Sometime back I had promised to write about maasi pournami. Pournami is the full moon day and Maasi Pournami is the full moon day in the tamil month of Maasi(February-March). Almost all full moondays are celebrated in a special manner with some festival attached to the day. These full moondays are also known by the star with which the Pournami concides. Like in the month of Maasi the Pournami falls on the star Makam and hence is also known as Maasi Makam. In the following month , Pankuni(March-April) it falls on the star Uthiram and hence the day is celebrated as Pankuni Uthiram and so on.
The Maasi makam festival is celebrated in many Devi temples and Siva temples in Kerala and Tamilnadu.
Maasi Pournami for us during our childhood was a day of literally getting drunk with payasam. On this day, all the households made payasam in the evening and offered it to the Moon God, praying for the long life and good health of the children. The payasam was then distributed to all the children in the neighbourhood. When the children are happy they in turn wish the family and making children happy meant making the Gods happy. We children invited all the other children in the neighbourhood to have payasam at our home and in turn got invited to all the other houses.
Children were made to sit in the open in the backyard,(which in most of the houses was paved) and payasam was served in banana leaves with a piece of coconut and jaggery and a plantain.. We were also given 5 paise or 10 paise coins at the end of the feast. 5 paise or 10 paise meant a lot those days. We could, for example, buy an ice stick (just frozen sweetened water, which we thought was the ultimate goody) or a toffee or take a raffle from the neighbourhood shop, which promised things like sunglasses and cameras and all of us ultimately got a comb or a whistle or just a toffee.
We had to go to all the houses for tasting the payasam and by the time the evening closed, we all would be so full that we just could not think of food for many more days to come. And so we thought, and we would slowly amble towards our houses and whom should we meet on our way. The lady of the house which we had missed tasting the payasam and she would not let us go without having her payasam. We all would then share the story of Lord Ganesha who was mocked by the Moon God, and was in turn cursed by the Lord. By the end of the evening when we reached home, we did not have strength even to stand. Those were fabulous times.
There was another ritual also on Maasi Pournami day, which was known as “Aimparai”. A necklace was made by threading 5 coins made of copper, iron, silver, brass and an alloy of iron, silver and copper which was then given to of children below the age of 5 years. This was supposed to protect them from evil eyes and all childhood related health problems.
Even today, I celebrate Maasi Pournami by offering Payasam to the Moon God. Until a few years ago, when my brothers and families lived only 2 kms away, they came around to have payasam in our house. Now that they have moved a little farther away and the children have grown up, I don’t have any little kids to offer the payasam, unless some family visited us with their kids per chance. I continue to make payasam.