WHAT IS PONGAL aka MAKARA SANKRANTI ? (Post No7457)

Sugarcane for Sankaranti
Pongal Greetings

WRITTEN BY LONDON SWAMINATHAN

Post No.7457

Date uploaded in London – 15 January 2020

Contact – swami_48@yahoo.com

Pictures are taken from various sources for spreading knowledge; this is a non- commercial blog.

MAKARA SANKARAANTI is celebrated by the Hindus throughout India. Tamils call it PONGAL and celebrate it on a grander scale. Actually, it is a three day festival of Hindus. Sankranti/Pongal eve is celebrated as Bhogi. And the next day to Pongal is celebrated as Cattle Pongal , i.e. In Tamil Maattup Pongal.

First let me explain the way Tamil Hindus celebrate it.

On Bhogi Pandikai/festival day they burn all the old things in a bonfire in front of their houses. The old things include all old clothes, furniture, mats, carpets old pots etc. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Just two weeks before the festival, they start cleaning the house and white wash the house. Then they apply red border along the floor near the wall with saffron coloured red mud. Saffron colour is called Kaavi in Tamil. Wherever the red border is seen it means  some auspicious things are happening. Hindus draw such things on all auspicious occasions such as wedding, puberty ceremony, Valaikappu/Seemantham, Punul/sacred thread ceremony etc.

All the Hindu festivals are associated with one special dish. On the Bhogi day they make Boli and Vadai.

Pongal Celebrartions

Pongal

Pongal means rice pudding. They don’t use white sugar. They use jaggery and ghee to make sweet Pongal. ‘Pongu’ is a Tamil verb which means boil to the brim of the pot. When the rice is boiled in milk and water with jaggery and ghee, it boils and come to the brim of the new pot, usually a new mud pot. Then they make happy shouting/noise with the words ‘Pongal O Pongal’. The mud pot is decorated with turmeric plant and holy Kunkum and Vibhuti/holy ash. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

The mud pot is usually placed on a Kolam/rangoli and women do the cooking surrounded by children and men. Sugar cane and newly harvested turmeric plants are kept on both sides of the Pongal pot.

Orthodox Hindus draw a picture of Sun God and do Puja with flowers. All these things are done in an open place in the house, mostly backyard or in front of the house.

All the family members bathe in the morning and wear new clothes. Since Pongal follows the harvest season they will have new rice, new sugarcane etc.

Farmers get lot of money from the sale of harvested grains and hence there is a saying in Tamil, “ Thai Piranthaal Vazi Pirakkum” meaning if the month of Thai is born, a new way is born/found or seen. That is girls will get married sooner with the available money.

Cattle Pongal

Next day to Pongal is called Maatu Pongal (Maatu in Tamil means cattle). It is a thanks -giving day to Cows and Bulls. They decorate the cows and bulls with flower garlands and paint the horns with colour paints. They are taken in a procession and the chief of the cowherds Lord Krishna will follow the cows and bulls. If there is a temple of Vishnu, then the idol procession will follow the cows and bulls with big tom tom and music. Earlier in the day they give Sweet Pongal to the cattle.

Orthodox Hindus celebrate it on a wider scale. They wake up in the morning and use the left- over food to feed the birds. It is done ritually. They draw Kolams/Rangolis and on those Rangolis they spread turmeric leaf and make balls of food with different colours and spread it on the leaves. All women take part in this ritual. It is called Kanu Pongal. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Meaning of Makara Sankraanthi

Pundit S M Natesa Sastri in his book Hindu Feasts (year 1903) had explained the word Bhogi-

Explaining the meaning of Bhogi festival he says the word ‘Bhoga’ comes from the Sanskrit root ‘BHUJ’, to enjoy ; so Bhogi Pandikai is a feast of enjoyment. It is celebrated to honour INDRA who helps us to get rains for the crops and good gravest.

Sankranti comes from the word Sankramana . Sun enters zodiac sign Makara/ Capricorn. And the Tamil month ‘Thai’ begins on that day. Thai is ‘Pausa’ in Sanskrit . tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

This day is observed throughout India and South East Asia (see my research article about Thailand and Laos given below) for the worship of sun god. Rich men regard this day as a meritorious one for making charitable donations and every Hindu raja/king gives away large sums in charity. An assembly of pandits sits on this day in Baroda and gives rewards to Hindu scholars who have passed examinations in Vedas, Tarka, Vyakarana . Other Rajas also observe the same custom.

The Uttarayana Punyakala – northward journey of sun -begins on this day. The season for marriages in Hindu families commences on this day and lasts for six months up to the end of Uttarayana. Brothers send presents and gifts to their sisters. Newly wedded brides get special presents on the day. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Bull fighting

There is a custom in the Yadava community- Lord Krishna’s caste—whoever tames a bull that is let loose will get a gift. This custom started with Lord Krishna who tamed seven bulls according to Bhagavata purana. Youngsters have to tame a bull to get a girl in the olden days.

Sangam  Tamil book Kalitokai describes in great detail the bull fighting or – taming the bull – by cowherd community/ Yadava caste. Now it is tamed by any strong man. In the olden days they used to tie some valuables or money to the horn of the bull and whoever tames the bull gets the money. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Kite flying

In Gujarat state of India huge kite flying events take place.

Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sang (RSS) celebrates six traditional festivals and Sankranti is one of them. North Indians distribute sweet sesame balls to everyone on this day.

Thiruvalluvar day

Tamil Nadu government declared Cattle Pongal Day as Thirvalluvar day in honour of great Tamil poet Valluvar.

Orthodox Hindus pay homage to departed souls by doing Tarpana on the Sankranti day. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Sankranti, being a solar festival it falls on the same day every year, either on 14th or 15th of January.

KANCHI PARAMACHARYA ON SANKRANTI

In his Madras discourse on 14th January 1958, Kanchi Paramacharya (1894-1994) said,

“Plant life is necessary for the growth and sustenance of animal life. The entire vegetable kingdom derives its  nourishment through rain and dew which fall during the Dakshinayana and attain fruition during Uttarayana by the warmth that it obtains from the sun. it is the all merciful Narayana who is ‘antaryamin’ in the Sun and who is the source of all this nourishment and fruition. And so, we devoutly offer the plants and vegetables which sustain human life to the Giver of all Good on this day – Makara Sankranti day – or Thai Pongal day – and use them with His Grace. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

Giving up all luxuries, we must restrict ourselves to necessities and use them with gratitude as gifts of the All Merciful God. We worship the sun on Makara Sankranti day as the agency through whom Iswara (God) bestows on us he necessities of life.

Fresh turmeric, which is evident in puja, is symbol of auspiciousness. Sugarcane stands for whatever is sweet in life. Grain, plantain and coconut are symbolic of the plenty of the season, which along with sweetened rice are offered to the sun.

In the same manner, the cowherds offer these gifts of god to domestic animals such as cow on the next day.

The observance of this day, betokening plenty and auspiciousness, is a reminder to all of us, including the unlettered masses, that the overflowing and abundant good things that support our life are the gifts of All Merciful Providence, personified by the sun, who enters the northward course. This is equated in the Bhagavat Gita and the Upanishads with a path with which a devotee is destined to reach the ultimate divinity. tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

May plenty and spirituality overflow by His Grace , especially in the world of today where they are most needed.

–From Acharya’s Call, Part 2, B G Paul &co, Madras-1

tags – Pongal, Sankranti, Kanu, Bhogi, Bull fighting, Kite flying

sankranti in Laos and Thailand

 READ MY OLD ARTICLES

HINDU SANKRANTI IN LAOS AND THAILAND (Click on the links below)

Sankaranti | Tamil and Vedas

https://tamilandvedas.com › tag › sankaranti

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Tamils in South India celebrate it as Pongal– Harvest Festival. Other parts of India celebrate it as a solar festival. All over India worship Sun God on that day.

பொங்கல் பண்டிகை | Tamil and Vedas

https://tamilandvedas.com › tag › பொங்கல்-ப…

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9 May 2018 – பொங்கல் என்று சொல்லும் பண்டிகையின் உண்மைப் பெயர் சங்கராந்தி. ஒரு உணவுப் பண்டத்தின் பெயரில் பண்டிகை இராது என்பது …

பொங்கல் வாழ்த்து! (Post No.5937) | Tamil and …

https://tamilandvedas.com › 2019/01/15 › பொங்க…

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15 Jan 2019 – வந்தது இன்று பொங்கல் – நனி. தந்தது இன்று … வேணும் பொங்கல் மகிழ்ச்சி – நாம் … Tamil and Vedas posted: ” Pongal picture from Bank of Baroda calendar > Written …

tamilandvedas.com, swamiindology.blogspot.com

–subham–

Pongal Kolam or Sankranti Rangoli
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