by soccerplayer9 on 02/05/07 at 7:36 am
This article describes the Pongal festival celebrated in India.
The first day of Pongal is called Bhogi Pongal and is meant for being together with our family. This first day is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, who is the king of all Devas including Varuna, the ruler of clouds that rain. We pay respect to Lord Indra for the abundance of crops, thus bringing prosperity to the land.
Here is a story that explains the significance of this day. Indra became proud and arrogant because everyone worshiped him (on this day). Lord Krishna wanted to teach him a lesson, so he asked his shepherd friends to worship Mount Govardhan instead of Indra on the day of Bhogi Pongal. Indra was terribly angry with this and sent forth the seven clouds to cause thunder, lightning and heavy rains to destroy the shepherds. But Lord Krishna lifted the Govardhan Mountain so all the shepherds and their cattle could go underneath. Indra felt humbled and begged for Krishna’s forgiveness; Lord Krishna allowed Bhogi celebrations to continue in honor of Indra.
On this day before sunrise, a huge bonfire is lit in front of the houses and people throw all their useless things into the fire. This is a symbol of starting a new year. The fire burns through the night while boys beat little drums called “Bhogi Kottus”. These are made from buffalo hides.
Homes are cleaned until they’re spotless and are decorated with “Kolam”, designs drawn with the white paste of rice and red mud. In villages, yellow pumpkin flowers are put in cow-dung balls and placed in the middle of the designs. The harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in and kept ready for the next day’s festivities.
The second day of Pongal is known as Surya Pongal and is dedicated to the Sun God. On this day, the granaries are full, the sun shines brightly, and everyone’s hearts overflow with happiness. A plank is placed on the ground and Kolam is drawn on its sides. In the middle of the plank is a big picture of the Sun God. The Puja of the Sun God starts after the birth of the new month Thai. Prayers are offered to the Sun God to seek his blessings.
The word `Pongal’ has two meanings. Firstly it is the name of the food cooked on this day and secondly the word “Ponga” means “boil”. So the word “Pongal” means something that is overflowing. The preparation of this food uses a mud-pot called Pongapaanai on which pictures are drawn. While the Puja is being performed, fresh tumeric and ginger saplings are tied to the neck of the Pongapaanai with leaves. The leaves are a symbol of prosperity, the turmeric of auspiciousness, and ginger for the spice of life. The special food called “Sarkkarai Pongal” is cooked in this mud-pot. After the puja is over, “Sarkkarai Pongal” with sticks of sugarcane is offered to the Sun god as thanks for the plentiful harvest. Sugarcane is a symbol of sweetness and happiness in life. The month of Thai (a Tamil month) starts the marriage season in Tamil Nadu.
The Third day is Maattu Pongal, which is the festival of cattle. To the village people, the cow and the bull are very valuable, so the farmers honor them by celebrating it as a day of thanks to them. The cattle are washed, and their horns are painted. Multi-colored beads, bells, sheaves of corn, and flower garlands are tied around their necks. They are fed with pongal and taken to the village centers. The sound of their bells attracts the villagers as the young men race their cattle. The whole place becomes festive and full of fun and celebration. Big commotion is seen when the game “Manji Virattu” starts in which groups of young men chase the running bulls.
In some places, there is “Jallikattu”. It is a bullfight in which moneybags are tied to the horns of the bulls and unarmed young men are asked to retrieve them from the bull’s horns. Community dinners are also held when everyone dines together forgetting the distinction of caste or class.
To sum it up, Pongal is a festival when god is praised with a simple faith and sincerity.