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Posts tagged ‘pongal’


There are two festivals in Thamizhnadu, which are celebrated with much gusto. “GUSTO’ is the word! PONGAL is celebrated as the celebrations of a good agricultural produce and DEEPAVALI for historical/religious reasons. There were times when my friends from northern part of India  were surprised that Thamizhnadu celebrated DEEPAVALI! Well, i was more surprised that they were surprised. There have been instances when my friends ‘father from the equator’ who asked me how Thamizhnadu could celebrate Ram Navami when the rogue Ravanan was from SriLanka, which most of those ‘farther from equator’ thought was a part of Thamizh culture, though politically and geographically distinct.

I had often resorted to telling them that there was an epic written by a great Thamizh poet Kambar eulogizing Rama and that parts of that epic were prescribed for students right through the school and even further.

Coming back to DEEPAVALI, it is a known fact that crackers are burst all over the country during the festival, but most people outside Thamizhnadu do not know that all cracker industry in this country is located in and around Sivakasi, and the cost of cracker is cheapest in Thamizhnadu. For example, on the eve of DEEPAVALI i had to cross Hosur, a town within Thamizhnadu, but 30kms away from Bangalore. A distance of 12 kilometers took me one and a half hours- despite the brutally efficient Thamizhnadu police. There are umpteen cracker shops which sprout during the Deepavali season- and hold your breath – do you know what is the discount on the Maximum Retail Price (MRP)? – it is 80% and they still bargain and get another 20% on that 20%, which means they get it at 16% of the MRP. Something like CANTABIL and KOUTONS eh?

The same crackers when they travel farther from the equator within India, the price gallops and reaches the MRP and above MRP in Kashmir and Ladakh. So naturally Thamizhnadu makes the maximum noise during Deepavali and if one happens to be a relative or friend of one of these cracker factories’ owners, the goodies arrive in cartons weeks in advance to your home and each year there are new additions to the rockets, sparklers, flower pots etc. etc. and the show is amazing.

But that is not Thamizhnadu DEEPAVALI, it is the PATTIMANTRAM which is the HIGHLIGHT of all activity relating to Deepavali. PATTIMANTRAM is like a moot court, with a topic given for discussion and there are usually 2 teams which take up the issues for and against. The topics could be literary, religious or social and never political. For example the topic given in one PATTIMANTRAM was WHETHER THE LYRICS WRITTEN FOR THAMIZH CINEMA WERE DEGENERATING OR UPLIFTING? another was WHETHER THE RECENT DEVELOPMENTS IN THE SOCIETY HELP THE YOUNG GENERATION OR PERVERTS THEM?. Some of those PATTIMANTRAMS are telecast LIVE and people in Thamizhnadu hate to be disturbed at that time. One has to be deep rooted in Thaamizh culture and Thamizh cinema to appreciate the pattimantram. This PATTIMANTRAM is nothing new- they are held in jails, schools, any available auditorium all over Thamizhnadu. It is this which makes DEEPAVALI distinct.

My much-above-equator friends (shall we call them the POLAR ORIENTED FRIENDS contrasting them with the EQUATORIAL ORIENTED FRIENDS?) insinuate that a Thamizhan ( called Tamilian by them) can seldom be separated from his SAMBAR, but they rarely realize that the yearly PATTIMANTRAMS which take place during PONGAL and DEEPAVALI which provide CEREBRAL DELIGHTS -besides the sound and light of Crackers and the dainties served during the season-  and keeps the Thamizh community glued to the state of Thamizhnadu.

The interesting part is that the PATTIMANTRAMS are not named on the TOPIC OF DISCUSSION, especially when the JUDGE is a heavyweight- like Leoni or Solomon Paapaiyya.They are named as LEONI PATTIMANTRAM or SOLOMON PAAPPAIYYA PATTIMANTRAM!!

PATTIMANTRAMS are the true delight of DEEPAVALI in Thamizhnadu.

Pongal & Thamizh Nadu!!

Just as Puttu for Kerala, Pesaratu for Andhra Pradesh, Bisibela bath for Karnataka, Butter chicken for Punjab, PONGAL is unique to Thamizh Nadu- or so I’d like to believe.

When i was a kid, on a New Year’s day, my dad’s office staff flocked at about 7.30AM to wish my dad the customary NEW YEAR wishes. In turn he had to provide them breakfast. The item was PONGAL and Vadai (wrongly hindi-ized to VADA!). It was a mela and the place was Pudukkottai district in Thamizh Nadu, a place which, prior to Independence, was a Princely state. That was the first time i had tasted PONGAL. Everyone was effusive about the quality of the pongal and the vadai served- maybe, because they wanted to ingratiate themselves to my dad who was the Boss!!

I tasted a little bit of Pongal and was disappointed, it was nothing but over cooked rice eaten with coconut chutney! In Thamizh Nadu, this is called VeNpongal and contrasted with sarkarai pongal– which is sweet pongal made of rice and jaggery with a lot of ghee, raisins and cashewnuts.

By hindsight, i think Thamizhians love their rice with sambar- irrespective of whether it is morning, afternoon or night. Just that they call chutney rice by another name – pongal!

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