Tamil Nadu is a land of many festivals. January marks
the beginning of the festival season in the state. Pongal is the
first festival and it is celebrated with much enthusiasm. It is the harvest festival
of Tamil Nadu. “Pongal” is actually the name of a rice and lentil dish cooked in
Tamil Nadu, and on this festive day Pongal is cooked. It is celebrated on January
14, each year. In fact, four festivals are celebrated in Tamil Nadu for four consecutive
days in that week. Bhogi is celebrated on January 13, Pongal
on Jan 14, Maattu Pongal on Jan 15, and Kannum Pongal
and Thiruvalluvar Day on Jan 16.
BHOGI to rid the society of evil. People clean up their
houses of all the junk that they have accumulated in the past year. All the waste
stuff is burnt. Houses are freshly painted. Farm animals are bathed and decorated
with colored powders and paint.
is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai. It is considered to be
an auspicious month. The Sun God is worshipped. In rural areas, people gather in
front of their houses and cook pongal in new pots. Stoves are made with clay and
wood is used as fuel. When the pongal is almost made, everybody shouts in ecstasy
pongal o pongal. When milk is boiled, if it overflows, it is believed to be a sign
of a prosperous agricultural during the coming season.
People visit their friends and relatives. Pongal food
and sweets are exchanged among neighbours and relatives. The sugarcane crop ripens
at the time of Pongal. Sugarcane is harvested and it is available in markets and
children can be seen crunching sugarcane.
PONGAL The next day January 15, is the day for farm animals especially
the bulls. Most farmers still use them to plough and till the land for irrigation.
The farmer would find it difficult to survive without the bull. Bulls, cows and
other farm animals are worshipped on this day. Bull fights or Manju Virattu also
takes place on this day. These fights are also called Jalli Kettu.
Every house nurtures at least one bull to be a fierce
fighter. The horns are periodically sharpened. Traditionally it is believed that
a family loses its status if it has no bulls to participate in this fight. Farmers
gather to display their fierce bulls. Each bull has a cloth tied around its neck
containing money. The owner of the bull challenges the crowd that gathers to bring
the bull under control and victoriously retrieve the cloth with the money from its
neck. The bulls get restless and angry with the noise from the drums, whistles,
shouts and even crackers that are burst. These bull fights can be fatal at times.
The bulls are overpowered sometimes but it is understandably a difficult task. If
the bull is overpowered, the owner of the bull has to invite the conqueror to his
house and serve him a lavish meal.