Festivals play an important part in every part of India. Joy and fervour are essential for the festivities. Sankranti is celebrated all over India. It is a harvest festival that is celebrated across the country with different names like Makar Sankranti, Uttarayan, Bhogi, Pongal, Makara Vilakku, Bihu, etc. Each state celebrates the festival as per their culture and tradition.
One of the most important festivals of Tamilnadu is the harvest festival known as Pongal or Thai Pongal that is celebrated with great enthusiasm.
It’s celebrated over a period of 4 days.
- Bhogi – The 1st day which marks the last day of the Tamil month, Maarghazhi. People discard old belongings and celebrate new possessions.
- Surya Pongal – People wake up early, have an oil bath and worship The Sun God and thank him for the harvest. It also marks the first day of the Tamil month Thai. A new claypot is used to make the main dish, Sweet Pongal, with rice, milk and jaggery, and offered as prasadam. When the milk boils and overflows, everyone claps and chants, “Pongalo Pongal”. The ceremony captures the essence of the word Pongal which means to boil or overflow. It symbolizes the richness and abundance in the homes of one and all.
- Mattu Pongal – On this day, the farm animals like cows and the ox are worshipped as they help the farmers in raising the crop. The animals are decorated in vibrant colours and tilak is applied and they are taken around in the villages.
- Kaanum Pongal – The last day is also known as Karinaal in some parts of Tamilnadu. On this special occasion, sisters in the family pray for the welfare and wellbeing of their brothers. Sun God is worshipped and along with sweet Pongal, sugarcane is offered to the god. Small colourful rice balls are offered and arranged on banana leaves. This signifies the prayers for all our loved ones.
Folk songs and dances are performed on this day.
Throughout all these days, putting traditional Kolams in front of our homes is an important aspect. Each day an elaborate feast of sambar, varieties of tughails (Chutney), pacchadies (Raita), aviyal, mor kuzhambu (kadi), mixed vegetable kootu, poriyals (subzis), ven pongal (khichdi), a variety of mixed rice and sweets and payasams are prepared. Dressing up in traditional attire is also a part of the festivities. The women folk drape themselves in beautiful kanjeevarams while the men dress themselves in off-white veshti (dhoti) and angavastram and silk shirts or kurtas.
Kanjeevaram silk sarees are one of the most desired sarees in India as the handwoven Kanjeevaram silk has a quality and feel like no other fabric in India. The fabric is considered to be one of the most durable and strong fabrics.The saree is made of three Silk threads twisted together with the silver wire it becomes more durable. Due to the production cost of silk, exhaustive manufacturing process, their unique design, skilled craftsmen, excessive use of colourful threads, the need for them to be hand woven and due to the use of silver in the saree threads this fabric is very expensive.
Pic 1 – I have draped myself in this beautiful bright blue Kanjeevaram saree with a red border which has golden butties all over. This saree is around 20 years old and was my first ever Kanjeevaram silk saree, gifted to me by a dear friend for her wedding.
The Coimbatore cotton is also known as Kovai Kora Cotton. It is made from a blend of silk and cotton. A superior quality cotton yarn is mixed with traditional silk to produce kora cotton. The sarees have bright colored borders and the designs usually have shining gold zari in them. The required designs are weaved first in the loom using the combinations of colored cotton and silk threads and the borders are added later.
Pic 2 – I have adorned myself in a very bright green and red Kovai Kora cotton saree which I won in a Giveaway contest that I participated in on Instagram a year ago. It was my first ever Kora Cotton from Coimbatore.
The glory of the traditional Madisar which is also known as Koshavam is a typical way in which a saree is worn by the Tamil Brahmin women. The “Koshavam” style means that the drape goes between the legs, in the same typical manner that is used by the men folk to tie veshti or dhoti. The usual Koshavam style requires more material that is around 9-yards. It is, in fact, two five-yard saris stitched together unlike the current modern version of saree which needs only 6-yards of fabric. The Madisar style of draping is usually worn by women after their marriage.
The name Madisar is however typically associated with Tamil Brahmins with two sub-styles: the Iyer kattu (tie) and the Iyengar kattu (tie). The Iyer draping style is very different from the Iyengars. Iyers drape the Pallu (the layer of sari which comes over one’s shoulder) over the right shoulder while Iyengars wear it over the left shoulder. Both Iyer and Iyengar Brahmin women are supposed to wear madisars at religious ceremonies, occasions, such as the wedding, seemantham (a religious ceremony conducted for a first pregnancy), pujas and at even death ceremonies. Today, madisar is hardly worn as a daily wear but the elderly women in the family are accustomed to drape themselves in madisar and still wear them. It is a convention that the first Madisar a woman wears is usually araku in colour (maroon or red) but nowadays, it is being worn in other colours also according to people’s choices. They are also available in a variety of materials such as silk, cotton, cotton-silk blends, polyester -cotton blends, etc.
Pic 3 – Here, I am wearing this lovely grey silk cotton saree with a blue border that has golden butties all over in Madisaru style. This is actually a 6-yards saree which I have draped into a 9-yards. These days a version of the madisar is also tied using the 6-yard saree. Though it is not a tradition, it is easier and more convenient to wear.
– Nanidni Venigopalan