Rise & Fly, the Sun will Shine, together the Strength Can Only Multiply

Have you ever come across the Native Americans Code of Ethics?  These codes are not uncommon, many of us practise them everyday. Just reading these repeatedly is zen. A reminder.  I am intrigued most by the first in that list.
Rise with the sun to pray. Pray alone. Pray often. 
The Great Spirit will listen, if you only speak.

On January 15 every year (+- 2 days), those of Indian origin too  wake up early to pay tribute to the sun and its glorious harvest by celebrating the harvest festival.  Harvest festival is a form of thanks giving celebration, and each state in India  celebrates the occasion with its own name and unique rituals. 
  • Bhogi  - Adhra Pradesh
  • Bhogali Bihu – Assam
  • Lohri – Punjab and other states of Northern India
  • Makara Sankranti – Maharashtra, Orissa and Bengal, Nepal
  • Pongal - Tamil Nadu, Puducherry
  • Pongala – Kerala
  • Uttarayana - Gujarat, Rajasthan
Today, as we migrate between continents, we also bring along with us these unique traditions too. And this is how Pongal has reached the many corners of the world. 

Pongal dates back to 1000 years ago. According to Wikipedia, there are epigraphical evidence suggesting Pongal was celebrated as early as during the Chola empire days. Today it is celebrated widely by Tamils not only in India but also in Malaysia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Mauritius, Kenya, South Africa, US, Canada and UK.  

In Malaysia, Pongal is a 4-day festival to symbolise new beginnings. It is also an occasion to be thankful for the last harvest and to pray for the year ahead to be as prosperous. We celebrated this occasion just a few weeks ago. 

Bhogi marks the first day of the Pongal celebration. Traditionally on this day older items are discarded and replaced with newer ones. Spring cleaning is what I call it. For me, this is not an one day event but rather an extended one (and therefore starts much earlier). It takes me more than a day to just get myself to look at the old things and then a few more to get my mind to figure out what I really need and many more days after that to convince myself to discard those things which I don't need. After all the hard work of discarding unused items and fighting the dust allergies, those empty spots get filled up again even faster. 

Cleaning done, shelves emptied. Next on the list is another exciting activity. Shopping! What, did I say that right? Yes Shopping. Told you those empty spots don't stay empty for too long. This time, its vegetable shopping – to get various vegetables for the Kuttu Sambar. Yummy! Kuttu Sambar is a mixed vegetable gravy dish served with rice. Oh Yummy!

Another common sight during Pongal festival is Sugar Cane. As I mentioned earlier, Pongal is a harvest festival. Sugar cane is one of the farm harvest and its abundance is a sign of prosperity and its sweetness marks happiness. There are couple more essentials for Pongal – fresh turmeric (with its bulbs and leaves), banana and mango leaves, Koorai Poo (these are the white flowers from the Aerva Lanata plant) and Avaram Poo (the yellow flowers below, Avaram Senna). 

Pongal Essentials


The images below show the common sights during Pongal in the suburb called Brickfields, (little India) in Kuala Lumpur. Do you see the sugar canes and turmeric?

Getting ready


Next is the main event- Thai Pongal. This is the day when we prepare the Pongal itself. The must-prepare version is the sweet one. First, the milk is boiled in the selected vessel or pot.  The vessel could be brass or new earthen pots decorated with kolam/rangoli. 

Earthen Pots.

The mouth of the pot is tied with fresh turmeric leaves and turmeric bulbs. After a short prayer, the vessel is heated, milk is poured into it.  Once the milk starts to boil and spills over, everyone is greeted with Pongal o Pongal. Then rice grains are added to the boiling milk. Brown jaggery (a form of sugar), along with sweet spices, nuts, scrapped coconut are added towards the end. Sometimes another version of Pongal is also prepared. This version is without the jaggery and spices - a savoury one. Below are pictures of the event at a nearby temple. It is a custom to also prepare the pongal in our homes. 

Pongal celebration at a temple
Now as this is going on, in parallel we prepare the rest of the traditional meal which would be served on banana leaves. The meal is a vegetarian one and includes a variety of  traditionally farmed vegetable – such as sweet potato, pumpkin, squash and plantain. Frankly speaking, one can make sweet pongal any day, but its the one made on this day that tastes the best. I have a sweet tooth which craves for this every year. 

The 3rd day is Mattu Pongal. This celebration is to honour the cattle. Families would decorate their cows with garlands and paint it's horns with bright colours. The cow is a sacred animal and often considered part of the household.  In Malaysia we do not have cows at home, so we only make the pongal and remind ourselves be thankful for the blessings again. 

The next day is Kanni Pongal.  It also marks the end of the harvest celebrations. On this day, young girls offer prayers in hope of getting good husbands.

Pongal is almost always in January.  The celebrations begin on the first day of the 10th Tamil calendar month, Thai. Thai Masam, as we say it.

The Native American code of Ethics says the spirits will listen if you speak. For me, these spirits speak back in different ways, perhaps it’s that butterfly that landed on your nose, a good harvest, passing an exam or even that coffee that you unexpectedly find waiting for you at your desk. Whichever it maybe I am thankful for the Sun, for our harvest, for our existence. Come out, I haven’t seen you in a while and I miss your shine.  

My first coffee shot today is exactly that one coffee that I did not expect at all but was quietly placed for me in the project room last week. My all-time comfort coffee, Old Towns, white and served hot. Its a every-persons coffee, that's what makes it special for me, it can be enjoyed by many people. Thank you, it was what I needed. I had mentioned Old Town coffee a few times in my previous posts, and had even visited the place where it all started (covered in On your Marks, Detox, Gooooooo, March 2017). If you are in Malaysia, try it. ♫♬

Comfort


I also had a bit more ReachingDelphi moments in January than the usual. Below is a condensed recap. Thank you, they are lovely. Look, there is also a 'Uma to the power of 4' + Sugar + Sugar. I was flying in another world. 💖




The sun will shine, my friends, it will. Look out for those stars, some of them could be  right next to you.   Another coffee week begins. See you soon. 💗💙💚💛💗



8 comments:

  1. Nice detailed write up on pongal! Thanks :)

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  2. Amen to that. See you soon 🧡🧡🧡

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  3. Pongal o pongal Uma. I enjoyed reading this post and seeing nice photos.

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    1. Pongal o pongal Babak. Glad you found it interesting. :)

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  4. Interesting topic. Nice one Uma.. :)

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    1. Glad you found it interesting Ed. :)

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