Been born and brought up in North India and married to a Tamil Brahmin, my story is so close to ‘Two States’ novel by Chetan Bhagat. There were so many incidents in the book, which reminded me of my casualties while following the South Indian traditions, at least in my initial days of marriage. With time however, we have blended traditions of North and South and we are a multi-cultural family. We celebrate festivals from both the regions with the same gusto. So Holi and Diwali are as important as Pongal and Ganesh Chaturthi.
Pongal is one festival when the South and the North Indian traditions blend in my household, as Makar Sankranti(North India) and Pongal(South India) are both harvest festivals, and they are both celebrated on the same day.
This is how we celebrate the two festivals;
We clean the house, decorate the house with ‘kolam’ or ‘rangoli’ which is made using rice paste and wear new clothes in the morning. I cook sweet pongal and then as a family we pray to the Gods. Food is one thing, that I have adapted very easily from the South, I still struggle with the language though.
In the evening, the kids head to the building terrace, where almost half the building would be flying kites for Makar Sankranti.
A very important aspect of this festival is to celebrate the worth of cleanliness every year on the day of BhogiPongal, by cleaning their environments, decorating their homes, and buying new vessels and other utensils and food items. A major activity on the day is the burning of things that are of no use.
While most people stick to cleaning and decorating for me that is not enough. Insects especially cockroaches, crawl on the utensils and grains in them overnight, spreading disease causing bacteria and germs. Consuming anything in these contaminated utensils will cause food poisoning. Therefore this festive season make sure you don’t just clean the kitchen but also keep the kitchen super safe from food poisoning by spraying LAL HIT in the nooks and corners of the kitchen. It comes with a unique deep reach nozzle that can kill even the hidden cockroaches. Make sure you say no to food poisoning spread by cockroaches!
Bhogi is a sort of cleansing ceremony, and a prelude to Pongal Celebration.For those of you, who may not be aware Pongal is a harvest festival. The roots of this festival can be found in the fact that India’s primary occupation was farming. During the harvesting season the farmers would gather in the farms and cook to celebrate a good harvest. This would go on for 3-4 days and they would cook dishes made out of vegetables, rice, dal, sugarcane and milk primarily. The villagers would put all of these in a mud pot in the centre of their farm and cook.
Today, households cook sweet pongal, salty pongal and avial all in a cooker. Some still follow tradition and cook these in a brass pot which is decorated, this pot is known as ‘PongalPanai’. Boiling over of milk while cooking the pongal is considered auspicious. There is a very interesting story attached to this. In my initial years of marriage, one day I left the milk on the gas and forgot about it and it spilled over. I felt quite incompetent, whereas my mother-in-law looked very pleased. In my mom’s household this would be called spillage and wastage and in South India this signifies prosperity. I realised that day that I will have to unlearn and relearn everything, such is the difference in the two states :)!