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A friendly pongal celebration.…

February 1, 2011 1 comment

At the outset of 2011, I wanted to start not with a big bang though, but with a Pongal celebration in a more traditional and authentic way. Thanks to my friend, colleague and well wisher-Sivaguru for making it happen.

 Siva’s provenance is Nattrampalli aka NTP. Needless to say NTP is a modern village with all amenities required for a living. I always had an overwhelming time in my every visit to NTP. It has been enchanting, adventurous as I exuberate with his friends who always welcome with smile…

 For the reader who doesn’t know the importance of Pongal here goes some intro…

 Traditionalistic name of Pongal is called “Thai Pongal”. The underlying religious element is that it is a harvest festival celebrated in TamilNadu, the state from which I originated. The literal meaning of Pongal is to “boil over” but metaphorically means prosperity and is observed as a 4 day fest…

 The first day is called “Bhogi” where people discard any old items and focus on new things.

 The second day is called Thai Pongal-It is so called since it is celebrated in the Tamil month of Thai (Jan 14 or 15). But all I knew was that on this particular day everyone will prepare the sweet rice called as Pongal. Its ingredients include brown sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins. I witnessed a different pongal this time at NTP which I will disclose at a later stage…

 Third day being “Maatu Pongal”. On this day cattle are felicitated. It is indeed to honor the work done by the cattle throughout the year.

 The final and last day is “Kaanum Pongal”. It is synonymous to thanks giving celebrated in Americas but ofcourse no one prepares anything similar to a Turkey but a family get together may be common in few places to share gifts. It is not widely celebrated in cities though, but a family outing is something common…

Coming back to our topic on my celebration at NTP….on the Bogi day, we reached NTP in the late evening so there wasn’t much activities except that ladies were showing heavy interest to draw rangoli in different colors laid in the front yard of the houses with a caption added “Wish you a Happy Pongal”. The next day being “Thai Pongal” started slowly and I could see people carrying the sugarcanes and mud pots to their farm lands…Siva took me to their grand parent’s home, a hut, where they lived. I heard from him that every year they do the Pooja at this place with few of their closest relatives. Amidst the modern age, there are certain religious practices which will be enrooted in rural areas; I found the prayers offered to GOD haven’t changed for years.  Siva’s family doesn’t prepare the sweet pongal instead they made white rice in a big mud pot. The rice is prepared with the newly harvested grains from that season with little milk added to make the rice boil. Once the prayers were offered to GOD, the food was served on plantain leaves. Followed by the lunch I had to relish myself eating the sugarcane. I carried the white sugarcane along with his brother for the Pooja thinking that will be the one meant to eat. I had a doubt running in my mind?? What for did I brought the white sugarcane then?? The doubt about the difference in 2 varieties of sugarcane was clarified later with a short chat. The white sugarcane would be hard to eat and is meant only to educe sugar from it. The other one is the black sugarcane and is edible.

Our day ended with a long drive in Siva’s Nano car from NTP to Vaniyambadi for watching a movie at a cinema theatre accompanied by his friends. Compared to the movie I liked the theater which was a new one and had the ambience of a VOLVO bus. The movie tickets price has increased heavily and equivalent to the one I used to spend in Bangalore. Anyway there are always movie crazier that will be ready to afford whatever may be the ticket price and NTP is no exception….

The next day was to show the honor to cattle by peasants.  The cattle working throughout the year being exploited by its landlords will get one day rest. Siva took me to his farmhouse where they have few acres of cultivation land. Anyone would appraise the silence prevailing around their paddy field. For me it was a modest escapism from traffic and pollution as I see everyday in Bangalore….

The cow and the goat were given bath and readied for celebration. Its horns were ornate. The cow-keeper cum care taker of the farm did the arrangements for the Pooja who stayed with his family in the farmhouse itself. aarthi (camphor light) was shown to the cow and the rice presented to god was fed to the cattle by the cow-keeper. Lunch was served using the same rice grains harvested which I had on the previous day at his grandparent’s home. A simple dal and curd was really refreshing and served a complete meal.

In my 2 days of stay at NTP, I saw the celebration carried over so silently and at a slow pace….it was ofcourse a different experience than my usual celebration at my native and will rejoice these memories forever….