Though the Tamilians celebrate many festivals, Pongal is the only festival that is purely from the Tamil tradition. Starting from January 13th, Pongal is celebrated for four consecutive days. Farmers offer their thanks to nature and the various animals helping them in their work. On the very first day of Bhogi, farmers burn old belongings to symbolize the start new life. On the day of Surya Pongal, they offer their crops as an expression of gratitude to ‘Surya’, the Sun God. The next day is devoted to cattle, the cows and calves, which support the farmers’ well-being.
For many years now, Isha’s Rural Rejuvenation program has been serving hundreds of villages, guiding them towards the exuberance and sustainable development they are capable of. In this direction, in all the villages where Isha health clinics and mobile clinics are running, Pongal was celebrated on the 15th, 16th and 17th of January to revive the fading traditions.
Isha provides medical aid in its established Rural health clinics, for nominal charges, to the villages in Coimbatore, Salem, Tirupur and Karur districts. The Pongal festival was celebrated separately in each hospital, and both hundreds of villagers and volunteers participated. Pongal was served to all and the day was spiced with a variety of fun activities, in which many of the village elderly joined in along with the youngsters.
Mr. Kannan (50years old) of Jarughumalai is an expert in the traditional dances of Therukkoothu and Aandiakulam. For this event, and after a gap of 15 years, he wore his old forgotten dress and entertained the village by acting a few scenes from the Mahabharatham. Some of the Isha volunteers also took part in the Aandiakulam dance that he performed.
The Isha Mobile Hospital centers take medical care to the villagers’ doorstep. In the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, 13 such centers cater to their medical needs. With the intention of reviving the village festival tradition and rejuvenate the spirit, Pongal was also celebrated in the cities of Jarughumalai and Athur in Salem Districts and Kovilpatti in Madurai District. Many villagers enthusiastically participated in the celebrations. The festival was celebrated in an authentic, traditional manner and colored with competitive games and prize distribution.
Pongal was celebrated on January 15th in the hospital dedicated to the support of HIV affected people. Volunteers from Palladam organized a traditional “pongal vizha” for the HIV/AIDs patients in the Isha Community Care Center (CCC). About 30 HIV patients participated, along with their families, and the Tamil game of uriadithal, as well as many other games, were played, with prizes distributed to the winners. The villagers also took part in these festivities.
Through all this exuberant celebration, a visible, joyful rejuvenation of the village could be seen and the festive season served as a bridge to unite the villagers and bring back the very ethos of village life.