India is the land of many cultures and their festivals as well. Here, people just need an opportunity to make merry. We all belong to different sections or cultures of the society but it is these festivals that unite us.
We celebrate all festivals in unison forgetting our religious boundaries and this is what makes us one of the most unique and wonderful nation to dwell, in the entire world.
Throughout India, festivals are celebrated at different times of the year which hold different sorts of importance for different people.
Some festivals also coincide with another festival in another part of the nation, both being quite similar as well as with distinguished dissimilarities.
One such festival is the Bhogi in South India, that coincides with the Sankranti in Central India and Lohri in Punjab.
The Bhogi festival, also called Bhogi Pongal, is celebrated in Tamil Nadu on the first day of the four-day annual harvest festival called Pongal.
The locals clean their houses, paint them, as well as decorate them. One of the principal attractions of the Bhogi is the beautiful hand-drawn floral patterns also called rangolis.
These designs are drawn using a white paste made by crushing the newly harvested rice crop. The women, during this festival collect the rice and make several delicious foods from the rice.
They also boil it to brim and this customary overflow signifies abundance, prosperity and good harvest for all times.
To pay respect to the nature for the wonderful harvest, the farmers make prayers and worship the Sun, water as well as the earth.
This is also done to satisfy the nature so that the next and all coming harvests are better and more prosperous. According to the Tamil calendar, the day of the Bhogi festival marks the end of the Tamil month of ‘Marghazi’.
The day of Bhogi is also the same as the day of ‘Sankranti’ which coincides with the ‘Lohri’ in Punjab.
The farmers on the day of Bhogi usually worship the Sun and apply a paste on sandalwood on the harvesting tools such as sickles and ploughs and present them to the God in a special puja.
Only after this, the harvesting of the first crop of the season is done with these blessed sickles and ploughs.
The people also put on new clothes and new jewellery of gold if they can afford it. It is conventional for the women to put golden flowers in their hairs.
They also eat the new crop rice mixed with ghee that drips from their arms which is also believed to be a marker of prosperity.
Over the four to five day period spanning which Pongal lasts, various songs and hymns are sung in favour of lord Krishna as well as lord Indra.
On the third day, the cattle are also worshipped by the farmers as they are an integral part of the farming process and without their help too, good crops could not have been raised.
The cattle are worshipped and painted in various colors usually in the range of orange to pink and reddish with vermilion.
Since it was the harvest festival, there was a custom of worshipping lord Indra on that day because Indra is the God who can create lightning, thunder, rains, thus affecting agriculture.
But when Indra became the King of Gods, he grew arrogant. Seeing this, lord Krishna decided to teach him a lesson.
Krishna told people to stop the worship of Indra and start worshipping the mountain Gowardhan on the first day on Pongal or Sankranti as it is known in central India.
Subsequently, people started to worship mount Gowardhan. This enrages Indra and he grew extremely angry and restless. Out of anger, Indra hurled all of nature’s might including the thunder, storms, rains, etc to the people.
This scared the people very much and they were extremely frightened by this horrendous face of the weather. Just then, Lord Krishna is said to have lifted the mountain Gowardhan on the tip of his finger and shielded the people against the storm and rains.
Using the mountain, lord Krishna saved the people from Indra’s might. The heavy rains continued for about three days continuously, but because of lord Krishna, the people were all safe under the mountain Gowardhan.
Unable to make the people suffer, Indra realized his mistake and also came to the revelation that lord Krishna’s powers are even greater than that of him and as a result, shed his own arrogance altogether.
Indra felt so repentant that he even presented an apology requesting Krishna for forgiveness. Pleased by this gesture of Indra, lord Krishna asked the people to worship Indra again.
Therefore, a new beginning stated where people again began worshipping Indra. In order to exemplify this significant incident, all the old furniture and articles of a household are collected and a bonfire is lit which signifies the end of the old and the beginning of the new.
Also cow dung cakes are thrown into the bonfire and the women of the house dance around them with local steps in tune with their folk songs.
The bonfire tradition has another significance. Since harvest usually occurs at the beginning of the winters, the bonfire helps keep the people warm during the chilly winter nights.
There are also other legends associated with the Bhogi festival. Many people believe the day of Bhogi-Pongal to be the day when God Devi married Shri Ranganathaswamy.
Usually the day of Bhogi falls on the 13th of January as per the Gregorian calendar but sometimes, due to astronomical rotations and counter balances; it might fall on the 14th too.
The Bhogi is one of the signature festivals of Southern India, and our country being an agriculture dominant one, should give it importance.
Our nation, since time immemorial has thrived on agriculture and even today, more than sixty percent of the people are employed in the agricultural activities.
However, it only accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s income. Festivals like Pongal and Bhogi must be promoted in order to emphasize on our dependence on agriculture and its importance.