“As tamilians, Pongal is one of the important festivals for us. Agriculture is the backbone of India and this day marks as a significant reminder to us to offer our penance to the sun god who is the harbinger of light and joy; and to give back to our farmers who toil for hours in the fields to provide us with the basic essentials.
I was born and brought up in the quaint village of Thirutharapoondi. My family was into farming so Pongal was always a big deal at my house. We celebrated all three days of pongal equally and it was one of the most awaited festivals of the year. So the first day i.e. bhogi, signifies a start to a new beginning so we work to let go off the negative stuff to pave way for the new path. As the famous Tamil saying goes ‘Pazhayana kazhidal, Pudiyana Pugudal’, we clean our house and set the waste ablaze outside the house and just bring in the new pots, the freshly harvested rice etc. Here again, we make sure to burn non-polluting materials. Shortly after that, we make the sweet pongal and offer it to our ancestors and family deities. Then, on the day of Pongal, we erect a make-shift stove with the help of stones and twigs in the center of the house, wide enough to hold two pots. Once the stove has been placed, we decorate the pot with wreaths and garlands.
This was an exciting festival for everyone in my family so my sisters and I used to wake up at 4am to help our mom with the rangolis and the other preparations. Everyone in the street would be up and about, making preparations for the pongal so the atmosphere will be ringing with a festive spirit. I used to love the taste of my mother’s pongal and it’s something I miss to this date. Other than the sweet and the salt pongal, my mother used to make a vegetable kurma which will include all vegetables. Once the indoor pooja is completed, we will step outside to offer our prayers to the sun, worshipped as Surya Bhagvan.
Until my 10th standard, I was in the same village so we had a farm where we reared a cow. So on the day of the Maatu pongal, we used to decorate the cow and offer our penance to lord Gomatha. We will keep a separate pot of pongal for the cow and offer it to her. We will also invite all the neighborhood kids and feast them to a sumptuous lunch made by us. And on the day of Kanum Pongal, myself and my friends used to make a combined lunch where each one of us will source an ingredient from the house. It was a memorable period in my life and I still relish looking back on those moments.
Moving to Chennai after marriage, we have a low key celebration on our terrace as there aren’t much facilities available to us in the city. As parents, I feel we have a huge responsibility to educate the upcoming generation about our customs and values; everything is changing these days but one should not let go of these essential customs which act as the true fabric of a culture. Also gone are the days when people cooked in mud vessels so we should make a conscious choice to invest and cook in mud vessels at least on the day of pongal. While it will act as a huge support to the pottery community, the health benefits derived from this is endless. Sugarcanes too, these days, are purchased only as a customary thing on Pongal but in the world ruled by junk, I honestly wish that many more parents would understand and promote the wellness of the sugarcane to their kids.”
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