Chennaiites explain how Pongal is celebrated in their native places

Chennai: Seeking greener pastures, many would have migrated to metros like Chennai. But when it comes to festivals and traditional practices, our native places stand apart. With Pongal festival beginning tomorrow, few Chennaiites shared how the festival is celebrated in their home towns.

Revathi Kumar

Revathi Kumar
Being a native of Thiruvaroor near Mayiladudurai, I come from a family who reveres Sun God and the bulls with utmost love and celebrate the festival of Pongal in its true essence. Cleaning with cow dung and painting the house 15-20 days before the festival, buying new things for the home including earthen clay pots, clothing, bedding (pillows and korai paai – mats) and decorating the house with mango leaves and flowers is always an annual customary affair and important family activity. Farmers come home with their families and we gift them festive food, sugarcane and new dresses. The front yard of the house takes the limelight with beautiful and colourful kolams spread across with Pongal pots placed with freshly harvested turmeric leaves and pods amidst sugarcanes. The pooja is performed by the family along with the relatives and farmers families to thank and seek Sun God’s bountiful blessings in the year ahead too. Like in the city, back in native we don’t burn anything on Bhogi day. Ours is an eco-friendly celebration where we give away the old, but well-preserved clothes or beddings or utensils that can be used by others who need them. We celebrate Maatu Pongal in a big way. Decorating the bulls and cattle and feeding them with special Pongal food and gifting the farmers brings happiness to every one of us. On Kaanum Pongal day we prepare mixed rice and visit the Periya koil and play our childhood games like Pallanguzhi on the temple premises.

V Subramanian

V Subramanian
Pongal celebrations for me and my family relate more to our identity of ‘farming’. Markets filled with purple sugarcanes and new pots with turmeric plants, everything so colourful. At my home town in Pattukottai, we follow a tradition during Pongal, that of visiting our sisters’ place. We take along the bountiful harvest of rice, sugarcane, jaggery, pulses and fruits, while they prepare a lavish feast for us. Similarly, on Maatu Pongal the sisters come to their brothers’ village and Pongal is made in huge quantity, not just for us to eat but to feed the cattle too. This Pongal will be delicious than the ones made in individual’s house, as we use wholesome grains and pulses and happiness collected from every house of the village. Next day is filled with games for all age including the famous jallikattu. On this day, the girls go to the river to immerse the ‘Cow dung Pillaiyar’ kept every day inside the daily kolam during Margazhi. The above-said practices still prevail in the Cauvery Delta districts which are slightly different from practices in other places. To put it simply, Pongal celebrations is a real family experience for all of us.

Vimala Bhaskar

Vimala Bhaskar
We hail from Kalanthur village in Sivagangai district. Pongal celebrations are very special here, especially ‘Manju Virattu’ and Maatu Pongal. Women dressed in vibrant and colourful sarees put together all the ingredients – groceries, fruits and vegetables in one big basket and carry it on their head, walk one behind the other, a sight to behold in itself. Together with their children and men folks, they assemble in their own punjai land surrounded by trees and perform the thanksgiving pooja to Sun God in new and colourful clay pots. With Pongalo-Pongal reverberating in the air, they celebrate the overflowing of milk and rice and prepare delicious Venn Pongal. The mixed vegetable gravy adds to the delicious fervour of Pongal that day. After temple visits and worshipping family deities they come together in the evening at a big open ground near the temple where the bulls are decorated with colourful turmeric, kumkum, bells, ribbons and flowers. They feed the bulls with Pongal and do pooja for them, post which the bulls line up for the famous Jallikattu or ‘Manju Virattu’, the bull-taming traditional sport. Back home the same evening, the families along with their relatives and friends sit together and have a sumptuous spread of Pongal and related dishes.

NT Bureau