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Saturday, January 15, 2022

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் 2022

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் ~ thanking cattle for the harvest 2022 

During my school days, on this day, I would plead with my mother, take permission to sit on the doorstep of our TP Koil Street house watching those lovely  cows of Triplicane and wondering the affection and warmth showered on them by the people.    

Today, 15th Jan 2022  ~ is a day of special significance. After Bhogi and Makara Sankranthi [Pongal], today is dedicated to the cattle popularly known as ‘Mattu Pongal’.  A day celebrating the cattle, particularly cows and bulls that play a vital role by working hard to help the farmers to raise crops on their fields.  The festival is an occasion when the fresh harvests from the fields are shared in the form of food and sweets not only with the community but also with animals and birds.  

It sounds too eerie !  - a new wave of cow-less dairy is hitting the market. In the United States, Perfect Day is using genetically modified fungi to produce milk protein for ice cream at a commercial scale. And pre-commercial companies, like TurtleTree and Better Milk, are engineering mammary cells to produce human and cow milk in laboratories, although these remain in the early stages of development.  It might be some time before mammal-less dairy arrives in Canadian grocery stores. But these emerging technologies are part of the fourth agricultural revolution that aims to improve food security, sustainability and agricultural working conditions. With these promises for wins on the horizon, should the diary sector be worried?  

Cellular agriculture makes biologically equivalent or near-equivalent foods to those produced with animals. This is different from plant-based meat and dairy alternatives, such as Beyond Burgers and oat milk, which use plant ingredients that approximate their non-vegetarian counterparts.  One approach is to use advanced fermentation, where yeasts, fungi and bacteria are genetically modified to produce proteins. The approach is similar to brewing beer, but with highly specialized micro-organisms that follow instructions that have been added to their genetic code.  

Thousands of miles away lies – Iceland, a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic. Dec is coldest month in Chennai and some thoughts on Iceland’s winter where the cold season starts at the end of October, following the old Norse calendar. This calendar only consists of two seasons, winter and summer. There are 26 weeks of winter in Iceland, and 26 weeks of summer.  The first day of summer is a national holiday – who would care that it’s below 10 °C and snowing?  Iceland too has cows ! ~ how would the cattle survive such freezing and long winter ?  Farmers keep the cows inside a cowshed during winter and feed them with hay and feedstuff.  The cows can come out and walk on fields only in the Spring.  It is all automated milking system as farmers use robotic milking, which means that the cows live mostly free during the summer. They can decide when they want to be outside or inside and also when they want to milk them self.  

India is the famed land of Ramayana & Mahabaratha.  Great preceptors Shankara, Ramanujacharya, Madwacharya,  Gautama Buddha & Mahaveera  taught peace and patience –Western World, would try depicting  it is a land of snake-charmers, a place where one would encounter cruelty and people are barbaric.  There is no matador spiking the bull or 'Toro Jubilo' where bull is caked in dry mud having fireworks attached to its horns – what right they have in trying to depict us having our bulls and cows, which are worshipped here.  Sadly, there has been developing  a big Urban rural disconnect – the modern day youngsters see rice only in boiled form on their plate, perhaps not knowing how it is cultivated and how the animals have been  so intertwined with people.  Triplicane, the famed land of Sri Parthasarathi is different – you see so many cows on the road and today is special to them.  

At Thiruvallikkeni as in other divyadesams, Adhyayana uthsavam is now on. On day 8 of Irapathu – it is ‘Rajamannar thirukolam’  .. it is but natural – Krishna was the King of cowherds and Sri Parthasarathi  in His natural self…as  Rajamannar, blessed  His bakthas.  The whip and the crowning glory were of unparalleled beauty – one could also notice the small calf at His lovely feet and the beautiful cow behind Him. 

Cow shout ‘maa’ (moo in English) but actually Cows make  several different sounds including mooing, bellowing, snorting and grunting, and they use these noises for different things.  It’s hard for humans to decipher these cow calls, but a new study shows that our bovine buddies communicate using unique voices, which remain consistent across a range of emotional circumstances. Previous research has shown that mothers and calves show individuality in their vocalizations, helping moms recognize babies’ calls, and vice versa. But Alexandra Green, a PhD student at the University of Sydney’s School of Life and Environmental Sciences, wondered whether cows also display unique voices in other aspects of their lives. So she headed to a free-range farm on the university’s campus, equipped with headphones and a shotgun mic.  

Green spent five months hanging out with a herd of Holstein-Friesian heifers, capturing their moos and lows. In total, Green and her colleagues recorded 333 high-frequency vocalizations from 13 heifers, none of which had been pregnant. The calls were collected during a number of different situations, like when the cows were in heat and when they were anticipating a tasty meal, which the researchers identified as “positive” contexts. Calls were also collected when the animals were denied food, when they were physically isolated from their fellow herd members, and when they were both physically and visually isolated from the rest of the herd, which the researchers identified as “negative” contexts. Using acoustic analyses programs, the researchers determined that the cows maintained individual vocal cues, whether they were communicating arousal, excitement or distress. It is “highly likely,” the study authors write, that cows are able to recognize other members of their herd through these calls.   

Here are some photos of the cows of Thiruvallikkeni  decorated and paraded on roads, with people offering them sweets and their owners some money.  It is sharing of happiness everywhere.  

பொங்கலோ பொங்கல் ~ மாட்டு பொங்கல் - நம் கால்நடைகளை பேணுவோம்.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
15th Jan 2022 

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