Though we worship Surya everyday, his entry into the zodiac sign Makara is celebrated by the Hindus all over the world as Makara Sankaranti, the beginning of Uttarayana. It is the day on which the sun turns from the Tropic of Capricorn. In Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Pongal festival, marking a good harvest. Pongal literally means “ boiling over “. As a symbol of plenty, the milk is allowed to boil over the pot when the rice is cooking. Surya is revered as the visible God ( Prathyaksha devata). There has always been a profound relationship between Surya and man. Surya is said to be the embodiment of natural and supernatural powers. He symbolises the victory over darkness . This is, in reality the victory of knowledge over ignorance ! According to mythology, Surya rides on a chariot driven by seven horses that symbolize the seven colours of vibgyor – violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red. These seven colours are reflected in the rainbow. Pongal is a three day festival, celebrated specially in south India. It is considered highly favourable for auspicious activities. It is also an occasion of great rejoicing and merry making. The first day is Bhogi-pongal when bonfires are lighted. The second day is the main pongal. This day is dedicated to the Sun-God. The ladies of the house boil in milk moong dhal and freshly harvested rice together. When it just starts boiling, it is customary to shout together “ pongalo pongal”. Then the cooking is completed, adding jaggery, spices, ghee and nuts. This is offered to sun god. It is customary to enquire “ Has the milk boiled?" - பால் பொங்கியாச்சா?" The answer is “ yes, it has boiled”- ஆமாம், பால் பொங்கியது" ! The third day is Mattu Pongal or Pongal of the cows. On this day, cows are worshipped and circumambulated ( known as doing pradakshinam). Their horns are painted in various colours, and garlands are hung around their necks. Goddess Parvathi is supposed to be present in the form of a cow. All devatas are supposed to reside in the body of Kamadhenu, the mother of all cows. Even to get relief from the problems of Saturn, it is customary to worship the cow. For progeny and prosperity, the cow is worshipped respectfully. Pongal marks the change of the season and is primarily a harvest festival. India is an agricultural country and cows and oxen play a vital role in agriculture. That is why they are worshipped and venerated so much on that day. Pongal also symbolises the sharing of things with others. The new reaped harvest is shared with friends, relatives, beasts and birds, They all partake of the cooked food and sweets. This day is called Kanum Pongal. On that day, early morning, women in South India, offer to crows and other birds, the pongal and rices in different colours. This is specially done with a prayer for the happy, prosperous life of brothers and their families. Sringeri Sankaracharya has said Surya is fond of receiving namaskarams. That is why there has been an age old practice of Surya Namaskara; It helps to eradicate disease and grant a healthy life. The following shloka is specially chanted, praying to Surya for good health and strength of mind. Japaakusuma sakaas(h)am kaas(h)ya paeyam mahaadhyuthim Thamorim sarva paapaghnam praNatho(a)smi divaakaram I worship Surya called divakara – he has the complxion of red hibiscus;he is the son of a sage called Kas(h)yapa; he gives light to the whole world; he removes ignorance and illumines with the light of knowledge; He makes man free from all his bad karmas. Let us all worship the sun and pray for a healthy body and a brilliant mind. சூரியன் பாட்டு; அண்டபிண்டம் நிறைந்துநின்ற அயன்மால் போற்றி அகண்டபரி பூரணத்தின் அருளே போற்றி மண்டலஞ் சூழ் இரவிமதி சுடரே போற்றி மதுரத்தமிழ் ஓதும் அகத்தியனே போற்றி எண்டிசையும் புகழுமெந்தன் குருவே போற்றி இடைகலையின் சுழிமுனையின் கமலம் போற்றி குண்டலிக்குள் அமர்ந்த கணபதியே போற்றி குகமணியின் தாளிணைகள் போற்றி போற்றி மங்களம் நல்கும் மறையே போற்றி இருபத்தேழு விண்மீன் தமக்கும் விரியும் ஒளியை விதைத்தாய் போற்றி வெற்றியின் வடிவே வேந்தே போற்றி மற்றோர் நிகரிலா மாண்பே போற்றி சூரிய நாராயணா போற்றி Love, Chithra.