Sunday, January 14, 2007
Pongal, or Sankranthi as it is known in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, is a very important festival in the Hindu calendar. It is a harvest festival in most parts of India. (In Kerala of course, Onam is the harvest festival).
This is the day that the Sun God starts His journey towards the north and hence it is the first day of Uttarayana which extends upto about 15th of July. Uttarayana is considered to be the most holiest half of the year. In Bhagavad Gita, the Lord says, "I am Uttarayana among the ayanas."
It is known as Makara Sanakranthi in Kerala and is celebrated by all. One who does not observe Makara Sankranthi is comapred to a wild fowl. There is a saying, “Kattukozhikkendu Makara Sankranthi?” meaning "what does a wild fowl know about Makara Sankranthi?"
In Kerala, in the olden days (I really don’t know what they do now), the houses were cleaned thoroughly and white washed before Sankranthi. Even in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, there is a thorough cleaning of the houses. In Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, all old things are thrown out and a big bonfire is made on the day before Pongal, which is called Bhogi fire. The day before Pongal is celebrated as Bhogi. In Andhra Pradesh, Makara Sankranthi is known as Pedda Panduga or "The Big Festival” and is celebrated in a grand manner, similar to Onam in Kerala. In Tamil Nadu Pongal is celebrated in a big way.
Bhogi is also celebrated in a big way in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. In Kerala it is the Sankranthi day that is the big day. This day has become more significant in Kerala, especially in the recent times, because of the Makara Jyothi day of Sabarimala (On Sankranthi day, a light mysteriously appears in the distance near Sabarimala, it is taken to be a sign from the Lord Ayyappa to His devotees). Awareness about the Jyothi is growing thanks to the direct telecast of the appearance of the “Jyothi” and the accompanied special poojas at Sabarimala.
All festivals in India have their own special food. For Bhogi in Tamil Nadu, the special dishes prepared are Poli or Boli (Obattu in Kannada) and Aama vadai (Ambode in Kannada, Parippu vada in Malayalam).
Poli is similar to stuffed Parathas, except that the covering dough is made of Maida. The stuffing is made of either Bengal gram dal and jaggery or Bengal gram dal, coconut and jaggery.
Aama vadai or Ambode is prepared with bengal gram dal, toor dal and urad dal.