Here I am, back with a lot of good and some not so good memories from my trip to Chennai for the Pongal festival. Sankranthi is what we celebrate usually and it always holds a special place in my heart, for I love the Bommala Koluvu that we keep in our home. Dad takes huge efforts setting up 5 steps and brings down all the treasured bommalu (dolls) from the lofts. We would then sit and slowly open up the intricate packing dad would have done the previous year. Arguments would then start on, which doll to be kept where and the preparations would go on until midnight. After ushering us to sleep, dad would tie balloons and color papers all over the hall and by morning, colorful lights would adorn the beautiful bommala koluvu.
Its also the time of the year, when dad would get bonus and we would get to shop for 2-3 dresses that should last until Deepavali. Today, I get to shop whenever I feel low or just to pass time. The happiness is not even comparable to that immense joy we used to get on shopping for 3-4dresses only per year.
Festival preparations would go on in full form from almost a week ahead of Sankranthi. Mom would patiently clean every inch of the house. At times, I would help her clean the lofts where she wouldn’t be able to reach. Invitations would be sent over to Atha (Aunt) and Pedhanannagaru (Dad’s elder brother) to come over to stay at our place. We would be eagerly waiting for all of them to join us for that time of the year. There would be a lot of happy moments and a few arguments and fights too. I do remember some worst fights that happened between our relatives during one of the Sankranthis and its not easy to come out of it – as kid. What seemed like a carpet of roses would all of a sudden turn into thorns all over and that’s when I started understanding the true colors of each and every person. I think that’s a big step as a kid, when it comes to understanding the society and learning the survival skills.
On the day before Bhogi, dad would prepare the steps for bommala koluvu and we would clean all the dolls brought down from huge suitcases in the loft. All our dolls are as old as me, as my parents started koluvu only after I was born. I know how much care must go in to preserve all those porcelain dolls for 25years in such a good condition. Sister and I have many a times made parks and zoo to display during the koluvu. Mom would invite all our neighbors and friends home on all the three days, giving them the haldi-kumkum, which means we get to dress up all the evenings for those 5 days. There would be a lot of devotional songs – sung by mom as well as the other aunties who come to visit us. Mom would patiently offer elaborate prayers every morning and evening during the koluvu. On the day of Bhogi, she would make me and sister sit in chair and offer something called as Bhogi Pallu (a mixture of Gooseberries, Akshath and Coins) as shower which is believed to chase away the evil and bring good health and prosperity. Later we would be given Aarthi 🙂 As kids, we would wait for the chance to collect those coins from Bhogi Pallu! Mom also follows different menu items for each day and everything would be so mouthwatering. Bobbattu and Boora are the dishes I would die for during this season and mom always makes it a point to make these two for sure.
At the end of 5days, we kids would be asked to make all the dolls sleep (lie them down) and one final aarthi would be given before everything goes back neatly packed into the suitcases. Hall would look empty all of a sudden and we would dream of next Sankranthi bidding good bye to all the relatives and five days of unlimited fun.
Today, I miss all this fun. Pongal only means preparing Chakrapongal and offering it to God. The customs are totally different at my in-laws. I am not denying its fun too – cleaning the house, putting up elaborate rangolis, dressing up pretty and then having the awesome Pongal. But I miss the fun of being a part of Bommala Koluvu – the pride in showing our dolls to the rest of the locality, especially for Sankranthi. There is no more Bhogi Pallu shower. I need to act all responsible and take part in preparing the pongal and making sure no one is tasting it before its offered. I miss being a child and don’t want to be this grown-up responsible person. Sigh!!
My parents too have not been keen on Bommala Koluvu for the past two years, that is exactly after I got married and they are only having a miniature koluvu (cheating I say!). I am insisting on having an elaborate one atleast next year and hope they hear me out 🙂 One of my wishes is to follow this custom that my family had been observing for the past 25years without breaking it off – if not now, atleast when I have kids. *Fingers Crossed*
A few snaps of Sankranthi & Bommala Koluvu from 2010 –
This is how I celebrated Pongal this year –