Pongal , Uttarayan , Makar Sankranti
Makar Sankranti is celebrated on the 14th of January every year. Unlike most Hindu festivals which are determined as per the altering positions of the Moon and are based on the Lunar Calendar, Makar Sankranti is based on the Solar Calendar. Every year, Makar Sankranti is celebrated to mark the movement of the Sun in the Capricorn or Makar sign. The word ‘Sankranti’ literally means ‘movement’. Hence, the festival precisely denotes the movement of the Sun into Makar zodiac.
On the day of Makar Sankranti festival, the duration of the day and that of the night is equal making it one of the oldest solstice festivals. The festival officially marks the onset of spring or Indian summer. Post this day, the Sun stays in for a little longer as compared to the previous days making days longer than nights.
Astrological viewpoint of Uttarayan
According to Hindu calendar, sun transits from one zodiac sign to another twice in a year. This change is known as Uttarayan or Dakshinayan. In Hinduism, the transit of Sun from south to north is meant to be very auspicious. When the Sun transits from East to South, the rays during this period is meant to be harmful. But when the Sun moves from East to North, the rays signifies the improvement in health and peace in life. When the period of Uttarayan is about to begin, the Sun transits from Gemini to Capricorn. It is considered that it is the starting of new morning of hopes. From this day, the days are likely to be longer whereas nights become shorter.
Pongal is a harvest festival which is celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four days. It is the most popular festival and is mainly celebrated in the southern states of India four days to devote a vote of thanks to nature. It is enjoyed in the month of Thai (January – February) during the season when crops like rice, sugarcane, turmeric, etc. are being harvested.
Pongal is likely to fall on 14th or 15th January and is the most essential Tamilian festival. Tamilians has a strong belief that family problems will be resolved during the Tamil month Thai beginning on the Pongal day. The famous saying Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum meaning Along with joy and happiness, the month Thai will also bring new opportunities is often quoted in respect to Pongal festival. This month is meant to be auspicious for wedding ceremonies.
Ceremonies performed in the festive carnival
The First Day
The first day of the festival is celebrated in the honor of Lord Indra as Bhogi festival. Lord Indra is said to be the God of rain, that is why, he is being honored for providing prosperity to the land.
On this day, people throw their useless household items into the bonfire made up of wood and cowdung cakes, that is why, it is also observed as Bhogi Mantalu. Songs are sung in the honor of God and dance is performed around the bonfire by the girls. In order to keep warm during winter solstice, bonfire is enlightened.
The Second Day
Some ceremonies are being carried out along with worshipping, on the second day of carnival. The rice is boiled in the milk in an earthenware pot outside the house which is then owed to the Lord Sun along with other offerings. People put their traditional clothes and accessories. The ritual utensils used in the ceremonies are disposed off by the husband and wife. A turmeric plant is tied with the pot which has to be used for boiling rice. Following offerings are also incorporated –
1. Two sticks of sugarcane is decorated in the background.
2. Dishes are enhanced with the coconut and bananas.
The most common ritual of Puja is to trace before the house in a traditional way using the white lime powder. This ritual is followed early in the morning after bathing by the lady of the house.
The Third Day
The third day of festive carnival is known as Mattu Pongal which is meant to be the day for cows. Cows are worshipped after adorning with multi coloured bells, swag of flowers, tinkling bells and sheaves of corn. After feeding cows with Pongal, they are taken to villages. Reverberant sound of their bells attract the villagers and the men organize a race within cattles. In order to wave off the evil eye, aarti is carried out on cows. Due to joy among people, the atmosphere will also be filled with fun and happiness.
The Fourth Day
The final day of carnival is known as Knau or Kannum Pongal Day. A turmeric leaf is washed properly and is then placed on the ground. The residue of sweet and Venn Pongal, ordinary rice, coloured rice, plantains, betel leaves, betel nuts and two pieces of sugarcane are placed on that leaf by the woman of the house before bathing. All the women of house gather in the courtyard of their house. In the center of leaf, rice is placed and pray for their brothers family to flourish. With turmeric water, rice and limestone, aarti is carried out for brothers. And this water is sprayed on the kolam in front of the house.
Legend behind celebrating Pongal
As per the legend, Lord Shiva sent his bull, Nandi to the earth in order to ask the mortal to have an everyday oil massage and bath and to have a meal once in a month. But Nandi promulgated that everyone have an oil bath once in a month and a daily meal. This infuriated Lord Shiva and he cursed Nandi to live on the earth forever. Ploughing of fields and helping people in the production of more food will be his tasks. Hence, this day is related to the cattle and harvesting of crops for new yield.
Historical Viewpoint on Pongal
Pongal is mainly celebrated in southern states of India specifically Tamils. It was discovered as Dravidian harvest festival in the Sangam Age in between 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. and this is also mentioned in Sanskrit Scriptures.
In Sangam era, maidens observed Pavai Nonbu which was very popular during the empire of Pallavas. It was celebrated during Margazhi, a Tamil month. On this day, girls beseeched for rain and shower of prosperity on our country. Whole month, they maintain a distance with milk and it?s products. They don?t even oil their hair and restraint themselves from using the harsh words while conversing. Bathing early was also a ritual. They carve the idol of Goddess Katyayani using wet sand and then worship it. They terminated this penance on the first day of Tamil month Thai. Due to these customs and traditions, ancient age gave arise to Pongal.