January 15, 2015

Kaanum Pongal: Fourth and Final Day of Tamil Harvest Festival in January

The fourth day is termed as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people travel to see other family members. When I celebrated this in a Tamil village in 2000, the family I celebrated with traveled to another village to meet family there. On this day, the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money (like Rs. 10). 

Elders may bless children using this
gesture. This is a still from a Pongal ad.
Learn more here.
Another way to observe this day is to feed the crows. For this ritual, called Kakkai Chatham, people leave food out on banana leaves for crows (kakkai) to take. As Ammupatti discusses, here, there are many different ways to observe this, though I don't remember my friend's family having done this, but I do know many South Indians will take the first bit of rice cooked in any given day and set it outside for the crows to take, so this is not necessarily a habit only for Pongal. I was additionally told that feeding the crows is akin to feeding departed souls, as crows represent ancestors. One of my friend's families believe that feeding the crows once a year is sufficient as a year in our human world is akin to one day in the life of a departed soul. Some also go to temple, as shown in the photo. The photo is taken from the top of the staircase we climbed to get in the temple. 

It is also on this day, some observe the bonds between brothers and sisters. Similar to Rakhi (August/September) and Bhai Duj (part of Diwali), of North India, it is on this day that sisters and brothers meet and sisters show affection and respect to their brothers by presenting gifts and doing aarti and/or placing kumkum on their forehead and prostrating and touching their feet. Brothers usually respond in kind by offering a gift of clothing or other useful item his sister would appreciate. As many people may be traveling on this day, Viji Varadarajan says,  
"This is the day when mixed rices preparations; puliyodharai, maanga saadham, thengai saadham, thayir saadham are cooked. It is a day for picnics on the banks of the river that brings water to the paddy lands. Traditionally rasam is not cooked on the day of Kanu, as the food served this day are picnic dishes and finger food. An interesting story related says that Lord Shiva commanded bull Nandi to go to earth and tell his devotees to have an oil bath everyday and eat food twice a week. Nandi mixed up the message and asked the people to have an oil bath twice a week and eat everyday. An irate Shiva commanded Nandi to remain on earth and help man plough his fields so that food would be available everyday. (source page 69)"  
It is also on the fourth day of Pongal, poets and poetry is revered as this day is alternatively called Thiruvalluvar Day or Karinall. Thiruvalluvar is a famous Tamil poet. He has written thousands of couplets in the famous work, Thirukural, on moral and social standards. One of his favorite statue memorials is situated in Kanyakumari, on the southern tip of India, in the town of Kanyakumari in the state of Tamil Nadu. 

Read about the first three days of Pongal: Bhogi, Thai, and Maatu Pongal

Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog, is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys. Authentic Journeys provides cross-cultural business coaching to Indians and Americans to promote improved cross-cultural business exchanges. Contact Jennifer here.  


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