Skip to main content

Featured Post

The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Happy Sankranti / Pongal to one and all!!!

 இனிய பொங்கல் வாழ்த்துக்கள்

तिळगुळ घ्या आणि गोड गोड बोला

Pongal or Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival celebrated all over India. This day marks the beginning of the northward journey of the sun  from its southernmost limit, and is referred to as 'Uttarayan'. The period during which the Sun journeys to the north is an auspicious one, and hence this festival is an especially important one. 

The festival is known as Pongal in southern India, especially in Tamilnadu, and the word itself refers to a sweet delicacy with milk, rice and jaggery prepared on this day. This year, we can not celebrate the festival due to a bereavement in the family, but we will still prepare and enjoy the pongal later today! 

The kolam in the photo above is from last year... and it shows the key concepts associated from the festival.... the chariot at the centre represents the chariot of the sun, beginning its journey to the north. The sun and the moon on either side represent the same. The sugarcane on the corners represents the harvest, and while you can not see it in this image, above it is a pot representing the vessel in which the pongal is made. This pot is the essence of the Pongal festival. The pot is decorated with patterns representing the sun and the moon, and to make it auspicious, a fresh turmeric plant, with the turmeric roots intact, is tied around it. Milk is first boiled in this, and then the rest of the ingredients are added to make the 'chakkarai pongal' (sweet pongal). 

In the northern parts of the country, the festival is known as Makar Sankranti, symbolizing the transition of the sun into the Makar Rashi (zodiac sign of Capricorn). In Maharashtra, the festival is characterized by the exchanging of sweets made of sesame seeds coated with jaggery. Sesame seeds are called 'til' and jaggery is 'gud'. It is said, 'Til gud ghya, god god bola' which essentially means "Eat Til-gul' and speak sweetly."

The festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country - In Andhra, this is the time for Bommala Koluvu (similar to the Bommai Kolu - a display of dolls, which is placed in Tamilnadu and Karnataka during Navaratri); In Gujarat, this is time for the Kite festival ; In Kerala, this is the day the Makara Jyothi appears at Sabarimala.... Every state celebrates the festival in its own manner. (For more information on the different modes of celebration, please go to the Wikipedia Page.)

As someone who hails from Tamilnadu and has grown up in Maharashtra, my memories of the festival happen to be getting up early in the morning to see my mom making Pongal, and then rushing out with my friends to exchange Til-gul!! January, unfortunately, has always been a time for exams and school.. first for me, and now for my son... Going out to really enjoy the festival has never really been on the charts. It would be wonderful to go to Chennai someday, and enjoy the full flavour of Pongal..... or head out to Gujarat, and enjoy watching people fly kites..... but these are pipe dreams, after all!! Meanwhile, Happy Pongal or Sankranti to everyone!!! 


  1. Your festival posts are always fascinating.

  2. Happy Sankranti / pongal......!!!!!
    I love pongal from Tamilnadu..its delicious..
    ....... Dr.A

  3. The photograph of the kolam is real nice! And, it was good to know what it represents. Years ago, we happened to be in a village in andhra during this time and it was wonderful to see everyone making "muggulu" (the andhra term for 'kolam') in the morning - an entire street of house fronts with kolam - half on the doorstep, half on the earth and part of the street!

    1. Thanks!!! and I didnt know the Telugu word for kolam was 'muggulu'... and this is common even in Tamilnadu. the entire month of Margazhi (dec 15 to jan 15), ppl put huge kolams outside their houses.. i dont know if the half-half-half system is deliberate, though, or simply a result of the size of the kolam!

  4. What a beautiful kolam, Anu. The karambu, the sun, the moon, the chariot, the kalasham -- all auspicious symbols right there on your doorstep. Beautiful :-)


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Bhedaghat - Home of the 81 Yoginis

The Narmada flows down the mountains , carving out a path for herself as she makes her way down to the plains of Central India. She cascades from the rocks, her fine spray making it appear as if billows of smoke (dhuan) arise from the flowing streams of water (dhaar), giving it the name Dhuandhar. Dhuandhar Falls The force of her flow creates a gorge , smoothening and carving out the rocks into fantastic shapes, the pure white of the rocks standing starkly against the shades of the water. It is a joy to cruise down the river in a boat, seeing the natural contours created by the river, now famous as the Marble Rocks. We are at Bhedaghat, located on the banks of the Narmada near Jabalpur, where thousands of visitors turn up to see these natural landscapes, creations of the sacred Narmada, and pay obeisance to her. However, to me, the most interesting thing about Bhedaghat, isn’t the falls or the rocks, or even the river. What makes Bhedaghat special is t