The paddy fields that waved like the waves of a green sea with every gush of wind filling the heart of the farmer with joy have mellowed to a light pale hue. With this have mellowed the generous hearts of the people to Tamil Nadu. Sun god is just ready to have a bit of change in his course bending a little to the North. Winter is just over and harvest season has set in.
The season has made the people busy in the rural Tamil Nadu Men, women, children all would go to the fields to reap the harvest. Well, they have to please the sun god who has been so kind to them. They just wait for the 14th of January to offer cooked rice to the god on the Pongal day. Since rice is to be offered to god how it can be cooked in the Kitchen inside the house. A special arrangement is made to have a big hearth in the courtyard or some other open space to let god too see how enthusiastic the people are to make him offerings.
A couple of days before the festive occasion ladies would clean and decorate the whole house with festoons. It must all be over on ‘Bogi’ the Pongal eve. They would decorate the big earthen vessel too with Kumkum and Swastik. Lo! They are ready for the final call. The eldest or the youngest member of the family is called to fill the pot with rice and water. Yes! Yes! The pongal (cooked rice) is to be prepared for offering to the god – some milk must be added to the water in the vessel. But the people who participate in the process of cooking have to be careful – they have not to tread over the beautiful rangoli that has been designed around the hearth.
Basically Pongal is an agricultural festival. People in the rural area are very enthusiastic. But many have moved to cities. Urbanization is fast spreading in Tamil Nadu. The gap between the rural and urban people has almost disappeared. Naturally Pongal is celebrated with the same joy, pleasure and enthusiasm everywhere in the State. In the border districts Kannads and Andhraites would also share the joy.
Gujaratis, throughout the State would send kites towards the Sun god the same day and would name the festive day as Uttarayan. In the North and Maharashtra it is ‘Makar Sankranti’ when the Sun alters the planetary zone of Makar. They would distribute and share with others coconut and sugar – bright white things – as white as the rays of Sun god. A day earlier Punjab would celebrate Lohri with the evergreen Bhangra dance around a bonfire like that of Holi.
It is Pongal morning. Young and old all have taken bath in rivers, lakes or even on wells in the villages. A gay day for the children. They have new clothes. No! No! Don’t compare it with Diwali of the North. Diwali is no more a monopoly of the North. It is now celebrated with all the fanfare in all the states of the South too. But Pongal is Pongal after all. It is the most important festival of Tamil Nadu.
The evening approaches. People have met – eaten rice together-distributed rice among the rich and the poor alike. A little tired they would go to bed dreaming of the festivities of the third day. The day dawns on the ‘Mattu’ Pongal. It is the day to honour the cattle world that has helped the farmer to grow and harvest paddy. Cows, bullocks and their kins are decorated in different hues – bells ringing around their graceful necks.
‘Muttu’ Pongal – there must be bull fights and races too. Rural folks would enjoy the fun the whole day before the Sun sets. The victors are happy – the losers have consolation. The three days that had brought so much of happiness would be drowned in the approaching night with dreams of the next Pongal for which they would wait for full one year.
But before they go to bed how they can forget their companions. The rich would show their generosity by distributing money whole heartedly among their employees. The married girls won’t be forgotten. They too get their presents – beautiful clothes and cosmetics from relatives. All are blessed before the Sun god changes its course and prepares ‘Indra’, the god of rains to visit the earth again in a couple of months.