Friday, January 16, 2009

Happy Pongal!, Day 1: Bhogi Pongal

Happy Pongal!
This week, starting on the 14th, marks the harvest festival of Pongal. Literally meaning in Tamil “to boil over,” celebrants in Tamil Nadu give thanks to the Sun God for the bountiful harvest of the year. A strongly rural festival, Pongal is also celebrated in urban areas such as Chennai, but lacks some of the richness found in the countryside. In typical Indian style, Pongal is a multi-day affair, occurring over 4 days.

Bhogi Pongal
The first day of Pongal is known as Bhogi Pongal. On this day, offerings are made to Lord Indra, hoping to please him so the harvest is blessed. According to the Malayaam calendar, this day marks the beginning of the New Year. Before sunrise, old useless things are gathered into a bonfire. In my neighborhood, I saw small fires lit during my 5:30 AM walk, symbolically consisting mostly of paper scraps. It’s a good thing, as all that smoke in a congested area really would have caused a great deal of smoky pollution!

On this day, houses are thoroughly cleaned and their entryways decorated with rice flour or colorful kolams. The kolams I saw in my neighborhood were similar in size to the festive ones made on New Years Day. A few, along with recognizable sugarcane and pots symbols, contained written greetings in English or Tamil. Others had flower petals imbedded into the design, a substitute for the pumpkin blossoms traditionally used in the rural kolams. This is also a day for family gathering.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Lovely kolam. I like the custom of burning old and useless things. Today I gave away things I no longer use; at least that's something.