My Pongal Experience
India is a vast country and its beauty lies in its diversity. It is because of this diversity that we get to celebrate a varied amount of festivals throughout the year. With people moving to different cities for work, our country has become a huge melting pot and all festivals are celebrated by everyone.
As a Punjabi married to a South-Indian I am really enjoying learning of and celebrating the festivals of the South of India.
Pongal is the first festival of the year. While it is called ‘Pongal’ in Tamil Nadu, it is called ‘Sankranti’ in Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra and ‘Lohri’ in Punjab. Sweet Pongal is a must-have dish on the menu, as are Tamarind Rice and Curd Rice. In the North Til Ladoos and Chikki are devoured, along with Gajak and Pinni. All Winter specialities. People gift clothes and homemade sweets to each other.
After Pongal comes ‘Ugadi’ in April. Ugadi is the beginning of a new calendar year for the people of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana. In Maharashtra, Ugadi is celebrated as Gudi Padwa and as Baisakhi in Punjab. The ‘Ugadi Pachadi’ a mix of all tastes to symbolize all flavours of life, is the highlight dish of this festival. Mango Rice and Bobbatlu or Puran Poli are what I look forward to having!
Ever since I moved to the South of India I love the beautiful sight of girls dressed in the traditional silk ‘Pavadai’. A Pavadai is also known as a two-piece or the half saree. Ladies old and young can be seen wrapped in their finest silk sarees and weighed down by jewellery, with Malli Poo flowers in their hair adding that special festive touch.
When it comes to the men though it usually was always Trousers / Jeans and a Shirt / T-shirt for the younger, modern generation. The older generation has thankfully stuck to wearing the traditional Veshti Sattai on this, and every, festive occasion.
However, it is heartening to see the younger generations of boys and men embrace this traditional outfit with much gusto. It shows that the Veshti Sattai has undergone a lot of changes, evolving for and attracting the younger generation to it. While ‘White’ is and will always be the classic colour of choice while picking up a Veshti Sattai, newer colours have been added to the range of Sattai (shirt) and so has the comfort of wearing the Veshti. The Veshti no longer needs to be draped around or draped right, you can have it fit size, with hooks or a Velcro to fasten it. The fear of it unravelling mid celebration is a thing of the past now!
I also noticed how youngsters are teaming brightly coloured shirts with their Veshti and some are going as far as to wear shirts in Indian traditional prints like Ikat and Block Prints along with it. Teamed it with a smart pair of sunglasses and traditional footwear and the entire look is sure to get them more than a second glance.
I have gifted sets of Veshti Sattai to many male members of the North Indian side of my family and they proudly sport it on festive occasions
After all, a festival does not seem like a festival without traditions, good food and the right dressing, does it?