shelved away to be used in sci-fi movies. Coming back to our topic of discussion today, Pongal is also called the farmer’s festival as it celebrates the fruit of their hard labour. In South India, Pongal is celebrated with great grandeur as the festival marks the beginning of a new month which is a bringer of good tidings. Thai Pongal, Thamizh Pongal are other names for this festival depending on which part of Tamil Nadu you are in. Pongal is a festival that is celebrated over an expanse of 4 days and each day brings with it their unique customs and rituals. The first day is called Bhogi and it is celebrated widely as it is the day that people are told to do away with all things that are old and unnecessary. This can range from trivial things like clothes, vessels, appliances and can go so deep as resetting your mind to your goals and also wiping your mind clean of unwanted thoughts and starting fresh, with a clean state.
People burn old and broken things as a form of resetting their life and also this time of the year is very cold in most parts of India and this serves as an extra option for those who want to stay warm and do their spring cleaning. Imagine a festival that comes with a mandate spring cleaning, that is Pongal for you. The houses are swept clean and cleared of all things unnecessary and decorated with pretty garlands made with fresh flowers & leaves easily available in the region. The tone is set for Pongal with day one and we move on to the next day. Pongal Day is a day of gratitude as we express our gratefulness to the Sun God for his abundance. The day begins nice and early as families come together and prepare for the day’s menu which consists of a Sweet Pongal which is the pièce de résistance for the day followed by Venpongal or the Spicy Pongal that comes with its accompaniment of choice depending on the household. The preferred method of celebration is to find a nice open space and set your Pongal pots to cook and welcome the Sun God as he begins the journey for the day, while letting the cooking Pongal overflow as a sign of overflowing abundance. These days we live with the restrictions that come with urbanisation and give in to hot Pongal probably made in an electric stove and be grateful that we gotta eat the delish dish on this festive day at the least. Further, there is sugarcane that is eaten to test our dental health along with catering to that palette we developed for it as children. The day is very significant as companies around the world try to please their customers with attractive offers that will entice them into buying more. Most of all the day is spent eating great food with family and friends and sharing in the joy of the harvest that was brought into this year.
Day three is a unique day as it celebrates the Cow who is believed to be the purest form on Earth along with the ability to provide milk for all of civilization. Maattu Pongal is a day that gives great joy to children as they get to see cows dressed up in vibrant colours with painted horns and a lot of bling that most definitely includes ankle bells for the cows to be heard even before they arrive. The festivities also include Jalli Kattu which is an age-old tradition that celebrates bull racing-chasing and is a sport that highlights the prowess of both the bull & the men attempting to take control. While this sport has gained global attention, its practice requires a lot of safety measures and preparation from the farmers, bull breeders and of course the competitors. Day 3 also includes the locals helping out the struggling farmers and milk men & women as they bring about their cows in the hope of securing better funding for the upkeep of the animals. The last day of Pongal is a day of merry making as it is called Kaanum Pongal, which involves going out and visiting friends and family. The essence of this day of celebration came with villages hosting markets to showcase their harvest for that year and serving as a platform for people to buy 7 sell and thereby visiting the fair. This day has transformed into a picnic day for most and a day of sightseeing, shopping at the mall, hanging out with friends and family at the beach etc. Pongal is a great festival that brings people together, like all festivals are meant to. Pongal is unique because it celebrates the bounty that nature provides us without expecting anything back. Pongal is a celebration of Nature’s role in our lives and we must always be grateful for all that she does for us. Team Aha Bazaar wishes everyone a very Happy Pongal and we hope you share and spread love to all that are part of this beautiful planet and especially Nature, which makes it all possible.