Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mattu Pongal – a visit to the village: Part 1

This fourth day of Pongal is dedicated to the cattle for all their vital work on the farm. Contrary to other schools and many businesses, our school only had off for this day. One of the Indian teachers offered to take us to a village to capture a glimpse of what Mattu Pongal was like in a rural setting. I had heard that the main cow decoration and parading happened in the evening, but I was happy to get the opportunity to see whatever transpired.

Temple Town Visit
Heading down the IT Highway and on the Old Mahabapalipuram road, modern IT buildings gradually gave way to greenery. On the way, we stopped at a town with a large temple. Walking along the edge of the temple tank, we saw some goats that also had painted horns. A new van was being decorated with floral garlands on the front grill, pooja marks, and pongal designs in the windows. Perhaps it was going to be blessed. On the opposite side of the temple tank we saw some women washing clothes in the tank water. We were told that this is normally not an accepted practice; perhaps these women do not have access to freshwater. Some of the entryways to homes and shops around the tank had colorful carved floral decorations. They also had the auspicious yellow and red painted marks along the bottoms of the doorposts. In one shop, the rather portly shopkeeper asked if we could take her photo. After giving us her address, she presented the other American teacher and me a small banana. It was the second time we were given something to munch on in the town – another shopkeeper gave us some freshly roasted chickpeas and peanuts. Next to the shop a young couple and their toddler approached us, asking if we could take their photo as well. Our Indian colleague told us that the couple had come nearly 300 km to have their child blessed at this temple and that seeing two white people and having their photos taken was an especially good sign.

Cow Jewelry for Sale
On a roadside stall we stopped to look at the coiled ropes in various tints of red, pink and white. An elderly lady was looking through the selection, carefully selecting just the right one for her cow. Baskets containing other cow decorations could be purchased: small cans of bright enamel paint, brass bangles, pom poms, brass horn tips, and snout rings. Along the side of the road some cows laid lazily in a row, seemingly enjoying their day off. These cows were already “decked out” for Mattu Pongal: white painted horns with red dots, new “necklace,” and sandalwood paste marks on their forehead and down their spine.

No comments: