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Friday, January 13, 2012

Harvest Festival

Here's wishing everyone a HAPPY PONGAL:   Pongalo Pongal! Pongalo Pongal! Pongalo Pongal!

Pongal  Festival

      Pongal Festival

    Pongal is a four day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a    southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and    gathering food, there has been some form of Harvest Festival. Pongal, one    of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. This four-day    festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word    meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai    (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals,    sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are    harvested.
    Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar. The harvest    festival, Pongal, falls typically on the 14th or the 15th of January and is    the quintessential `Tamil Festival'. Pongal is a harvest festival, a    traditional occasion for giving thanks to nature, for celebrating the life    cycles that give us grain. Tamilians say `Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum',    and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of    the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. This is traditionally the    month of weddings. This is not a surprise in a largely agricultural    community -- the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis    for expensive family occasions like weddings.
    The First Day
    This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the    supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for    the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the    land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless    household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes.    Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the    spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt    the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of    winter.
    The Second Day
    On the second day of Pongal, the puja or act of ceremonial worship is    performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is    then symbolically offered to the sun-god along with other oblations. All    people wear traditional dress and markings, and their is an interesting    ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially    used for the puja. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more    simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual    a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled.    The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut    and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the puja, in addition to the    offerings, is the kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally    traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after    bathing.
    The Third Day
    The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows.    Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands    are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed    with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells    attract the villagers as the young men race each other's cattle. The entire    atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed    on them, so as to ward off the evil eye. According to a legend, once Shiva    asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an    oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently,    Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a    month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to    live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help    people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.
    The Fourth Day
    The Fourth day is known as Knau or Kannum Pongal day. On this day, a    turmeric leaf is washed and is then placed on the ground. On this leaf are    placed, the left overs of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice as    well as rice colored red and yellow, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces    of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and plantains. In Tamil Nadu women perform    this ritual before bathing in the morning. All the women, young and old, of    the house assemble in the courtyard. The rice is placed in the centre of    the leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers    should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water,    limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of    the house.

Traditions & Customs

      Traditions & Customs

    Inspite of immense urbanization, the traditions and customs attached to the    harvest festival of Pongal has not diminished. Though the nature of these    tradition and customs has changed, the glitter of this festival has not    dimmed. The fast changing times notwithstanding, certain things do not    change. The way we celebrate the festivals, for instance. The festival of    Pongal captures the quintessence of south Indian culture in all its    entirety and traditional practices and customs continue to hold their own even    today.
    The spirit is alive and Pongal is still treated as a time to discard the    old and welcome the new. The new crop that is harvested is cooked and    offered to the Almighty. Celebrated for four days, the various traditions    and customs of this harvest festival are:
    Bhogi Pongal
    The first day of Pongal known as 'Bhogi Pongal' is a day for family    gathering and is dedicated to Lord Indra, the king of the deities and God    of the Clouds and Rains. Offerings are made to him to please him so that he    blesses us for the plentiful harvest. It is also the beginning of the New    Year according to the Malayalam calendar and before sunrise, a huge bonfire    of useless things in home is lit that is kept burning throughout the night.    All the time, boys beat little buffalo-hide drums known as 'Bhogi Kottus'.    The houses are then cleaned till they shine and are decorated with Kolams    painted using rice four. There are yellow pumpkin flowers are set in    cow-dung balls in the middle of these designs.
    Surya Pongal
    The second day of Pongal known as 'Surya Pongal' is dedicated to the Sun    God. The granaries are kept full on this day and Sun God with his rays are    painted on a plank as he is worshiped with the birth of the new auspicious    month of Thai.    Since the word 'Ponga' means 'to boil' representing plentiful and excess    yield, a special dish is cooked on this day in a new mud-pot that comes in    innovative shapes and have artistic designs on them called 'Pongapani'. The    special dish is called 'Sarkkarai Pongal' and is offered to Sun God with    sugarcane sticks. It is said that Lord Sundareshwar performed a miracle on    this day in the Madurai    temple and breathed life into a stone elephant who ate sugarcanes. One can    see the depiction of the event in the Meenakshi temple.
    Mattu Pongal
    The third day known as 'Mattu Pongal' is dedicated to the cattle as    cowherds and shepherds pay thanks to their cows and bulls, paint their    horns and cover them with shining metal caps. They are fed 'Pongal' and    tinkling bells are tied around their neck. Cattle races are conducted and    in the game called 'Manji Virattu' groups of young men chase running bulls.    Bull fights called 'Jallikattu' are also arranged at some places where    young men have to take the money bags tied to the horns of ferocious bulls    single-handedly and without the use of arms. Lord Ganesha and Goddess    Parvati are also worshiped on this day. At some other places, this day is    celebrated as Kanu Pongal when girls feed colored balls of cooked rice to    the birds and crows and pray for their brothers' happiness and that they    always remember them.
    Kaanum Pongal
    The fourth day is termed as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people travel to    see other family members. On this day, the younger members of the family    pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money.    Another thing many do is leave food out on banana leaves for birds to take.    Many South Indian people will take the first bit of rice cooked in any    given day and set it outside for the crows to take, so this is not    necessarily a habit only for Pongal.

What is Pongal?

      What is Pongal?

    Pongal is the only festival of Hindu that follows a solar calendar and is    celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year. Pongal has astronomical    significance: it marks the beginning of Uttarayana,    the Sun's movement northward for a six month period. In Hinduism,    Uttarayana is considered auspicious, as opposed to Dakshinaayana, or the    southern movement of the sun. All important events are scheduled during    this period. Makara Sankranthi    refers to the event of the Sun entering the zodiac sign of Makara or    Capricorn.
    In Hindu temples bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the joyous    occasion of Pongal. To symbolize a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new    pots until they boil over. Some of the rituals performed in the temple    include the preparation of rice, the chanting of prayers and the offering    of vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the gods. Devotees then consume the    offerings to exonerate themselves of past sins.
    Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a    break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja to some    crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season. It also sets    the pace for a series of festivals to follow in a calendar year. In fact,    four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive days in    that week. 'Bogi' is    celebrated on January 13, 'Pongal'    on Jan 14, 'Maattuppongal' on    Jan 15, and 'Thiruvalluvar Day'    on Jan 16.
    The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old    clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, 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    savories 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.
    A festival called Jalli katthu    is held in Madurai    , Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur,all in Tamil Nadu, on this day. Bundles of    money are tied to the horns of Pongal ferocious bulls which the villagers    try to retrieve. Everyone joins in the community meal, at which the food is    made of the freshly harvested grain. This day is named and celebrated as Tamiliar Thirunal in a fitting manner    through out Tamil Nadu.
    Thus, the harvest festival of Pongal symbolizes the veneration of the first    fruit. The crop is harvested only after a certain time of the year, and    cutting the crop before that time is strictly prohibited. Even though Pongal    was originally a festival for the farming community, today it is celebrated    by all. In south India,    all three days of Pongal are considered important. However, those south    Indians who have settled in the north usually celebrate only the second    day. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti    and Lohri of the north, it is    also called Pongal Sankranti.
    Meaning & Significance
    Thai Pongal is an occasion for family re-unions and get-together. Old    enmities, personal animosities and rivalries are forgotten. Estrangements    are healed and reconciliation effected.
    Indeed, Thai Pongal is a festival of freedom, peace, unity and compassion    crystallized in the last hymn on unity in the Indian spiritual text the Rig    Veda. Thus, love and peace are the central theme of Thai Pongal.

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