Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Kanum Pongal/Mattu Pongal/Kanu

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”.


Anonymous said...

Kakka podi vechen, Kanu podi vechen, kakkaikkum mattukkum kalyanam...

Hi we used to say kakkaikum kuruvikkum kalyanam....
Kalyanam does not translate marriage. kalyanam means peace also ( Heard kalyana chavu ?)
Or roughly translates celebrations. AND it is not between kakkai and mattukkum

It is kakkaikkum, (comma) mattukkum kalyanam

Hm...traditions do have a lot a meaning but lost meaning somewhere

Ammupatti said...

Hi Anonymous

Thanks for your interpretation.

Happy Pongal and Kanu


Hello Ammupaati,
Happy Pongal to you!
My amma and paati taught us to say "Kaaka Podi vechen, Kanu podi vechen, Kaaka kootu kalanjaalum, en kootu kalayakoodaadhu".

But I grew up in Bombay, so my knowledge of Kerala Iyer traditions is all gained 2nd hand from my parents - they could have totally fooled me if they wanted :)

Thank you very much for a great detailed blog on our cuisine and rituals - it has been a great source of inspiration for me in the US! Thanks to your detailed tips, menus and recipes, I will be celebrating all our traditional festivals this year - adipoli :)

Best regards,

Ammupatti said...

Hi Kavitha

your verses make a lot of sense. For sure your parents have not fooled you here.

I hope you had an adipoli pongal and kanu.
Best wishes

Sanctified Spaces said...


I did not say the phrases you mentioned,but I took a picture of the offerings.Do take a look at it in my blog.

Sanctified Spaces

Ammupatti said...

Hi Sanctified Spaces(I am sure you have a beautiful name)

You have a nice picture of Kanu offerings. This time around I have taken pictures of my Kanu offering as well. Wait till I post them.

Oh yes, you do have a wonderful blog.

Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Thought I would add ours as well:

Kanu podi vechen, Kakai podi vechen,
Kakaiku ellam kalyanam

Rajani@eatwritethink said...

these tamil iyer traditions are so new to me, very very interesting :)

nal said...

Hi ammu patti

I can sort of relate your recipes with that of my mom's.
I wanted to make thiruvadirai Kari with kavathu kayangu yesterday but didnt know what u call it in English. Hence didn't know where to find it in GA.

In our kanu days we were taught to say:

Kaka podhi vechen, kanu podhi vechen, Kaka ku ellam kalyanam, kuruviki ellam chimandam! (haha) ain't that



Thanks for the lovely recipes.