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Monday, January 13, 2014

welcoming Thai Pongal .... pongalo, pongal..

In Tamil Nadu, Pongal is very important festival ~ it is the festival of harvest…  and days before the festivity, people start buying garments ~ in city of villages ! – it is time for adding silkworm to wardrobes, feels women. 

T Nagar and Ranganathan Street are bursting at seams ….all shops are overcrowded, which itself is an understatement…….not sure how and when those young boys and girls employed in these shops would go home to celebrate Pongal.  As Hindu put it, Pongal is the Dionysia of a Dravidian state -  ‘Dinonysium’ is the name of the place, where ‘Dionysia’, the harvest festival was held to thank ‘Dionysius’ the Greek god of wine and fertility (his roman counterpart is Bacchus) …… aside,  do you know that “What is presently known as  Ranganathan Street ought to have been  Rangaswamy Iyengar Street after the first resident of that street. It was the usual practice then to name streets after the first resident irrespective of their class, caste or contribution. Mr.Tupil Rangaswamy Iyengar, a retired Civil Servant of the erstwhile Madras Presidency built his house in early 1920s. When civil authorities approached him for his formal approval the humble, religious and self effasive gentleman requested it be named after Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam.” (source wiki article)….. it is no longer a residential street – replete with commercial establishments and brims with people throughout the year. 

Thai Pongal is the  harvest festival of Tamil Nadu ~ a long four day festival in villages.... Bhogi, Pongal, Kanum Pongal….and more.. Thai Pongal coincides with Makara Sankranthi.  It is also the Uzhavar Thirunal.  The word Pongal means "overflowing" which signifies abundance and prosperity. On the day of Pongal, at the time of sun rise there is a symbolic ritual of boiling fresh milk in a new clay pots and when the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, people shout "Pongalo Pongal!"  The popular belief has stemmed out into the saying - "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" meaning "the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities".  It is a festival of happiness and prosperity and perfect time for wishing each other that our lives also prosper well.  

Pongal is cooked on earthernware – the pots….brass utensils are also popularly used.  The temple town of Kumbakonam is well-known for its brass vessels and the nearby towns such as Nachiyarkoil are known for producing puja articles, including wick lamps. The vessels have good demand in southern districts up to Tirunelveli as they are traditionally used for Pongal by those people.

President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday greeted the nation ahead of the festivals of Lohri, Makar Sankranti and Pongal. In his message, he said: "May the celebrations reinforce the ties that bind us together as a nation, in peace and harmony. May the harvest herald the beginning of further growth and progress and inspire us to work for the overall development of our country," he said.

Miles away in Varasani, the kite-lovers are indulged in another political battle – TOI reports that festival of harvest will witness thousands of kites with political faces including Narendra Modi,Arvind Kejriwal, Rahul Gandhi and even Anna Hazare in the sky. The ground, rather the sky is all set for this battle and bets are in place among the fierce competitors. And this year it is not only about the kites but also about the victory of their favourite leader who will also be the face of their kite. The lowest selling pieces are the kites with the face of sports personality, except that of Sachin Tendulkar," a dealer is quoted as saying who further added that kids have remained loyal to their favourite animals and cartoon characters like Donald Duck, Micky Mouse, Doraemon, Mr Bean and Alladin with his magical lamp.

Away in Delhi, Chennai’s popular ‘Amma Canteen’ has become an instant hit with Delhiites on the first day of its three-day sojourn at the Tamil Nadu Bhawan here. Visitors  attending  Pongal celebrations thronged the ‘Amma Canteen’ stall and jostled for their serving of hot, lip-smacking idlis along with usual accompaniments sambar and coconut chutney. While idli  at Re.1 was the most sought-after dish on the menu, there was also good demand for other items such as curd-rice (priced at Rs.3 per plate), lemon-rice, curry leaves-rice and pongal — a dish similar to the north Indian khichdi (for Rs.5 each). An initiative of the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, the canteens aim at providing hygienic food to low-income groups at affordable prices so that their nutritional requirements are met. The day-to-day activities at the canteen are managed entirely by women’s self-help groups.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

13th Jan 2014.

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