New avenues dawn this Thai Pongal | Sunday Observer

New avenues dawn this Thai Pongal

11 January, 2020

“Thai piranthal vazhi pirakkum” (if January dawns, so will new avenues) is a popular adage that goes with the first festival for Hindus on the calendar - Thai Pongal. But this year, the first year of a new decade, on January 15, the adage will give full meaning for farmers.

You might wonder why for farmers? The prime purpose of the festival is for farmers to pay gratitude to sooriya bhagavaan (Sun god), indispensable in the harvesting process.

Why this year is special is due to the deluge that sent the paddy fields underwater, in the North-East. The furious flash floods caused much frustration to the farmers, who toil hard not only to produce rice, but to keep their hearth burning.

The year end that brought extensive rain saw the fields bearing the brunt of unusual floods, that made headlines.

Hence, this time, their pious prayer would be, with the dawn of a new decade, the situation should return to normalcy, helping a quick revival.

Another reason why the festival is exclusive to the farmer community is because, irrespective of whether it’s day or night, burning the midnight oil, they give their heart and soul to yield their precious produce of rice to the people.

Along with the farmers, Hindus around-the-globe, seize the opportunity to pay their share of gratitude to the Sun, shining all year round, playing its part in producing rice.

Celebrations since then have spread to the congested concrete jungle, where especially, in kovils priests and devotees rejoice en masse, cooking pongal or sweet rice, in large metal barrels or pots.

This is prepared meticulously, when the milk boils, the raw rice is added and is finally ready as sweet rice with jaggery and nuts added to it.

The ancient practice has been, predominantly women letting out cheers of “pongalo or pongalo” while the rice boils and overflows from the pan.

After the rice is boiled, it is offered to the sun as a priority seeking his blessings, and, thereafter, shared with family and friends.

First day for farmers;

following day for cattle

Following day- known as Maattu Pongal (special day for bull/cattle)- is a day honouring the farmers’ essential asset the cattle and taking care of them.

On this day, which happens once a year, the farmers show their gratitude to the cattle, bathing them, polishing their horns, decorated with flowers and capped with shiny metal.

They are also sprinkled with turmeric water and kumkum (vermillion) applied on their foreheads. People also garland their cattle and feed them with venn Pongal (white sweet rice), fruits, jaggery and honey.

Although, in the modern age, technology and tractors are steadily replacing the cattle, to an average farmer and to some of the population, the cattle remains the best and the inevitable resort.

It is due to this that the day following Thai Pongal is termed as Maattu (cattle) Pongal.

A day dedicated to the farmer’s friend.

Households based in urban areas, despite the severe scarcity of space have been celebrating in their own way, decorating their entrances with colourful drawings, exchanging sweets and expressing good wishes.

The Sunday Observer too, wishes its readers a Happy Thai Pongal with new avenues.