Sri Meenakshi Temple Celebrates Pongal Sankranthi and Anadal Kalyanam

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By Nachal Sethuraman and Kamala Raghavan

PEARLAND: The twin celebration of Pongal and Andal Kalyanam occurs at the end of Dhanur Masa (Marghazi) and this year the events were on the weekend of January 16 and 17.

Sri Meenakshi Temple, celebrated the Pongal – Sankranthi festival on January, 16.  Keeping alive the vibrant harvest festival {Pongal} of Tamil farmers and welcoming the month of Thai by offering Sweet Pongal and other offerings to Sun God, the event happened outdoors in front of the main temple.

Sankranthi also signifies the start of Northerly movement of Sun (Uttarayana).

The cold weather did not deter the devotee’s enthusiasm, with many cheerfully participating. Sweet Pongal in Brass pots and Clay stoves were prepared, using wood sticks for fuel. The air was filled with rural festive songs, greetings and laughter.

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Devotees gathered in the grand hall of the MTS main temple to participate in the celestial marriage of Sri Andal with Sri Ranganatha.
Photos: Srini Sudarrajan

Invoking the Sun God, Meenakshi Temple’s Vedic heritage school (VHS) children along with the teacher Bhavani Iyer and VHS coordinator Mahesh, offered a beautiful rendition of the Aditya Hridayam slokas.   Another group of children and adults offered the Surya Namaskar through Yoga, coordinated by Achalesh Amar from Hindu Swayam Sevak.

The festive atmosphere was enhanced with a group of energetic ladies (organized by Mala Gopal) performed Kummi, a popular South Indian dance (Tamil Nadu and Kerala) where the rhythm and beat were maintained with clapping since instruments were not present in these folk dominant regions of India.

The festive atmosphere complemented the Puja led by Priest Manicka Bhattar, with the offering of Pongal Prasadam to the deities led with the devine beat of Chenadi melam (organized by Sujaha Vijayakumar) by the Chenda Melam Youth group.  We thank event coordinators, Prema Prasad and Madhavi Ravoori.

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Sri Meenakshi Temple Pongal celebration with Ponga Panai (Clay pot) in front of the main temple.

The following day the celebrations at Sri Meenakshi temple took on a different ambience, inside the newly renovated grand main temple.  The beautiful decorations and wedding finery for the deities, pleasant and sunny January weather, and the ardent chants of “Ezhukondala vada, Venkataramana, Govinda, Govinda!” by the more than 300 devotees at the main temple made the first divine wedding event of 2016 an auspicious beginning for many more to come.

Godha, Andal, Choodikodutha Chutarkodi and Kothai are all names used to denote “Andal” one of the Vaishnava “Azhvars”. She is considered to be a form of Bhoodevi who proved that only steadfast devotion is the path for a mere mortal to be accepted by Lord Ranganatha.  Like Mata Sabari in Ramayana, Andal would send flower garlands to her lord only after she herself wore them to make sure that they were fit for her lord. Her pure devotion and the 30-day “Pavai-Nonbu” in the month of Margazhi to marry Lord Ranganatha, won his heart.  The recital of the 30 songs of “Thiruppavai” by the devotees was a feast to everyone’s ears.

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Kummi folk dance during Pongal celebrations at MTS

The priests made the event touching and meaningful to all the devotees. Priest Sridharan Raghavan recited his mellifluous “samaveda” hymns and captivated the audience with the story about how Godha was named thus because she  removed the curse on river Godhavary for not heeding Sita’s cries for help when Ravana abducted her and took her to Lanka by air.  He was ably supported by Priests Pawankumar and Sriman Narayana Charyalu. The final chanting by Sri Manicka Bhattar to complete the wedding ceremony with a praise of goddess Meenakshi was an icing on the cake. The profusion of mouth-watering sweets offered as “prasadam” and the melodious music by devotees added to make the event a feast all senses of the devotees. All in all, a very auspicious beginning for more wedding events in 2016!  We thank event coordinator Chitra Kumar.  The RAC committee (Padmini Ranganathan, Sheila Sriram and Sasi Pillai) along with numerous volunteers and staff need to be complemented for bringing these authentic celebrations to Houston for all to enjoy.