The Festival Known as “Mattu Pongal” or the “Pongal”

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The second day of the festival is known as “Mattu Pongal” or the “Pongal” for cows, specifically bulls. We are thankful to the bulls because they are the animals who plough the land which men farm on to obtain their food. On the bulls we place colourful beads, bells and flower garlands, around the neck of the bull. The women make “Pongal” again but it is offered to the bulls in order to thank them for their hard work on the land. In addition, an “arathi” is taken for the bulls which is a candle that is placed on a plate that is held by two women, one on each side, which is circled around the bull’s face three times. This is done so that it casts an evil eye away from the bull.

When looking in depth at the ritual, gender roles are portrayed by what is seen to be ideal for a women and a man to do. In other words, gender is a socially constructed perspective that portrays what is expected of the behaviour, occupation or roles of men and women (Robbins et al., 2016, 200). Hence, women tend to be nurturing, gentle and sensitive. By looking at the harvest festival, women are seen to be conducting the household chores, such as cleaning and cooking. They conduct the work that is done repetitively and spend most of their time inside the house taking care of children and elders. 

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As compared to the men, they are characterized as individuals who are strong, brave, independent, assertive and powerful. Thus, men’s labours are typically physically intensive. Men do the agricultural work of ploughing the land using the bulls. Since bulls are very strong and powerful, they can be associated with men who must use their strength and power to overtake and control the bulls. Therefore, men spend most of their time outside their homes on their land as they plough, collect milk from the other animals and get meat for the family. As a result, because of their physical labour and work, they aid to provide an income and a food source for the family.

In addition, men are seen to be powerful individuals within their households indicating that Sri Lankan Tamils live in a patriarchal society. This was shown when the men had to sprinkle the uncooked rice around the pot’s neck. Since they are identified as the leaders, they are expected to be the first individuals who are to participate in the ritual before the other members of the family take part.

Therefore, when comparing men and women, this society portrays women to be subordinate. This is because women are seen to be weaker than men as they are expected to conduct work that is less physically intensive. From the men’s labour and work, women are able to utilize their efforts and supply food for the entire family. As a result, it demonstrates that even though their work is contrary to each other, both women and men aid to benefit and support their family on a daily basis.

In addition, through the symbolic actions done within “Pongal”, it helps to display Tamils’ worldview of their land. Worldview is the ideal of how reality is based upon the shared cultural assumptions of how one’s society works (Robbins et al., 2016, 93). Accordingly, the symbolic actions are the activities done within a group of people for which they have shared meanings for help to establish their worldview (Robbins et al., 2016, 95). The symbolic actions here include the drawing of the “kolam”, praying to the Sun and the “arathi” taken for the bull. Within these actions, Tamils are interacting with the land which illustrates the respect we give to our estate. 

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