Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thai (தை)

Thai (தை)

This 10th month in the Tamizh calendar is considered most auspicious for weddings and has proverbs like “Thai pirandhal vazhi pirakum” (தை பிறந்தால் வழி பிறக்கும்) associated with it. It is harvest time and celebration time all around!

Pongal (பொங்கல்) 
The first day of Thai is always Pongal – a thanksgiving to the Sun God for a good harvest – the most important festival in Tamil Nadu.

 Pongal is a four-day festival – 1st day being Bhogi, 2nd day – the main day, Pongal, 3rd day – Maatu Pongal and the 4th day – Kaanum Pongal.
 On the 2nd main day, after the spring cleaning on Bhogi,the newly harvested rice is cooked with milk and jaggery as pongal in new pots painted in bright colours and decorated with manjal and inji bunches, mostly in open area facing the Sun. As the mixture of rice and milk boils over, people call out “Pongalo pongal” in a loud voice joyfully! Along with the Pongal, sugarcane and all vegetables are offered to the Sun God. All this happens in villages and small towns. Here in the city many households just make Pongal in the metal pot or pressure cooker for convenience with the manjal and inji kothu being tied around it after it is taken off the stove! But in all places, people offer their prayers to the Sun God thanking Him for a bountiful harvest!
Whichever way it is celebrated, this is the biggest festival of Tamil Nadu!

I am very happy to see Pongal being prepared in open area thanks to some of the residents of our colony. Above are photos taken this morning!
 Along with sweet Pongal, the savoury version, Ven pongal and many preparations with native vegetables, which are available in plenty around this time of the year, are made and it is a feast on this day.
Usually Pongal falls on 14th January, but sometimes it comes on the next day too, this year it is today – 15th January.

Maatu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்) 
The day after Pongal - it is 16th January this year - is called Maatu Pongal. This is an acknowledgement and thanksgiving to the cattle for their part in agriculture. On this day, prayers are offered to the cattle, decorating them with haldi/kumkum, paint and new bells, balloons etc.  on the horns, garlands, etc and feeding them with a mixture of rice and jaggery. The cattle are also allowed to roam around freely on this day.

Jallikattu (ஜல்லிக்கட்டு) – bull fight where young men try to tame the bulls - a game very much looked forward to by people despite the danger involved in it - also takes places in many villages on this day.

 This day is also celebrated as Kanu Pongal. Kanu Pongal is prayer offered by the womenfolk of the family for the welfare of their brothers. On this day, manjal leaves, taken from the manjal kothu tied around the Pongal pot the previous day is spread on a kolam and small balls of yellow, red and white coloured rice are placed on the leaves along with small quantities of Pongal, sugarcane and bits of banana. This again is done on an open area and the food is offered to the crows.

The feast for this day is usually, payasam or vella saadam and all other mixed rice like tamarind rice, lemon rice, curd rice along with aviyal and fried pappadams and vadams.
This day is also called Thiruvalluvar Day in tribute to the great poet!

Kaanum Pongal (காணும் பொங்கல்)
The fourth day of Pongal is Kaanum Pongal which basically means the day of visit. But people prefer enjoying an outing on that day than visiting relatives and friends. When we were kids, it used to be fun to watch people from the nearby towns coming in open bullock carts (the bulls very cutely decorated) for a visit to the city, but nowadays this is a rare sight. Overall, a visit to the beach and even traveling by bus is avoided in our household on this day as it is crowded everywhere!

Thai Poosam(தைப்பூசம்) 
Thai poosam is on the full moon day of the month of Thai with the star being poosam. Thai poosam is a day when special prayers are offered at Amman and Murugan temples. Rituals like poomidhi – walking on burning coals and kavadis are followed on this day.

Another important event that takes place on Thai poosam is the Jothi darisanam by Vallalar on this day – where he showed to the world that God is in the form of a Jothi. On this day, every year, Jothi darisanam takes place in temples and tributes paid to this saint.

This year Thai poosam falls on 20th January.

Bagula Panchami (பகுள பஞ்சமி) 

 It is a pleasure to hear all the carnatic musicians paying tribute in unison to Tyagaraja – one of the music trinities – on this day. Abhishekams are performed to the idol of Tyagaraja in Thiruvayaru and all the carnatic musicians – big and small – sing the Pancharatna Keerathanais in front of the idol. The live telecast of this programme by the TV channels have really helped people like me to understand this tradition to an extent.
This year Bagula Panchami is on 24th January.

Thai Amavasai (தை அமாவாசை)
 Though tribute to ancestors is usually performed on all amavasyas, it is specially followed on Thai amavasya. 
This year's Thai Amavasai is on 3rd February.

Ratha Saptami(ரத சப்தமி)

 The Earth’s rotation around the Sun is completed by 180 degrees in the month of Thai and hence the six months from Thai to Aani it is called Utharayanam and the balance six months from Aadi to Margazhi is called Dakshinayanam. The Sun is said to turn his chariot (actually the earth completes half a circle around the Sun) in the month of Thai. The day this event actually happens is called Ratha Saptami Ratha meaning chariot and Saptami is the seventh day after Thai amavasya. This year it is on 10th February.
On this day, kolams in the design of chariots are drawn in front of the houses and Chakara Pongal is offered to the Sun God. A ritual of bathing with Erukkam leaves placed on one’s head is also followed on this day.
Though I came to know about the significance of this day much later, I remember looking forward to the procession of Perumal from the Nungambakkam Perumal temple in seven different vahanams on this day every year.

Thai Krithigai (தைக்கிருத்திகை)
All Krithigais are days of prayers to Lord Muruga, but the Krithagai of this month is one of the most important days. Special poojas are performed to the Lord on this day and people offer kavadis and alagu in the Murugan temples.
It is falling on 12th February, the last day of Thai, this year.

Fridays (தை வெள்ளிக்கிழமை) 
Like the Fridays of Aadi, Fridays of Thai are also very auspicious and special prayers are held in all Amman temples. Usually ladies follow the custom of offering thamboolam to each other as a prayer for their family welfare. Ladies also follow the special prayer of Maavilaku (மாவிளக்கு) - lighting ghee lamps in dough made of rice, jaggery and ghee on one of the Fridays.


  1. Super post Lak! Wonderful write up and even better pictures. And whole lot of information about Thai maasam. Just great! And I did not know about Ratha Sapthami. Excellent details! Thank you :)

  2. laksmi, great going.wonderful information

  3. Ivlo pandigaiya thai masathule! Great Lakshmi! keep going.

    Jayashree Satish

  4. Hi Lakshmi - thanks for the information. could you also throw some light on the menu for thai poosam

  5. mattu pongal day ( also known as Kanu) is also called as " Kanum pongal " people visit their relatives in their houses or in public place like beach in place like chennai.


  6. Excellent Blog on Thai Lakshmi. Very very informative. Thank you very much for the informative blog on Thiruppavai. God Bless you!

  7. very very informative.... u should do this for all months.... especially for dumboos like me...:) thanks

  8. HI - please post similar information for Masi month also. would be beneficial for us.

  9. @ Shubha - thank you, there are blogs for some months like aadi, purattasi, ipasi, karthigai and margazhi already. pls do chk the blog on maasi too

    @ Anonymous - hv posted blog on maasi, pls chk