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Fo(u)r fun & festivities!

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamilians. Literally meaning ‘boiling over or spill over’,the festival celebrates material abundance in a household,symbolised by the boiling-over of milk in a clay pot.

Written by Nupur Chaudhuri |
January 13, 2011 3:55:29 am

Pongal

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamilians. Literally meaning ‘boiling over or spill over’,the festival celebrates material abundance in a household,symbolised by the boiling-over of milk in a clay pot. Pongal is traditionally celebrated over three days.

“The auspicious time for the puja is set by the priest,which is generally in the early hours of the morning – this year it is between 7.30 to 9 am,” says Uma Srinivasan,a retired school teacher adding,“In this festival,rice has a lot of importance. So,we decorate the rice pot (in which the rice is served). We even decorate the cooker in which it has been made. Essentially,we offer our prayers to the three forces that sustain human life – rain,sun and cattle.”

Pune has a sizeable number of Tamilians,with people from different castes and regions settling here. “Only those parts of the festivities that are common to all Tamils are held. For example,the verandahs of the house are decorated with a Rangoli made from pumpkin flowers. A lot of tilgud laddoos are also distributed,” says RS Vasantha,an IT professional.

With Pongal being an important festival for Tamilians,a lot of functions have been planned in the city. Mythily Krishnamurthy,ex-President and current member of the Pune City Tamil Sangam,says,“Pongal being such an auspicious time for our community,we generally organise a get-together,which will be held on Sunday January 16.”

Sankranti

For Maharashtrians,Makar Sankranti is a festival that has a history stretching back to over 5000 years. Generally this festival is generally regarded as a festival of peace,happiness and harmony.

“This is a time when married women have the haldi-kumkum ceremony,to pray for a long life for their husbands. Women also exchange gifts with each other,” says Sulabha Ubale,a city corporator.

“The exchanging of gifts is a very old tradition,probably having its roots in the barter system of yesteryears,” says home-maker Geeta Phadke about the festival. “Women also traditionally wear black garments on this day,usually with a slight overlay of work in white. This is a festival where we pray for prosperity” she adds.

However,there are some people who celebrate Sankranti with a difference. Saroj Rao,a social activist helps the underprivileged on this day. “The exchanging of gifts makes no sense if it is between two people who have everything they need. Thus,I make a point to give those people who cannot afford the simple essentials in life. I also spend time with children from orphanages around the city,” she says.

Bihu

In Assam,the middle of January brings with it colour,cheer and celebration. Families,even in the little villages,prepare lavish feasts for close ones on the occasion of Bihu . The celebrations reach their peak on the night of January 14 and last through the next day.

Members of the Assam Cultural Association,Pune (ACAP),have marked out January 16 to dedicate a day to Bhogali Bihu or Magh Bihu. Pulak Borthakur,joint secretary of the ACAP,says,“Bhogali Bihu is one of the major Bihu festivals. ‘Bhogali’ comes from the word ‘bhog’ meaning food,and thus this is a time of feasting on delicacies,fish in particular.”

A harvesting festival,it is marked by people getting together to start the new crop of the season. Utpal Sharma,an Assamese who has been residing in Pune since 1998 and general secretary of the ACAP says,“Every year,our members get together. This year,we will celebrate the festival on January 16 as it is a Sunday and everyone will have time off work. The day will include everything,right from the bonfire to the traditional feast.”

So,on Sunday,Pune-based Assamese will converge at a resort on Sinhagad Road to begin the merriment at 9 am. Borthakur adds,“The ACAP (Assam Cultural Association Pune) is organising Bhogali Bihu in a traditional way. The setting is perfect,with the beautiful Sinhagad Fort in the backdrop. The day will begin with jalpaan – a spread of traditional Assamese snacks. This will be followed by some interesting events,like a cooking competition to judge the best Assamese delicacies and some games Tekeli Bhanga,Kani Juj (egg fight) that are played during this time in the villages of Assam.”

Lohri

When the Punjabis celebrate,they go all out. And this Lohri festival will be no different. As the period of Uttarayan begins,this North-Indian festival dedicates itself to worshipping fire. And on January 13,Punjabi families will gather together,light a roaring bonfire and sing traditional folk songs.

Seema Malhotra of Weikfield Mnemonix Infonetworks Pvt Ltd says,“This year,we are celebrating with the younger generation – friends of my sons and daughter-in-law. The main reason is that my grandson is just 25 days old and this is his first Lohri. According to tradition,the festival is very important for newly weds and newborns.” Lohri is a sign of fertility and the Malhotras will be celebrating that with great pomp. “We will light a bonfire and throw revadi,til,puffed rice and popcorn into it as is customary. And of course,no Punjabi celebration is complete without songs and dance. While in Punjab,we have Dhol players,here we will just play and sing Punjabi songs,” she adds.

Tripta and Narinder Chadha usually celebrate this festival in their housing society in Wanowrie. The few Punjabi families get together and enjoy an evening of fun. Tripta says,“We have a bonfire and pour kachchi lassi (milk and water) around it. Then,we put the til,popcorn and so on into the fire and also eat some as Prasad.”

Lohri marks the end of a biting winter and thus the presence of fire. Narinder Chadha,says,“I remember,when I was a little boy,a group of boys would come home to collect food and even sing songs,the Sundri Mundri Hei! Hoi! being the most popular.”

The Punjabi Cultural Association,which has around 400 members,will be provide a platform for city Punjabis to celebrate this important festival together on January 16. TR Soni,manager at the Association,says,“We will conduct all the traditional rituals at our premises. The families who have newly-weds or newborns will be hosts for the function.”

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