Posts Tagged 'pongal'

Happy Pongal

Wish You Happy Pongal

Inset of kolam featuring clay pongal pot and deepam

Pongal Tableau

Another inset of Kolam featuring the over-flowing pongal

A more linear tableau: sugar cane, pongal being cooked to over-flowing over a wood fire, the sun, and a plate of offerings

A few of the Pongal kolams drawn on two streets in Kuruchikuppam, Pondicherry

Laksha Deepam at Sendrakillai, Tamil Nadu

Laksha Deepam

8 February 2008

There is a tropical dry evergreen forest (TDEF) in the village of Sendrakillai (in the state of Tamil Nadu), 60 kilometers south of Pondicherry, that serves as a sacred grove for the 2,000 people of the village. There are five temples in the sacred grove, and this grove, unlike the two TDEF in Pondicherry, is protected and used in a sustainable manner by the villagers.


Niranjan Kumar and a fellow student were the first people to study this ecosystem in December 2006 in their final year at the Salim Ali School of Ecology and Environmental Sciences at Pondicherry University. They categorized 54 species of trees and 48 species of liana (woody climbers) in the 12 hectares grove. The forest is the main source of medicinal plants and trees, edible fruits and tubers and firewood for the village. There is a family of nadivaithyam (traditional healers) that treat the villagers using plant extracts from the forest. (There is no hospital in or around the village.)

Entrance to Main Temple
Entrance to main temple in the sacred grove

There are two horses and guards that lead to the main temple of the sacred grove. The temple portico is flanked by two dogs. The villagers believe that if you whisper your prayers into the ears of the horses or dogs, your prayers will come true within the week. (Before he left the village, Niranjan prayed for a good job in an NGO and he landed up at Shuddham!)

Filling the deepam Boys filling deepam 62nd year 62nd year - lit

On the last Friday of the month of thai (the harvest month which begins with the Pongal festivities), Tamilians celebrate Laksha Deepam – one lakh (a hundred thousand) lamps. (This is the 62nd year that this village has celebrated Laksha Deepam.) The deepam are filled with a mixture of five different oils: nallennai (sunflower), pinnaennai, vilakuennai (neem), malataennai (groundnut or peanut), and thengaennai (coconut).  (One of the oils prevents the wicks from being blown out by the wind.)  20 years ago, one family sponsored the entire festival. Now, they collect donations from the village and surrounding areas for the celebration.

Lighting the deepam

Families participate in both the filling and the lighting of the deepam as the sun begins to fade. As the figure of the god is brought along the path from the village into the sacred grove, accompanied by a drummer, firecrackers light the sky and assault the eardrums (some of the firecrackers only produce noise).

Vendors set up their wares in a carnival atmosphere (with mobile rides – mini ferris wheels and merry-go-rounds and games – balloon shooting and ring tosses) and families come from neighboring villages by bus, trucks, and on foot to offer their prayers and to celebrate  into the night.

Kolam Competition

 Krishna and Radha
Kolam #79 on Beach Road in Pondicherry 13 January 2008 

13 January 2008

There was a kolam competition early this morning on Beach Road in Pondicherry.  Over 500 women (mother-daughter teams, friends, colleagues) participated in this annual event the day before the start of the 4-day Pongal festival.  By the time I got to Beach Road in the late afternoon, most of the kolams had been destroyed by passing traffic, so all the pictures shown here (with permission) were taken by Policarpio (Tony) Soberanis, who was also too late to capture more than 230 of the 500 entries.

Flower Kolam   Fruit Kolam   Grain Kolam   Mixed Kolam   Mixed Flower Kolam

Most of the kolams were fairly traditional, with flower and geometric themes.  Some competitors added a twist by using chopped flowers, fruits and vegetables, and grains in addition to or instead of the white and colored rice powder.

Peacock Kolam1   Peacock Kolam2   Peacock Kolam3   Peacock Kolam4   Peacock Kolam5

The second most popular theme was the peacock – the national bird of India.

Kids Kolam   Baby Krishna   Menorah Kolam

These three also caught my eye.  Is that a menorah in the middle of kolam # 206?

Happy New Year 2008

Wishu Happy New Year 2008

Happy new year from Pondicherry!

This kolam in front of the Shuddham office was done by one of the women (on her own initiative) employed by Shuddham to clean the streets in the Raj Bhavan ward.

Selvi, the Artist

Selvi started at about 5pm yesterday, sprinkling water around the area in front of the office to cleanse the thresh hold. In an hour, she was done, silver sparkles and all.
Details of the kolam
Detail of the kolam

In Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry, women usually get up early in the morning to draw simple kolams with white rice powder. For special occasions, the designs become elaborate, and are done in color. From now until Pongal, the major South Indian harvest festival on January 14th, the kolam designs will get more and more elaborate until on the day of Pongal they fill up the entire street.


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