Yesterday was the birth of a new month in the Tamil Calender. It marks the journey of the sun northwards. The birth of this month signifies the ending of winter and the onset of spring/summer. The first three days of this month is the time when farmers gather their first harvest and welcome prosperity into their homes. In rural Tamil Nadu, rice is boiled in earthen pots and allowed to boil over. This boiling over symbolises a fullness an overflow of prosperity. This festival is known as Pongal (which is a dish of rice).
This festival is mostly celebrated by Tamil Hindus but then this being a celebration of harvest and prosperity, I suppose everyone who is part of the Tamil culture should be observing this day as an important one. Of course this regional festival does not signify much to the followers of the Gregorian calender except for the fact that offices and educational institutions are closed; One can sleep late into the morning and have a relaxed day with family and friends.
The first day of the month of Thai (Tamil Calender) is called the day of Bhogi where people get up before the sun rises and collect all the old things of their house. They make a bon-fire and burn all the old things. This is again symbolic of ushering in the new and getting away with the old. Rural Tamil Nadu is a sight to behold during this festival. This is also a sort of thanksgiving where the farmer is grateful to the earth for her bountiful blessing of grain which is the main source of livelihood for the farmer.
The festival is also famous for sugar-cane which is an important aspect of the celebrations. The third day of the festival is exclusively devoted to bulls as they are an important part of agriculture. The bulls are decorated and fed with delicacies and taken to the temple and offered prayers. There are also bull taming sports in many parts of Tamil Nadu known as Jallikattu but this gory practice is banned by the Government but inspite that in many places these sports occur.
Many parts of India celebrate this festival along with Tamil Nadu. In Andhra Pradesh this festival is known as Makar Sankranthi. We don't celebrate this day as they do in the rural places but for thanksgiving one need not stay in rural India. Isn't it?
Picture courtesy: Internet