I hope everybody had a very enjoyable Pongal. We celebrated Pongal in our own simple but traditional style. There was Sankramana Tharpana to be performed for the Pithrus. Sarkkarai Pongal and Venpongal were prepared and offered to the Sun God. We had a breakfast of Sarkkarai Pongal and Venpongal with coconut chutney. Lunch was Avarakkai Pulinkari and carrot and beans thoran.
I wanted to sit and write about Kanu or Kanum Pongal and its special dishes before the Kanu day, post Pongal lunch. But then we had a steady stream of visitors, distributing ellu bella (a custom in Karnataka, offering sesame seeds and jaggery to all friends, to say, let your words be always sweet). I had to entertain them. By then I had also prepared some Medhu Vadai. Then my brothers and their families arrived. With three little kids, all under 6 demanding different things at the same time, I was out of breath by the time I could satisfy all of them and also attending to my guests. I offered them Sarkkarai Pongal and Medhu vadai (I had actually prepared very few, and I had to cut them into bits to distribute among all. My brother was saying, distribute one small piece to each, like kovil ammanji’s appam). More about Kovil ammanji later.
But enough rambling. Coming back to Kanu, the day after Pongal is observed as Mattu Pongal or Kanum Pongal or just Kanu. On this day the cattle are given an oil bath and decorated with flower garlands and kumkum and given sweets to eat. In Tamil Nadu there are cattle races and bull fights (Jalli kattu) on this day. Hence the day is known as Mattu Pongal.
It is also known as Kanu and is a special day for girls and ladies. On this day, early in the morning, the eldest lady in the house applies raw turmeric paste on the faces of all the younger women and girls. After this oil is applied to their hair. Then all the girls and ladies offer rice balls (small lemon sized balls) topped with pieces of turmeric, coconut and jaggery to the crows. As usual, it was our athai, who would lead us in this, and when we offered this to the crows, we sang, “Kakka podi vechen, Kanu podi vechen, kakkaikkum mattukkum kalyanam,” which could be roughly translated as, “I offer, Kakka podi and Kanu podi, it is the marriage of the crow and the cow.” Does sound really idiotic, when I think of it now. Perhaps, the words had to be different, I don’t know. But this is what we said.
After this, our athai would lead us to the stream nearby and give us an oil bath. Back home, we would all dress in new clothes and lots of flowers in our hair and would go visiting friends.
On this day, the menu would be different from the usual, sambar, kootu or thoran. We had, what was generally known as “kalanda Sadham” or mixed rice with pappads or vattals. Of course there was the “Kanu Podi”.