Makara Saṁkrānti (Pongal)

हरिदश्वः सहस्रार्चिः सप्तसप्तिर्मरीचिमान्।
तिमिरोन्मथनः शंभुः त्वष्टा मार्ताण्ड अंशुमान्॥

haridaśvaḥ sahasrārciḥ saptasaptirmarīcimān|
timironmathanaḥ śambhuḥ tvaṣṭā mārtāṇḍa aṃśumān ||

He is the one who has green horses, who is endowed with thousands of rays, who has seven horses (all colors in the spectrum), who has luminous rays. He who destroys darkness, who is the cause of happiness, who dissolves the world, who brings back the dissolved world, and who possesses all penetrating rays.

Makara Saṁkrānti (Pongal)

Makara Saṁkrānti is a festival that takes place in the month Makara, between January and February of the Gregorian calendar. It is an auspicious day, because it marks the winter solstice, when the sun changes direction, turning to the north, uttaraṇa, and becoming more and more intense and generous.

As in other Indian festivals, each region has a particularity with regard to the meaning and form of its celebration, even receiving different denominations. Specifically in the state of Tamil Nadu, where Pujiya Swami Dayananda Saraswati was born, the festival is named Pongal, in reference to the typical dish of the region, to celebrate the first harvests of the year, such as rice, sugar cane, and other cereals and plants vital to traditional local cuisine.

The festival has the purpose of thanking nature for its abundance, honoring the cycle of life, which offers the essentials for survival. People also believe that on that day problems and disputes between friends and family will come to an end.

Bhogī – The first day of the festival is called Bhogī, in thanks to Lord Indra, controller of the rains and clouds, for blessing the land. Then the Bhogī Mantalu ritual takes place, with the burning of old household items in a large bonfire, after which people sing and dance around the fire in honor of the gods.

Pongal- Officially Pongal is the name of the second day of the festival, when the most popular rituals take place. In the villages, thousands of people go outside their homes to perform the Pongal pūjā (ritual), in which Sūrya Devata (Sun deity) is revered. In this ritual, rice from the first harvest of the year is placed in a clay pot filled with milk and then boiled. When milk spills due to boiling, women proclaim “Pongal”. The overflow of Pongal is a symbol of abundance and prosperity. New  clothes are put on and beautiful kolams (designs) are drawn on the front of houses with rice powder.

Maṭṭū Pongal The third day, called Maṭṭū Pongal, is the day dedicated to cattle. Cows are decorated with bells, flowers and garlands, their horns are painted and they are worshiped through pūjās. They are fed the traditional dish, Pongal, and taken for a walk, the sound of bells ringing in the villages of Tamil Nadu. In some places, cow races and parades are held, as well as other activities.

Kanum Pongal- The last day of Pongal is called Kanum Pongal, when then the last ritual is done to venerate the ground. A leaf is washed, and on and around it are placed portions of rice, sweet pongal, betel nuts, betel leaves, sugar cane and other items. The women perform this ritual together in front of their homes, praying that their homes will prosper in the year ahead.

Pongal represents Vedic culture in a very beautiful way, a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all things and that each being has a role to play. By actively participating as contributors to this cycle, we come into harmony with the order of Dharma, which is Īśvara, the cause of the universe.

In the third chapter of the Bhagavad Gītā, Lord Kṛṣṇa explains to Arjuna about karma yoga, clarifying that the performance of duties with devotion and with the proper attitude is the way to the highest well-being. It is recognition of order and an opportunity to use our free will to harmonize with that order. This leads the spiritual seeker to mental purification, as it makes possible the understanding and assimilation of the ultimate truth about the universe, God and the individual.

Śrī Kṛṣṇa points out that those who enjoy without contributing are like thieves, glorified will be those who perform their rituals and duties. Perhaps for the contemporary and western world the superficial idea of ​​rituals seems a bit distant or even strange, but its logic, in essence, is very simple. Rituals are a form of contribution. In Vedic culture, all phenomena of nature are seen as manifestations of Īśvara, with names and forms of deities preceding every natural aspect. By worshiping the deity of the sun, we are worshiping Īśvara, who is not separate from the individual, we are recognizing that without the sun, planting is not possible, life is not possible, and for that we should be grateful for its existence.

The cultivation of a venerable and contributory attitude is what transforms the life of an individual, which brings maturity and makes it bear fruit not only for itself, but for everyone around it. Rituals with the attitude of karma yoga, that is, actions as an offering to the order of the universe, refine the personality, expanding the ability to discern, to make choices, to act instead of reacting.

May on this day we appreciate the interconnection that exists between all aspects of nature, on which the life of the individual depends and in which it is included. Nothing is out of order, that’s a fact, but wanting to contribute to order is the difference between spiritual growth or its stagnation. So, may this beautiful opportunity to give thanks for the harvest bring the inspiration to plant the best seeds to be harvested, later, with love and gratitude.

Om sad gurave namaḥ _/\_
Written by Maline Ribeiro