Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pongal ~ Festival Of Kites

Pongal is one of the important festivals in India. Prayers are offered to the Sun God on this occasion. In many other parts of India, it is known as Sankaranthi. The reason for worshipping the sun god is that he is considered powerful and helps in the growth of paddy and other plantations. This festival is important for farmers and so is celebrated in a very grand manner in villages.The houses are washed, and all maintenance jobs are completed. During the festival, many different kinds of Rangoli are drawn before the houses early in the morning.

Makara Sankranti is a festival of harvest all over the Indian Continent, especially the Indian Union. Every month the Sun moves from one zodiac constellation to another and the day on which Sun changes the constellation is called Sankranti. Makara Sankranti (usually falls on  January 14), the Sun’s movement into Capricorn (Makara) constellation is considered very important, as it is the beginning of a six-month period of the auspicious time of Sun’s northern course called Uttarayana Punya Kaalamu. Bhogi is the day preceding Sankranti and Kanumu is the day after Sankranti. One month preceding Makara Sankranti is known as Dhanurmasamu. During the entire Dharnurmasamu girls decorate the mungili or vaakili (the entrance to the house) with huge muggulu (designs with sand of lime stone or rice flour, turmeric and kumkuma) with Gobbemmalu (globes made of cow dung and decorated with flowers, turmeric and kumkuma, and incense) in the center, and worship Gobbemma (Goddess) while singing and dancing around the muggu (design).

Sankranti Rituals & Celebrations in Andhra Pradesh 


Gobbemmalu are cow dung balls which are kept on Muggu (Rangoli), which is designed to invite prosperity and bliss into the house. Gobbemmalu are decorated with pasupu (turmeric powder), Kumkuma (red vermion powder) and with several grain types. They are also decorated with flowers (garlands).Usually the Pongal Kolams are drawn specifically showing the sugarcane,kites,sun ,Bhogio pallu/Bhogi Kundalu(pot) and Ox.

Boiling Milk:

It is a great tradition to boiling milk in a small earthen pot until some of the milk spills over. It is believed that the direction of spilling milk may direct the familys future in that particular year.

Four Days of Pongal

Lasting for over four days Pongal, a harvest festival is celebrated in the month of Shravan. Pongal literally means, "boiling over". The Tamil harvest festival is celebrated with decorated cows, processions and decorative Rangoli. Pongal is a sweet porridge made from newly harvested rice and eaten by all, even the animals. Each day of this festival has a special significance, however, it is celebrated more grandly in the villages, while the city folk mainly celebrate on the second day only. It is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.


Bhogi is the first day of Pongal or Sankranthi festival and is dedicated to Lord Indra. Lord Indra considered as the “Lord of Clouds and Rain”.

Significance or Importance of Bhogi:
As this is a day to worship lord Indra, it is also called as ‘Indran. It is believed that the worship of lord Indra makes the harvest grand and brings plenty of prosperity to the land.

The celebrations start on the day which is known as "Bhogi".Bhogi is celebrated on Pushya Shukla Dashami or Dhanurmasa Dasami. On this day, generally everyone gets up early in the morning, takes a head bath. Then a bon fire is made with all the trash in front of the house. All the old and useless things are disposed from our house and replaced with new ones ,marking the beginning of a new life.
Then rangoli is drawn in front of the houses

Bhogi - Rituals and Customs & Bhogi Pooja  
 For a grand celebration of Bhogi, all houses are cleaned and washed. People decorate their houses with “Rangoli / Kolam / Muggu”. Women draw the rangoli with rice flour and other natural colurs to welcome the prosperity of harvest in a grand style.In some regions, cow dung balls are kept on the patterns of rangoli. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric, sugarcane, gooseberries and some other grains are used to decorate houses.

Pulagamu with fresh rice from the harvest and a kalagalupu koora (mixed vegetable curry) with chikkudu (beans), vankaya (egg-plant or brinjal) and other vegetables are prepared. Pongali (rice pudding with milk) is an important item during this festival. Special dishes like karapupusa, chakkilalu (brittle salted and peppered lentil-rice pretzels), palakayalu (hard fried rice globules), ariselu (sweet rice cakes) etc., are also prepared.

 Special Puja on Bhogi:
Before cutting the paddy, a special puja is performed on Bhogi to worship every god to continue the showers of bliss and prosperity on them with a good harvest in coming years.

Bhogi Mantalu (The Bonfire):

Bhogi Mantalu is one of the age old traditions on Pongal season in South India. The Bonfire is lightened up with cow dung balls, old clothes and some oils. It is believed that this bonfire (sacred fire) cures some diseases.

Bhogi Pallu or Bhogi Pandlu - Bhoda Pandlu

“Bhogi Pandlu” is a special ritual to be performed on the day of Bhogi. On Bhogi, the children are dressed up with new dresses. In the evening Bommala Koluvu (arrangement of images of Gods, toys and dolls) and Bhogi pallu (Zyziphus fruits, floral petals,sugarcane,rice and coins) showers for children, Perantamu (gift giving, that includes clothes, lentils, betel leaves, betel nuts, flowers, turmeric and kumkuma) for women are given.They are given Aarti and Bhogi Pandlu are showered on the heads of children to protect them from the evil forces.The Bhogi pallu fruit only is showered on the kid is due to the shape and the color of the Sun.
Bommala Koluvu
Bhogi Pallu

The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal (in Tamil). People also prepare savories and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings.The puja or act of ceremonial worship is performed when rice is boiled in milk outdoors in a earthenware pot and is then symbolically offered to the sun-god along with other oblations.

All people wear traditional dress and markings, and their is an interesting ritual where husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils specially used for the puja. In the village, the Pongal ceremony is carried out more simply but with the same devotion. In accordance with the appointed ritual a turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice will be boiled. The offerings include the two sticks of sugar-cane in background and coconut and bananas in the dish. A common feature of the puja, in addition to the offerings, is the kolam, the auspicious design which is traditionally traced in white lime powder before the house in the early morning after bathing.

On this day the paddy is reaped. Using the newly reaped rice, "pongal" is made and offered first to God. The sun God is said to come on a chariot that is driven by seven horses. Turmeric sprigs and sugarcane is placed in the pooja. The pooja is dedicated to the sun god and his chariot.

Then food is offered to God. Once the pooja is done, everyone in the house take a little Pongal and sprinkle it around the house. This is done as a ritual to ask God to bless their home. People on this day generally wear new dresses, use new utensils or even household items and discard the old ones the previous day. New rice on this day is cooked in pots until it over flows.

This overflowing of rice means Pongal. This ceremony of overflowing of rice is considered as a joyous occasion. This occasion has no actual meaning but is an expression of happiness that the new harvest is here and they enjoy it by dancing and making music. The dish called Pongal is cooked and prepared, with rice dal and sugar. Pongal is also called as "venpongal", ven means white. Another kind of it is prepared with dhal and jaggery which is called chakraipongal. chakrai means sweet. The other common dishes prepared during pongal are Brinjal, Sambar, vada , idli.

On this Makara Sankranthi day , Makara Jyothi ,the celestial lighting at Sabarimala is an important event which is witnessed by the largest number Sabarimala Temple Pilgrims every year and this wil be telecasted in the TV channels for all to see.
Legends of Pongal

All the festivals have some interesting legends associated with it. Pongal, the much awaited festival of South India particularly Tamil Nadu also has interesting legends associated with it. The most popular legends attached to Pongal celebration are discussed below:

Legend of Mount Govardhan

 The first day of the festival Bhogi Pongal has an association with legend of Lord Indra (the God of clouds and rains) and Lord Krishna. Earlier, people used to worship Lord Indra who was the King of the deities. This honor given to Lord Indra made him full of pride and arrogance. He thought himself to be the most powerful of all the beings. When child Krishna came to know about this he thought of a plan to teach him a lesson. He persuaded his cowherd friends to worship Mt. Govardhan rather than Lord Indra. This angered Lord Indra and he sent forth the clouds to generate non-stop thunder, lightning, heavy rains and flood the land. As per the tale, Lord Krishna lifted the huge Govardhan Parvat on his little finger to protect the cowherds and the cattle. He kept standing with the lifted mount to save all the humans from the ravaging storm of Lord Indra. The rains continued for three days and at last Indra realized his mistake and divine power of Lord Krishna. He promised humility and begged Krishna's forgiveness. Since then, Krishna allowed to let the Bhogi celebrations continue in honor of Indra. Thus, the day gave the origin to the Pongal celebration. The festival got another name of Indran from this legendary story.

Legend of Lord Shiva

Another legend associated with the festival relates to Lord Shiva. The third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. According to the legend, Lord Shiva once asked his bull to go to the Earth and deliver his message to the people to have an oil massage and bath daily and to eat food once a moth. Mistakenly, Basava announced to have an oil massage and bath once a month and to eat food daily. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to this mistake there would be lack of grains on the Earth. He banished the bull to live on earth forever and help people plough the fields. Thus, Mattu Pongal has an association with the cattle. It is also called Kanu Pongal. The celebrations of the festival are similar to the festivals of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj of North India.

Mattu Pongal:

The third day is called as Mattu Pongal  is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day.

Decorated Cow
Mattu Pongal- which is pongal for the cows. Cows are worshipped on this day (according to Hindu culture cows are considered holy). The cows are decorated. Their horns are painted, colors are applied and some clothes are tied on the cows. Then the cow is taken around to each house. On this day in some villages in south India, there are bull fights are held.

Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other's cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye.

According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.

Kaanum Pongal:
This is the last day of Pongal. On this day, a turmeric leaf is washed and is then placed on the ground. On this leaf are placed, the left overs of sweet Pongal and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice as well as rice colored red and yellow, betel leaves, betel nuts, two pieces of sugarcane, turmeric leaves, and plantains. In Tamil Nadu women perform this ritual before bathing in the morning. All the women, young and old, of the house assemble in the courtyard. The rice is placed in the centre of the leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of the house.Sometimes the banned cockfights, bullfights and ramfights are included.  Sun, Mahabali (a mythological king of anti-Gods or asuras or danavas) and Godadevi are worshipped during this harvest festival.

People on this day go out for a picnic and enjoy. This is a day when everyone spends time outside the house. People on this day travel to see their near relatives. During this day, the smaller members of the family pay their respects to their elders, and the elders bless them by giving them some money. Some food is left on some leaves for birds to eat. Some begin their day by visiting the temple.

Gangireddu & Haridasu - Popular forms of Sankranti

 Gangireddu is a sacred bull, which is decorated with beautiful clothes and ringing bells. Haridasulu are the people of a cast who are dedicated to receive charities from other people.Haridasu makes gangireddu (bull) to dance. The scene clearly depicts bulls obedience to his master. Haridasu sings songs and gangireddu dances according to his masters song."Ayyagaariki Dandam Pettu,Ammagaariki Dandam Pettu"

"Haridaasu (servant of Lord Hari/Vishnu)" is a special attraction of this festival, just like Santa for Christmas. These Haridaasus wake up very early in pre-dawn hours, bathe, wear special saffron clothes, and visit each home in the village. They wear Vaishnavite markings on the face, necklaces of rudraksha (probably seeds of Guazuma tomentosa plant) beads, flower garlands, tamboora (stringed musical instrument) on one shoulder, chirutalu (castanets) in one hand, anklets with bells, etc., and visit homes while singing religious songs (Vaishnavite, especially praising Lord Rama). They collect alms (especially rice), provided by the villagers, in a pot called akshayapaatra carried on the head.  Usually people belonging to saataana, daasara, raaju etc., castes/tribes practice this kind of lifestyle.  Villagers compete to give alms to these Haridaasus.

Kite Flying - A tradition  During Sankranti 

Kites Flying
Kite flying is a major tradition during the Sankranti days. In some regions, Kite flying is started in the month of December and is continued till February. In some North Indian as well in some South Indian cities, kite flying competitions are held.

During the Pongal, the schools announce holidays for children, they are actively participate in Kite flying competitions. In India, kite flying is a widely participated recreational activity. Even old aged people also participate in this competition.

Its a sight to be experienced on a dawn of Cold January Winter,the households view with eachother in designing and roling out the Muggulu/Rangolis/Kolams of various designs and sizes,often stretching from one end of the street to the other.Be it the City or Country side the Muggulu makes homes very inviting .Girls traditionally make gobemma and place them in the Rangoli and pray.Streets would be lined with the colorful rangolis seems like the mother earth is shining in her best colors.All the girls wil perform their artistic talent in their Muggulu drawing by dots or in design.Competitions are also held in schools and streets by some people to encourage them and prizes are distributed .It's very funny and obviously if we take more time to complete our design,sure the back pain wil be the result.

The charm of this harvest festival is shopping which starts months before and the girls are especially seen in Langa,Voni and the Pattu parikini and paavada and decorated with Ornaments seems to look very beautiful.Usually girls are dressed in atraditional during this Festive season .

In Andhra Pradesh every Textile showrooms and Clothes store and the Jewellery shops Managers will give advertisement in the News papers and Televisions announcing the discounts for the Festival.Every women will rush the shops.

Finally Here goes the One simple Telugu Sankranti Poem

Vachindi Vanchindi Sankranti
Techindi Techindi Kotta Kanti
Maa Palle Ayyindi Mustabu
Daanikinka ledandi Javaabu

Haridaasu paata "Harilo ranga hari"
Chinnavaalla maata " Bari ledando mari"
Bulli papa Aaata " Gobbilloyi Gobbilloyi"
Chinnakkala pani " Muggulloyi Muggulloyi"

Bhogi pandaga naadu "Mantaloyi Mantalu"
Makara Sankrati naadu "Gaareloyi Gaarelu"
Kanuma naadu " Koti Prabhala Kantuloyi Kaantulu"
Moodu pandagalu mugiyagaane, "parikshaloyi parikshalu!!"

During the Pongal season, people eat sugar canes and decorate the houses with Kolam.Even though Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, today it is celebrated by all. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal Sankranti and thus celebrated in some form in various parts of India.

              Divya's Cooking Journey Wishes A Very Happy Pongal to Each  & Every One !!!

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