On these days the usual “eppadi irukeenga? or “sowriyama? (Eng: how are you? all is well?) will be replaced with “Veetulae Paal pongiyacha?” (meaning – was milk boiled/overflowed at home? was pongal celebrated at home?)
The groundwork starts early afternoon by decorating garlands for the cows/bullocks/goats raised at home and cooking pongal specially for them. The garland will be made of neem leaves, mango leaves and other leaves and flowers so the animals can eat them straight from their neck… We (kids) make fun of other kids by wishing “a very happy birthday” for the mattu pongal. Mid afternoon middle/tean-aged men from each home will go to the temple with their well decorated bullocks. Ladies were not allowed there may be because it will be too scary to see all the bullocks together with long horns pointing upwards. There will be a race among bullocks and at the same speed they will reach home. As the temple is located at the outskirts of village and my grandpa’s home being at the entrance of the village I get to see most of the bullocks running in full speed to their home. The beauty is bullocks know their way back home. Then, the men visits “kula deivam kovil” (Family deity temple) to make archanai (small pooja).
/** You can skip the snippet in blue. I just wanted to record it here before it fades off my memory. This may not make any sense to the future generation. They may not even know who are their pangali’s or onnu-vitta-periyappa or onnu-vitta-chithappa but by recording this at least I will feel contented that I have passed on the minimum details I could recollect about our ancestors. **/
Going off on a tangent each family will/must have a family deity. In general the pangali’s (men/brother’s having same ancestor and same family name) have same family deity. My father’s family name is “Appu Kumarar” and mother’s side family name is “Vanniyar”. Appu Kumarar’s family deity is “Veeranar” and Vanniyar’s family deity is “Saambaan”. People belonging to same family name will be treated as brothers and sisters. The girl’s family deity will change to her husband’s after marriage. Also, a special celebration called “Sirappu” will be held for each family deity once a year. I am yet to gather all these details from M’s side.
Alright back to mattu pongal, at dusk grandma cooks the pongal and the same ritual as of previous day follows. That is we get ready with the plates and sticks for the parade headed by grandpa. The only change is today the pooja will be performed for veetu saami (representing late family members) at the nadu veedu (the pooja room). I don’t remember seeing any idol or posters or framed pictures in the pooja room of any house at my village. All they will have is one kamatchi amman oil lamp made of bronze to represent the late family members of the family. The belief is that they are the ones who guard home against the evil eye.
Next comes the interesting and my favorite part, in a half broken dry coconut shell each of us will hold oil, segakkai, water, turmeric paste, kumkum, garlands and pongal in the same order and visit the cattle. As it will be past evening the first and bravo one will hold chimney lamp and we will follow him in a row. All the above said items will be applied on the forehead of the cows/bullocks/goats in the same oder symbolizing that they take oil bath with segakkai, get washed, get dressed with kumkum/garlands and finally eat pongal. This is kinda due respect we pay to them for all the hard work they do throughout the year. My grandpa will feed the pongal and the person behind will wash their mouth with water. Following this, the cattle will be filled with hays and other stuff for the cows to munch happily and go to sleep. The farm animals will not be given any work on this day. All they do on this one day of the year is to rest completely. I mostly hold on to the turmeric paste or kumkum (easiest ones) and will keep it on their forehead by stretching my hands from a distance in spite of two guys holding the bullock from either side . Next, grandma will make all of us stand together in the frontyard and take off drishti from us. Drishti will be taken off by making us stand facing east and the drishti remover (grandma) standing in front of us facing west. She will hold a small clay pot filled with burning charcoal, red chillies and salt and do an anticlockwise and clockwise circles head to toe for three times. Post drishti removal we will be allowed to step inside after washing our legs with water and the clay pot will be taken to the street corner. Next day morning we can see group of clay pots at every street corner. What else is left for the day? yep it is the dinner. Dinner will be served with variety of non-vegetarian dishes. We all will sit in a row in jamakaalam and enjoy the food served on banana leaf chitchatting non-stop. Needless to say the poor ladies of the house will be on their toes on all these four days. Mom will be at her best as a DIL and we hardly talk to each other… Wow I never imagined picturizing all these as I pen down would be so much fun and the positive vibes from this post is terrific…
Kaanum pongal – One pongal at a time – See you in the next post…