T AGGING TO TRADITION
I MMERSING INTO THE
A LL PERVASIVE RARE COMBINATION OF
L IVELINESS OF RELIGIOUS, CULTURAL, SOCIAL AND TRADITIONAL ASPECTS
A LLOW LIFE TO SPREAD ITS
T RADITIONS AND FESTIVALS THAT
D ELIGHT AND DEVOTION
E ITHER TO ENQUIRE, ENTERTAIN OR ENLIGHTEN
THE VIRGINAL UNIVERSAL FESTIVAL OF CHEERFUL THANKSGIVING TO NATURE
Pongal stretches over four days. The word Pongal literally means "boiling over" and celebrates the bounteous crops in the fields. Houses are spruced up, cattle are bathed and decorated. Womenfolk vie with each other displaying their skills drawing a variety of eye-catching and artistic `kolams’ or Rangoli (floral patterns on the floor) in their neatly swept front yards sprinkled with cow-dung water and these designs are studded with cow dung balls decked with marigold or pumpkin flowers.
This festival is the biggest event of the year for the Tamils and actually it is for 4 days. 
Of these let me explain second day i.e. Surya pongal(prayers to sun god). Pongal is nothing but rice cooked in milk and jiggery [ SUGAR]. The rice is boiled in pots made of clay, the neck of the pots are garlanded with fresh turmeric roots and plants. The place where this is cooked has pictures of sun, stars and moon drawn with rice flour on the floor. Raw sugarcanes are stacked criss- cross as roof. When pongal boils the flavor combs the nostrils, the smell of turmeric vies to announce its presence to the nostrils especially when the pongal with the froth of boiling milk, water and rice rises up to the rims of the pot, then again the flavor of pongal wins as its spills over on the sides to the cheers of ‘pongalo pongal’ from those around.
Then the puja[ prayers] to the drawings of sun god starts with floral offers when the whiff of the breeze carries the fragrance of these wide varieties of flowers and the jasmine [with which the ladies adorn their hair] and almost drives away all other odors. When the puja nears the end all these smells also come to an end as the aroma of camphor set on fire offered to the sun god takes over and caves its way through the nostrils and even soothes the sinus.
All are decked up in new dress children, men and women especially old women are dressed up in the world’s best , biggest, unstitched single piece of attire of nine yards length sari which are worn with such adroitness that it looks graceful and most importantly covers the entire body expect the face, forearms and feet.
The festival is virginal because for ages the practice of thanking nature has been celebrated. In fact wondering at and worshiping nature and its elements was human species’ primary religion before the institutionalized priests’ pelf and profession-promoting religions replaced them.
In this part of the world at least in the villages it still remains intact with at least calendared recognition and reverence to nature [especially at a time when humans are misusing nature and its resources, a time has come when nature needs to be protected from human race]. Probably because here religion is a way of life and therefore out of the clutches of any specific religious institutional sanction. Fortunately the western craze for homogeneity has not penetrated these blessed places and therefore there exists harmonizing variety. This sort of uninstitutionalised, free blossoming of human spirit and simple rituals in the name of religion exudes more religiousness[religion etymologically is from Latin religare(re+lig=to bind) i.e. linking of the part with the whole. Linking ourselves (parts) with the universal divine self (whole) ] and need not necessarily express any great religion. All these native cultures, activities and rituals form part of a way of life with various and different strata of significance as per the individual’s frames of reference, scales of observation  and forms of perception. All people irrespective of their religious affinities participate in these festivals of thanksgiving to nature in villages though it is basically considered as a Hindu festival, it is a kind of plurality much practiced and less publicized that is why it is universal. It is virginal because these festivals continue to exist from very ancient times unadulterated and unaltered even after the real estate demarcations of humanity in the name of nationhood , it has survived the colonial onslaughts on native cultures and rituals, it has remained unaffected by the glare of magnifying, mutilating and manipulative western media and it has even survived the cunning conversions of festivals into commercial melas (fairs) by the big corporate houses. The poor villagers who live in such abysmal poverty have such unhappy life  yet celebrate the festival with cheerful spirit in their heart.
That’s why Pongal is a virginal universal festival of cheerful thanksgiving to nature.
1]The first day, Bhogi-Pongal is devoted to Bhogi or Indran, the rain god
The second day, Surya-Pongal, is dedicated to the Sun (Surya). It is also called the Makara Sankranti [a]
[The Sun enters the Makara raasi (the zodiac sign of Capricorn - the goat)] In this part of the world timing of any event viz à viz astrological significance to planets is of prime importance and rightly so. why not?[b]
The third day, Mattu-Pongal, the day dedicated to the worship and veneration of cattle (mattu)
The horns of the cattle are decorated with turmeric and kumkum, small bells and flowers are hung around their neck and they are paraded in the streets. A kind of bullfight, called the 'Jallikattu' takes place wherein bundles containing money are tied to the horns of ferocious bulls, and unarmed villagers try to wrest the bundles from them.
The last day is known as Kanyapongal. Colored balls of the pongal are made and are offered to birds. With crops harvested people have little bit of money and leisure to make merry with. Farmers give new clothes and grain to the laborers who work for them. Every male is required to greet his sister/sisters with some gifts on this day.
[ a]Traditionally, this period is considered an auspicious time and the veteran Bhishma of Mahabharata chose to die during this period. Bhishma fell to the arrows of Arjuna. With his boon to choose the time of his death, he waited on a bed of arrows to depart from this world only during this period. It is believed that those who die in this period have no rebirth]. The importance of astrology and astronomy are respected in India knowing well its significance and even those lands and cultures which claim not to give any importance to astrology would do well to read this simple fact
2] Lecomte du Nuöy writes in his excellent book ‘HUMAN DESTINY’ [a signet book published in 1949 page 20] “one can say from the standpoint of man it is the scale of observation which creates the phenomenon. Every time we change the scale of observation we encounter new phenomena. On our scale of observation, as pointed out before, the edge of a razor blade is a continuous line. On the microscopic scale, it is a broken but solid line. On the chemical scale we have atoms of iron and carbon. On sub-atomic scale we have electrons in perpetual motion which travel at the rate of several thousand miles per second. All these phenomena are in reality the manifestations of the same basic phenomenon, the motion of electrons. The only difference which exists between them is the scale of observation.”
3] Nationhood reminds me of an excellent verse because the birth of nations has meaninglessly separated all of us-human beings a single species-the children of Mother Earth. This is the verse
Brief reflection on a fence- by Miroslav Holub
[ translated from Czech to English by Ewald Osers]
separates the place where it is
from the place where it isn’t.
every fence is relatively permeable, some for
others for large things so that
the fence actually
does not separate but indicates
that something should be separated.
And the trespassers will be prosecuted.
In this sense
the fence can
perfectly well be replaced with an angry word,
or sometimes even
a kind word, but that as a rule
does not occur to anyone.
In this sense therefore
a truly perfect fence
that separates nothing from nothing,
a place where there is nothing, from
a place where there’s also nothing.
That is the absolute fence, similar to the poet’s word.
4] Who are not sure of their next week’s meal, who do not have proper sanitation and accessibility to good potable water.
Actually I wrote this article some 10+ years back in my former name v.karthikeyan for an AUSTRALIAN portal which wanted me to write about some festival unique to my region.