May Catholics celebrate the harvest festival of Pongal?
Christian missionaries target every single component of Hindu society
By B.R. Haran, January 25, 2015, Magh shuklapaksha Saptami, Kaliyug Varsh 5116
In 2007, the Karunanidhi government changed the Tamil New Year from the month of Chithirai to Thai through an ordinance. In the same year at the same time, the DMK government inaugurated a government sponsored festival by name “Sangamam” conceived by a Christian NGO by name Tamil Maiyam founded by Father Jegath Gaspar Raj and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi. This festival would start with Christmas and end with Pongal. The government roped in all the folk arts and folk music into the Sangamam festival notwithstanding the inclusion of classical music and dance.
A new concept called
“Samathuva Pongal” (Egalitarian Pongal) was introduced in which, Pongal was celebrated within the church premises, wherein people from all religions were made to participate. Though a few Muslims participated in such festivities, they never yielded to the idea of making Pongal inside the mosques. Even the Christian clergy allowed the celebration only within their premises and not inside the church.
Are Catholics celebrating Pongal as claimed by the Hindu organisation?
Yes, they very much are. Pongal is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, and of Puducherry and of Tamilian-settled areas overseas, extends over four days and includes “Mattu (cow) Pongal” and “Surya (sun) Pongal”.
The festival has a religious background in Hinduism:
The two most popular legends of Pongal are stories related to Lord Shiva and Lord Indra.
According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.
Another legend of Lord Indra and Lord Krishna also led to Pongal celebrations. It is said when Lord Krishna were in his childhood, he decided to teach a lesson to Lord Indra who became arrogant after becoming the king of all deities. Lord Krishna asked all the cowherds to stop worshiping Lord Indra. This angered Lord Indra and sent forth his clouds for thunder-storms and 3 days continuous rains. Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan to save all the humans. Later, Lord Indra realized his mistake and divine power of Krishna.
According to Hindu mythology, this is when the day of the gods begins, after a six-month long night. The festival is spread over three days and is the most important and most fervently-celebrated harvest festival of South India. A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of the paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandal wood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut.
Each of the three days are marked by different festivities. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is a day for the family. Surya Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun God. Boiled milk and jaggery is offered to the Sun God. The third day of Pongal, Mattu Pongal, is for worship of the cattle known as Mattu. Cattle are bathed, their horns polished and painted in bright colors, and garlands of flowers placed around their necks. The Pongal that has been offered to the Gods is then given to cattle and birds to eat.
Many (if not all) parish churches celebrate Pongal as noisily and as extravagantly as any Hindu temple.
In my parish, it was impossible — from the tempo of the drum beats and decibel levels — to distinguish whether we were on the premises of a temple or in a church compound during the cultural festivities.
During a Holy Mass, on a Sunday in proximity to Pongal (which is celebrated January 14), a number of people kept trooping in to deposit vessels of boiled rice at the base of a statue of St. Lazarus, ostensibly with the prior clearance or instruction of the parish priest, as a red-coloured carpet had been laid out and the first pew pushed back from its normal position.
YouTube video of Pongal Celebration by Anbiyam (Small Christian Community) Members of St Jude’s Church
January 16, 2012
Pongal in the Catholic Church
By Dr. Chris Anthony, January 13, 2012, Malaysia
In many churches this Sunday, Pongal will be celebrated on a very grand scale. The church will be decorated with traditional items like banana trees, leaves, kolam and so on. Milk will be boiled in earthen pots, allowed to spill over and Pongal rice will be cooked. The congregation will shout “pongolo pongal” when the milk spills over. Men and women coming for mass will be clad in colourful traditional Tamil attire. After mass there will be special “pongal games” and sumptuous meals.
In short it will be a day of celebrations and rituals to thank God for his rewards He bestowed upon us and our family. But do we need to go to such an extent of elaborate celebrations to thank God? I may be old fashioned and outdated but is this the right way to thank God? Then why do we need the mass?
In our parish too, Pongal is being celebrated in a very large scale. The prime-time English mass is shifted to an earlier slot to make way for the celebration of Pongal, the harvest festival of the Tamils. Wouldn’t it be unfair to the non-Indians who are so used to attend the English mass?
So much time and money is being channeled to make this celebration a success. Wouldn’t it be better to utilise the money help the parishioners in need? Shouldn’t the money be used to compensate a poor woman like our former sacristan, Bernadette Lau? Aren’t there many other desperate and impoverished parishioners who may need the money more urgently?
It is deeply disturbing that the Indians and Chinese keep celebrating their respective cultures in the Church, more so in-cooperating them into the Eucharistic service. By doing so not only the sanctity of the mass is lost but such activities continue to divide the already racially polarized congregation.
Yes, my dear parishioners, racism is very real in our Church and what is most disturbing is that our own priests are initiating, encouraging and promoting it. Witnessing all that is going on, I am beginning question whether Jesus really is in our church. Very, very sad!!!
The following is a brief write-up about Pongal for the benefit of the non-Indians.
Pongal – A Tamil thanksgiving Event
Malaysian Tamils celebrate Pongal on 15 January 2012.Thai Pongal, as it is called because it marks the beginning of the Tamil month of Thai, is a harvest festival originally celebrated by Tamils in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. It was one of the most important festivals among peasants in villagers who tilled their land and reared animals.
Today it has evolved into a cultural festival of Tamils all over the world, including those who know nothing about farming. Pongal was traditionally dedicated to the Sun God Surya. Tamils thank the solar deity for the good harvest and consecrate the first grain to him.
Pongal in Tamil means “boiling over or spill over.” The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolizes material abundance for the household. Thai Pongal, celebrated at harvest time on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai, is traditionally intended to thank the Sun God and farmstead livestock that helped create the material abundance.
The saying “Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “ the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities” is often quoted regarding the Pongal festival. The festival usually occurs from January 13 — 15 i.e. the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Thai.
In short Pongal celebration is a thanksgiving event for the abundant harvest in the preceding year.
Pongal is celebrated for three consecutive days.
The first day it is celebrated for the harvested crops and shared with friends and relatives. The main feature of this festival is the boiling of milk in a clay pot until it overflows when the family members gathered round the pot shouting “Pongalo Pongal” then add rice to it. They offer the pongal rice to Surya, the Sun God to thank him for the abundant harvest.
The second day known as Mattu Pongal, cows are adored and given the offerings. This is the time when villages decorate the cows and also the elders seek God’s blessing for their children. The cows are given a bath, their horns painted and they are decorated with garlands.
And on the third day known as Kanni Pongal is dedicated to young virgins. Young women pray for a good life and a dashing great husband. The young unmarried ladies wearing new clothes, gold and silver ornaments will have special prayers for their future marriage. Virginity is a sign of purity to which great importance is attached by the peasants.
Significance of boiling over of spilt milk
The spilling of milk means prosperity and if the milk spills as the sun rises, it is a good sign for the family.
Half of the boiled milk is then scooped for offering to the departed parents and ancestors and remainder for the family and friends to drink. Then sweetened rice is added for cooking. As the sweetened rice is about to cook, a spoonful of ghee is added. Once the sweetened rice is ready, an offering is made to the ancestors and the remainder shared with neighbors.
Pongal and its relevance to us
Traditionally Pongal used to be a harvest festival of peasants in villagers, who plough their land, plant crops and rear herds of cattle. Today it is being celebrated by everyone, even those residing in urban areas in high rise buildings and who have nothing in common with those villagers to whom pongal was such a meaningful festival. To many today in urban areas Pongal has become a symbol of their culture and tradition which they want to uphold for fear they may soon be forgotten by the future generations.
Pongal and Christianity
When we were children, in the sixties and seventies, we never celebrated Pongal as we were told it is a strictly a Hindu festival, whereby the Sun and Cow were being worshipped as gods. But today after 30-40 years, the Church seem to have taken a totally different stance. It encourages its followers to actively celebrate the festival, as it contends that is more of a Tamil culture, which all Tamils must uphold. Why this change by our church?
A festival that the church forbade some 30 years ago is being actively celebrated in the church today. In fact in many parishes, it has taken over the Eucharistic celebrations of mass on Sunday. Why such over-enthusiasm? Is it right to incorporate an ethnic culture totally into our Sunday mass attended by many races to the extent of driving away many to other churches for Sunday mass? Wouldn’t this massive infiltration of cultural elements into mass distract the minds of the congregation away from Christ who should be focus of our attention during mass?
The mass is a very solemn celebration where we should seriously listen to the word of God, witness the transformation of His body and blood, subsequently receive Him in Holy Communion and then go forth to share His love with others. Other cultural activities, singing, dancing and various performances should be held outside the mass so as not to allow them to divert our focus from Christ who should be centre of our Eucharistic celebrations.
Tamil culture and Hinduism
Pongal had been celebrated much before Christianity came to India. Obviously looking at the way had been celebrated, it is obvious that it is basically a Hindu festival. It is easy to understand that as the Tamils were all Hindus and the vast majority of them continue to be so till today. Tamil culture is so inter-twined with Hinduism that it is difficult to separate one from the other.
Being traditionally a Hindu festival, is it wrong for Tamil Christians to celebrate? Is it wrong to thank the Sun, the greatest gift of God to man, without which no life would never exist? Is it wrong to appreciate and adore the cow, which provided for all the needs of the peasants?
Regardless of one’s religion I see why we cannot adore the marvels of God and pay tribute to His creations that provide us with all our daily needs. While it is not wrong for Christians to celebrate Pongal, we should not overdo things so as to mask the presence of Christ at mass which all excessive cultural activities do.
While we go about celebrating Pongal as our right, we must be aware that there have been fears expressed by fellow Hindus that this change of mindset of the Church in going all out to adopt Pongal and certain other cultural practices by the Indian Christians may be part of its tactic of “inculturation,” aimed at getting Christianity to appear less Western and more Indian thereby more appealing to them to embrace it. It is our duty to allay such fears among our fellow Indians from the Hindu faith as it would be morally wrong to convert someone from one religion to another.
Thanking Mother Nature for the abundant harvest that gave the peasants and their families good life is indeed a noble one. Sharing their harvest with neighbors is of greater nobility which we should all emulate regardless of our own faith or culture.
We should take Pongal as an opportunity to thank the Almighty for the abundant blessings we received either overtly or in disguise. Often these blessings come in disguise, which we only realize much later when we overcome the various crisis that come our way. It is in sharing our blessings with our neighbor will we be rewarded with more.
Dr. Chris Anthony is critical of the celebration of Pongal during the Eucharist and admits that it is a Hindu festival during which creation (cattle, the sun) is worshiped but he is ambiguous in his conclusions.
Catholics do not “thank Mother Nature” (emphases his). New Agers and pagans do. Christians thank God.
For the discerning and orthodox Catholic, it is not difficult to answer the question in the title of this article.
It may also be noted that there is superstition involved in the allowing of the boiling over or overflowing of milk. Many Catholics will not occupy a house or flat without allowing the boiling over of milk to ensure prosperity. Superstition is a sin that violates the First Commandment.
1 comment by Pauline De Cruz:
Excellent! Thank you for sharing this. I used to wonder the same thing why it’s been celebrated.
Catholic Church Includes Hindu Festival Offering At Mass
January 24, 2007, Sri Lanka
Father Anthony Marcelliar led the offertory procession carrying a hot earthen pot blackened by smoke and placed in a cane basket. The pot contained cow´s milk with brown sugar, lentils, plums and cashew nuts. The sweet dish had been prepared at the entrance of his church before Mass to celebrate a Hindu festival.
The festival, Thai Pongal, whose name comprises the Tamil words for January and boiled rice, respectively, a harvest celebration that heralds the start of the Hindu year. It was celebrated on Jan. 14.
Oblate Father Marcelliar, parish priest of St. Philip Neri’s Church in Toppuwa, 35 kilometers north of Colombo, told UCA News that the local Tamil community celebrates the festival every year.
“It is a thanksgiving festival to the sun god,” he explained, adding that youths in his parish organized the celebration. “Tamil and Sinhalese youngsters worked together to make this festival meaningful.”
Before Mass, Catholics gathered at the church entrance. All helped prepare the Thai Pongal dish together, offering thanksgiving for the harvest and praying for a better one in the new year. The meal was shared by all at the end of Mass in a festive mood.
Father Marcelliar observed that as Tamil Catholics or their forbears converted from Hinduism at some point in time, it is normal for them to mix with Hindu relatives at the festival. Sometime after the Second Vatican Council (1963-65), he continued, the local Church gave a Catholic color to the festival by introducing a special Pongal liturgy.
Sinhalese, concentrated in southern Sri Lanka, form about 74 percent of the country´s estimated 20 million people, and Tamils about 18 percent. Members of both communities are among the country´s 1.3 million Catholics, about 60 percent of whom live in the Colombo area. Many Tamil Catholics are among them.
Luxumi Jesuthasan, a Hindu convert from a parish near Colombo, recalled, “Before I was married to my Catholic husband I celebrated Thai Pongal with my Hindu parents and relatives, worshipping the sun god.” But after seeing the Thai Pongal ceremony in church, she directed her prayers to “God in heaven.”
At St. Lucia´s Cathedral in Colombo, 40-year-old Gerard Peiris said his Sinhalese friends come with him to attend the Thai Pongal Mass even though they do not understand the Tamil language. “They are very eager to know the meaning of each ceremony conducted during the service,” he said.
“I am happy the Church organizes this thanksgiving feast with the minority Tamil community in the country,” Peiris told UCA News after the Thai Pongal Mass his cathedral parish celebrated on Jan. 15. […]
Catholics in Singapore celebrate Pongal in Church
January 21, 2014
Our Lady of Lourdes church
The Pongal was carried in procession to Mass, January 14, 2007
PAGAN FESTIVALS STOLEN BY CHRISTIANS (PONGAL ALSO STOLEN)
From G. Subramaniam
Christianity is stealing Pongal. Pongal is a Tamil Hindu festival in honor of the Sun God
In order to make converts among illiterate people, the church is celebrating Pongal as a harvest festival
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Categories: Hinduisation of the Catholic Church in India