14th January 2001
Front Page
Editorial/Opinion| Business
Sports| Mirror Magazine
The Sunday Times on the Web

Hindus celebrate Thai Pongal today

Heralding love, peace and prosperity

By Chelvatamby Maniccavasagar
Thai Pongal which is celebrated today by Hindus all over Sri Lanka and abroad, like several festivals of the ancient calendars is an occasion for hope and renewal and the expression of a sense of gratitude and thanksgiving. This is a festival that recognises the energy-giving Sun and symbolises and confirms the beginning of a new phase in prosperity and peace.

With the end of the wet month of Maragazhi (December to mid-January) the new Tamil month of Thai beginning today, heralds a series of festivals. The first day of the month is known as Thai Pongal day. Pongal means the boiling over of milk and rice during the month of Thai.

According to the calander based on the solar system, the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun northwards and southwards. The former is termed Uttarayanam and the latter Dakshinayanam.

Thai Pongal marks a period of plenty, prosperity, peace and happiness. There is a Tamil saying "Thai Peranthal Vali Perakum". This paraphrased means 'with the dawn of the month of Thai, there will be peace, happiness, prosperity, brightness and harmony in the life of everyone.'

Thai Pongal emphasises the underlying oneness of society. It reflects the homogeneity of thought and tradition that unites those born on our soil whether they live in Jaffna or in Galle. It is a great unifying force that brings people together.The Thai Pongal includes rites and ceremonies that are the expressions of mortification, purgation, invigoration and jubilation over life's renewal.

The Sun is the main object of worship and the Pongal made out of coconut milk, rice and jaggery is offered first to the Sun.

As the Makara Sankaranthi coincides with the harvest season the farmers also express their gratitude to the Sun by worshipping him, offering fruits, sugar cane and boiled rice with milk.

The Pongal rings in a year of warmth, as the cold season ends and the flowers bloom and the songs of the birds fill the air. It is therefore no wonder that the ancients attached great importance to the Sun and its movements. All auspicious events such as weddings and festivals are conducted during 'Uttarayanam.'

On Thai Pongal day, Hindu homes are cleaned, colour-washed and decorated. Usually, villagers cook the rice in the open in a pot at noon when the sun is overhead. It is believed that the direct rays of the Sun falling over the mouth of the vessel will bring peace, harmony and prosperity.

The day after Thai Pongal is devoted to thanksgiving to cattle. The farmers pay great attention to the animals, which have ploughed the fields and drawn the carts throughout the year. To show gratitude for this invaluable service, the animals are bathed, their horns are painted in red, blue, yellow and green. Their foreheads are smeared with turmeric and Kum Kum, their necks adorned with colourful garlands, pooja is offered to them and Pongal is given in plenty. This is called "Mattu Pongal".

Thai Pongal is also an occasion for family reunions and get-togethers. Old enmities, personal animosities and rivalries are forgotten. Indeed Thai Pongal is a festival of freedom, peace and compassion and unity crystallised in the last hymn on unity in the Indian spiritual text, the Rigveda:-

"Let your aim be one and single, let your heart be joined in one, the mind at rest in unison at peace with all, so you may be".

Index Page
Front Page
Mirrror Magazine

More Plus

Return to Plus Contents


Plus Archives

Front Page| News/Comment| Editorial/Opinion| Plus| Business| Sports| Mirror Magazine

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to 

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.
Hosted By LAcNet