In many places across India, Jan 13th to Jan 16th is celebrated by different names, as “harvest” festivals. On Jan 13th, TamilNadu celebrates it as Boghi Pandigai and Punjab celebrated it as Lohri. The concept is similar – we build a bonfire of old stuff and symbolically let go of old hurts, bad behaviour and misgivings while transforming into a new person !
For Boghi this year, I made the north Indian staple of “Sarson ka Saag” and “Makke di Roti” – my first attempt in making the “saag”. I called up Kabir’s mom as aunty is the master at making this “saag”. The recipe I followed was as follows –
Equal quantities of Sarson and Paalak (Mustard and Spinach greens) – shredded. Few cloves of garlic and 4 or 5 green chillies, depending on how much spice you wanted. Pressure cook these for nearly 45 minutes to an hour and then use a hand blender or put the whole thing in a mixie and blend not to a paste but just halfway to a paste. If you are making it immediately then heat some ghee and put a little turmeric, asafoetida, jeera (cumin), ginger, onion and tomatoes (1 each for about half kilo of the greens). Lightly saute them and add the semi-pureed cooked greens to this. Make a paste of corn flour and add to this to thicken it. Salt to taste. Serve with Makke di roti (corn flour flat bread) with a dollop of butter :):).
This was for lunch and then our friend C.G. Krishnan came home, so we celebrated Boghi, the south Indian way by making “Poli”. I make the “Poli” with sweet potatoes as the filling. Dad loved “Poli” and would always make it on Boghi day.
Jan 14th was celebrated as “Thai Pongal” (TamilNadu), “Sankranti” (Maharashtra, Punjab, Andhra, Telangana and many other states), “Puspuni” (Western Odisha) and “Bhogali Bihu” (Assam). Infact I found on Wikipedia that its celebrated in many states and by many other names –
CGK was staying with us, and while I made some “Sarson ka saag” and “Makke di roti” for him, I also made the “Venn Pongal” (salty Pongal), “Chakkarai Pongal” Sweet Pongal, “Karuvepallai Kozhambu” (Curry leaves sambar) and Amma made the vada as per our traditions. The salty Pongal is a big favourite of Krishnan’s and I make it often. The vada batter wasn’t thick enough to be made into the traditional round shape with a hole like a donut, so Amma just made it like a “bonda”.
The next day after Pongal is “Mattu Pongal” where cows are decorated and worshipped, its a form of thanksgiving to the cows and bulls that help the farmers. In my grandmother’s place and my mom-in-law’s place we celebrate this day by doing “kanu pidi” which is basically feeding the crows and wishing good luck for our brothers, cousins and family. We keep some of the sweet pongal from the previous day, make lemon rice for the yellow colour and curd rice for the white colour and use the leaves of the Turmeric plant to keep nine rice balls on the terrace or the roof. Crows never eat alone, they get their entire clan together and eat, so we pray that our families stay close and together like the crows as they feed on the rice balls.
Since we didn’t get the leaves of the Turmeric plant, we used a paper plate and placed the rice balls for the birds (again, crows aren’t seen as much as pigeons and common myna).
The pigeons didn’t bother to eat the rice … they just sniffed at the rice balls and jumped over them to drink the water. The next day early morning, I found the pair of common mynas that come everyday to play in the water eating up the rice. They didn’t leave a single grain of rice behind and polished off the whole thing :).
Jan 16th is the fourth day of celebration and in TamilNadu its celebrated as “Kaanum Pongal” where you go out to the beach or some exhibition etc, basically you see sights around town. We went and met Rajesh and Seema – who are like family to us :). Such soothing and loving “sights” they were and we also got to meet Himal, who is here on his vacation. So we got our Pongal bonus too.
India has many festivals around the time of crop harvesting and prayers are for a bountiful harvest.
I wish we sow seeds of prosperity, peace and love so India once again becomes the “Sone ki chidiya”. Jai Hind.