Pongum Pongal – Boghi

bogi bonfire

My first memories of Pongal festival dates back to my childhood days in Chromepet, Chennai.

The pongal festivities lasted for 4 days,  full of vibrant colors and music.  On the day of Boghi, the first day of Pongal festival,  before dawn people would create a bonfire either in front of their homes or at a common open ground to burn old and useless things. This practice is described in the Tamil proverb


Pazhayana Kazhithalum,  Pudhiyana Puguthalum

which means casting away the old and letting new ones enter.

Isn’t that a wonderful eco-friendly way of  doing away with the waste and garbage than creating huge landfills to dump it?

Young boys would beat rhythmically the moLam – a tiny country frame drum, going around the bonfire. They would not miss a beat and often I used to consider the  moLam sound as the sign of commencement of the festival.

Awakened from my beauty sleep at the pre dawn hours I will sit on our front yard to watch my Grandmother or my Mom draw beautiful kolam – pattern drawn on the ground with rice flour.

First the ground will be swept clean and water mixed with a small amount cow dung will be splattered all over the cleaned up space. My grandmother used to say that cow dung served as an insect repellent.  Of course I hated to idea of touching it and always insisted on using plain water when I did that job.


Though after I grew up I used to draw huge, beautiful Rangolis (patterns drawn with rice flour and color powders),  in our house the tradition was always to draw maNakolam huge pattern with rectangular lines adorned with red kaavi border. Kaavi is a red color powder most often finely powdered red sand.  A liquid paste was made mixing the kaavi powder with water and the paste  applied around the maNakolam. The red and white combination of the maNakolam will look very beautiful and majestic. The kolam would cover the entire front yard leaving just enough space on all four sides for somebody to go around.

It was then time for my mother and grandmother to start preparing the festive food.  They would prepare PoLi – mouth-watering sweet delicacy made of maida flour with jaggery and gruond channa dal (yellow gram) stuffing. The menu for boghi would be poLi, vada, saambar, rasam, vegetable curry, carrot kosumalli (salad), appalaam (fried pappads), rice and curd. Since there were no pooja or lengthy prayers on boghi it was just a day to feast and be merry as we had no school.

In the evening I would go to the market with my grandmother to shop for the next day. We would buy vegetables, manjal koththu, inji kotthu, jaggery, ghee, fruits and flowers.

manjal koththu – fresh turmeric still connected to the green leaves

inji kotthu – fresh ginger still connected to the green leaves

My second trip to the market will be with my Dad to buy juicy karumbu (sugarcane).  It was important to select one whose leaves at the top was not too dry and the circular, horizontal grooves were not too thick.  the sugarcane has to bein dark purple color,  fresh, tender and juicy.

karumbu - sugarcane

Hmmm.. how I loved those sugarcanes, its been ages since I had them and sure miss them.