Sankranti is a solar festival; Sun changes his path to northward (solstice). The day is celebrated by different cultures differently all over India.
In South India it is also called Pongal as it is associated with the harvest. The day is dedicated to worship of Nature.
Amma often remembers this festival from her childhood as one that shows us how our ancients revered Mother Nature. Three days were exclusive pongal days: the first day was the ritualist beginning with cleaning up and white washing of houses, and worship of the family deity; as special food offerings are made to the family deity the day is called, bhogi pongal. The second day, which is called Makara Sankranti as it marks the change of Sun’s path, is the day when farmers thank Sun God for all his blessings without which they could not reap the harvest. The day is called tai pongal. On the third day called maattu pongal farmers worship the cows that give us milk and the ox that tills the land. The animals are given special bath and decorated with colours and flowers. Special pongal is offered to them. And the fourth day, called kannum pongal, pleasantries are exchanged with relatives and friends. People visit temples or woodlands, together partake of dishes prepared and engage in games such as Kolata, Kabbadi and bull fights.
This year Amma’s south Indian children in the ashram, mostly from Tamil Nad, decided to celebrate the three day Pongal just as Amma has suggested in satsangs, ie, showing full reverence for nature. As Amma came down the ramp from Bhajans on Monday, devotees met and sought Amma’s blessings for the celebration next day. Amma stood, happily sharing with them the details of the festival. Amma was obviously happy for their enthusiasm in reviving the reverential attitude towards Nature.
Next morning, today the 14th, very early, when it was still dark, women devotees clad in red silks were busy setting up stones for the hearth in front of Kali Temple. The area was cordoned off with buntings of marigold flowers and sugarcane. There were colorful rangoli around. Soon three hearths were ablaze and big pots with milk were seen seated on the hearths. Men devotees kept the fire. Chanting and bird song both filled the dawn-air simultaneously. After archana more devotees gathered around the sacred place. As the milk boiled over, hundreds of devotees ulululu-ed and cried Pongalo Pongal! with joy.
This practice of preparing pongal, the sweet rice dish on this particular day, has been going on all these years by Amma’s mother Damayanti Amma, and Amma’s elder sister Kasturi Akka. Out in the open near Amma’s room, decorated with kolams, Kasturi akka kept the hearths and ritualistically prepared the pongal.
There were two kinds of pongal in the Prasad leaf bowls: one was white and another brown in color. The white one was rice, milk and coconut garnished with nuts and raisins fried in ghee; the other was rice, milk, and jaggery garnished with nuts and raisins fried in ghee.
Kalari which has undergone a facelift recently- in fact it has reverted to its original look- was also decorated with rangoli and sugarcane buntings.
Today being Tuesday, it was Meditation day here. After Meditation and Satsang, Amma served us all the Prasad. The feast flowed a singing session. Amma sang the Pongal song in Tamil:
Pongal vaitt Vazhipada arul taruvayai….
Mariyamman ullam amarntu arul taruvay…
PS: In the morning, on hearing the ululululu of the devotees our Bhakti also joined in the chorus with her typical ululululu.