Monthly Archives: January 2013

Pongal

Legends of Pongal

All the festivals have some interesting legends associated with it. Pongal, the much awaited festival of South India particularly Tamil Nadu also has interesting legends associated with it. The most popular legends attached to Pongal celebration:

Legend of Mount Govardhan

The first day of the festival Bhogi Pongal has an association with legend of Lord Indra (the God of clouds and rains) and Lord Krishna. Earlier, people used to worship Lord Indra who was the King of the deities. This honor given to Lord Indra made him full of pride and arrogance. He thought himself to be the most powerful of all the beings. When child Krishna came to know about this he thought of a plan to teach him a lesson. He persuaded his cowherd friends to worship Mt. Govardhan rather than Lord Indra. This angered Lord Indra and he sent forth the clouds to generate non-stop thunder, lightning, heavy rains and flood the land. As per the tale, Lord Krishna lifted the huge Govardhan Parvat on his little finger to protect the cowherds and the cattle. He kept standing with the lifted mount to save all the humans from the ravaging storm of Lord Indra. The rains continued for three days and at last Indra realized his mistake and divine power of Lord Krishna. He promised humility and begged Krishna’s forgiveness. Since then, Krishna allowed to let the Bhogi celebrations continue in honor of Indra. Thus, the day gave the origin to the Pongal celebration. The festival got another name of Indran from his legendary story. Lord Indra is worshiped for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. This day is also known as Indran. Thus, Bhogi festival or Bhogi is the first day of Pongal and is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, “the God of Clouds and Rains”.

Legend of Lord Shiva

Another legend associated with the festival relates to Lord Shiva. The third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi (Basava), the bull. According to the legend, Lord Shiva once asked his bull to go to the Earth and deliver his message to the people to have an oil massage and bath daily and to eat food once a month. Mistakenly, Basava announced to have an oil massage and bath once a month and to eat food daily. Enraged Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to this mistake there would be lack of grains on the Earth. He banished the bull to live on earth forever and help people plough the fields. Thus, Mattu Pongal has an association with the cattle. It is also called Kanu Pongal.

Pongal Celebrations

Pongal is dedicated to the sun god, Surya and has its roots in ancient Brahminical tradition. Since Pongal is a rural, agrarian based festival that celebrates the harvests, the sun is a vital part of the proceedings. This is because the Sun is the symbol of life on Earth. Without the Sun, crops cannot sprout and grow. Without the Sun, harvests will not be plentiful.

The preparation of Pongal festival is quite elaborate and starts several days before the actual date of celebration. Pongal is one such festival in which not only people are charged up, but animals also join in the Pongal preparation. People get busy decking up their houses, discarding old and unwanted things. Many of them get busy giving a fresh coat of paint to their homes.

The festival is spread over three days and is the most important and most fervently-celebrated harvest festival of South India. A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of the paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandal wood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut.
Each of the four days are marked by different festivities.

The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is in honor of Indra the god of rain
There are many legends told about this day. The day begins with a til (sesame) oil bath and in the evening there is a bonfire in which all the rubbish in the house is burnt.
On Bhogi all people clean out their homes from top to bottom, and collect all unwanted goods. This day is meant for domestic activities and of being together with the family members.
All the houses from the richest to the humblest are thoroughly scrubbed and whitewashed. Homes are cleaned and decorated with “Kolam” – floor designs drawn in the white paste of newly harvested rice with outlines of red mud. Often pumpkin flowers are set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the field as preparation for the following day.

Surya Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun God. The newly harvested rice is cooked with milk and Jaggery in a new clay pot in the open and allowed to boil over, signifying plenty and prosperity for the year ahead. People gather around the pot when the milk boils and shout in joy “Pongalo Pongal, Pongalo Pongal” Then the cooked pongal is offered to the Sun God and taken as prasad. New clothes for the family is a must, and gifts are bestowed to all relatives, especially newly married couples and babies.

The third day of Pongal, Mattu Pongal, is for worship of the cattle. Cattle are bathed, their horns polished and painted in bright colors, and decorated with bells, seashells, and beads. They are garlanded and taken out around the village in a procession. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. The Pongal that has been offered to the Gods is then given to cattle and birds to eat.

The fourth day of the three-day Pongal celebrations is called Kaanum Pongal. In few places this day is also known as Karinaal or Thiruvalluvar Day. This day is very similar to Rakhsa Bandhan and Bhai Dhuj in that it is predominantly a festival where women offer prayers for the wellbeing of their brothers. The women perform this ritual before bathing in the morning. All the women, young and old, of the house, assemble in the courtyard. They also seek blessings from the elders (women) in the house with turmeric anointed on their forehead. After this, different colored rice (yellow, red, white and jaggery color) is placed in the centre of the leaf, while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Aarati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of the house.

On this day, people travel to see other family members and the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money.

Other Names of Pongal

Pongal

In the south, people have the festival of Pongal, which is celebrated over four days. The newly harvested rice is cooked and this preparation goes by the name Pongal.

Makar Sankranti

In the North Indian states of India, people celebrate this day as Makar Sankranti. The most exciting thing about this festival is the kite flying. People believe that the direction of the wind changes on that day, and so they all come out into the streets to fly colorful kites and capture as many as possible.

Lohri

In Punjab, people celebrate Lohri in January on what they believe is the coldest day of the year. With the cold winds blowing they celebrate by dancing the bhangra around a fire, which is fed with sugarcane, rice and sesame seeds. People sing folk songs that tell of a good harvest, which is a blessing from the gods.

Bihu/Bohaggiyo Bhishu

This is the greatest festival of the Assamese people, who observe three Bihus. The three Bihus, constitute a festival complex and are celebrated at various stages of the cultivation of paddy, the principal crop of Assam.

Hadaga Festival

The Hadaga festival in Maharashtra is to pray for a good monsoon and a good harvest. As Indra is the god of rain, people sing songs to Indra and pray for rain. Pictures of the elephant which is Indra’s vehicle are drawn everywhere to invite the God.

Hanumath Jayanti

Hanumath Jayanthi is a sacred occasion to celebrate Hanuman’s Birth day and get his blessings. Hanuman (Aanjeneyar) is worshiped by all Hindus in India who worship Lord Rama and Lord Sita. In every Rama temple, Hanuman statue is another significant and Hanuman will face right opposite to Rama statue with his palms folded and head bowed showing respect to Lord Rama. We call Hanuman by different names as Aanjeneyar, Maruthi, Pavanasuta, bajrangbali. Hanuman is son of God Vayu and Anjana.

He is a great devotee and Brahmachari. He served Sri Rama with pure love and devotion, without expecting anything in return. He lived to serve Sri Rama. He was humble, brave and wise. He possessed all the divine virtues. Because of these good qualities Lord Sita blessed him to be Siranjeevi(No Death). Lord Hanuman tried to prove to us that any matters which done with full of commitment and self confidence will be success in the end. In another word, Lord Hanuman empowered us with the word “I can” indirectly.

Hanumath Jayanthi is supreme to all Jayanthis.It is a belief that if we pray to Lord Hanuman and perform vrat(fasting) on this auspicious occasion, we get all sorts of good things and great blessings from Lord. Our sorrows will get over and we can lead a happy life with our family.

Whenever we pray to Lord Rama, Lord Hanuman will appear there as a devotee and he also join with us to pray Lord Rama and at the same time he bless us all with good in our life. We have to chant Lord Rama’ Name when we pray to Lord Hanuman. We can offer milagu vada garland, beetle leaves garland and butter as neivedhyam to Lord Hanuman. It is good if we get a Hanuman photo and pray to him by keeping sandal and kumkum dots in his tail daily. Poha, Sugar, honey, Panagam, Neermoor are some of the things that he likes more and we can offer them as neivedhyam.

KumKum dots in Lord Hanuman’s Tail :

It is a great belief that if we pray to Lord Hanuman by keeping sandal and kumkum dots, we can get rid of all worries in our life and get the Lords’s blessings as we all know Lord Hanuman’s mighty power lies in his holy tail.

If we plan to start this, then Every day we should keep one kumkum dot in the tail starting from his hip and then slowly move on to the end of the tail. We have to chant Lord Rama’s holy mantras while doing this. When we reach the end of tail, we can consider that day as auspicious and we can offer vada garland to Lord as neivedhyam. Again we can clean all the dots and start from the beginning.

This year, this occasion falls on 11th January. Devotees should chant “Hanuman Chalisa” on this day (it is good if we chant for 21 times) and get the blessings of Lord Hanuman.

 Most of the devotees fast on that day. We can also prepare 108 Milagu vadai and offer as neivedhyam to Lord Hanuman

Koodaravalli

Andal is the only woman among the Azhwars. Her devotion to Lord Ranganathar gave rise to many pasurams. This bhakthi endeared her to the Lord, who accepted her as his bride.

 

Sri Andal sang the Thiruppavai containing 30 verses – one verse for each day of Margazhi (December – January) – in praise of Lord Narayana. On the 27th day, while singing “Koodaarai vellum seer Govinda…”, the Lord blessed her with the boon of marriage. This day every year is celebrated at Koodaravalli to commemorate this event.

In the second pasuram, “Vaiyathu vaazhvirgal”, Andal details the procedures involved in observing the fast during the month. Sri Andal exhorts us to chant the name of the Lord for the whole day, avoid ghee, milk, have a bath early in the morning (brahmamuhurtham), avoid any adornments like kohl or flowers, avoid all negative emotions and words, do acts of charity, and do one’s duties while singing praises of the Lord.

Sri Andal and her friends complete their fast on the 27th day, and prepare to enjoy themselves for the last three days of the month.

The 27th pasuram, “koodarai vellum” signifies the conclusion of the fast.

koodaarai vellum seer gOvindhaa undhannai(p)

paadi(p) paRai kondu yaam peRum sammaanam

naadu pugazhum parisinaal nanRaaga(ch)

choodagamE thOL vaLaiyE thOdE sevip poovE

paadagamE enRanaiya palagalanum yaam aNivOm

aadai uduppOm adhan pinnE paaR chORu

mooda ney peydhu muzhangai vazhi vaara(k)

koodi irundhu kuLirndhElOr embaavaay

The friends wear good clothes and ornaments and visit the temple, where they continue to sing praises of Lord Narayana. Akkaravadisal soaked in ghee and milk is offered to the Lord and shared amongst them.

Today, devotees go to the temple, offer Ghee filled Akaravadisal to Lord Govinda and end their fast on this day. Many perform Annadanam on this day.This Year Koodaravalli is celebrated on 11th January 2013