BHOGI The Tradition of Offering Prayers to Lord Indra – The God of Clouds & Rain
Bogi festival or Bhogi is the first day of Pongal and is celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, “the God of Clouds and Rains”. Lord Indra is worshiped for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Thus, this day is also known as Indran. On Bhogi all people clean out their homes from top to bottom, and collect all unwanted goods. This day is meant for domestic activities and of being together with the family members.
All the houses from the richest to the humblest are thoroughly scrubbed and whitewashed. Homes are cleaned and decorated with “Kolam” – floor designs drawn in the white paste of newly harvested rice with outlines of red mud. Often pumpkin flowers are set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Fresh harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in from the field as preparation for the following day.
A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut. Farmers worship their ploughs and other equipments on this day. The instruments are smeared with kumkum and sandalwood paste and offerings are made to the Sun God and Mother Earth before the first paddy is cut on this day.
Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.
Spiritual significance of Bhogi
Bhogi is the day dedicated to Lord Indra—the deity of rain and clouds. Farmers worship Indra to seek his blessings for a good harvest that would bring wealth and prosperity to them. Hence this day is also known as Indran.
Rituals of Bhogi
People discard all old things at home on this day marking the beginning of a new era. Houses are cleaned and white-washed on this day and are decorated with marigold flowers, mango leaves and new things. Bhogi Mantalu is a ritual that is practiced in some areas. Here a bonfire is lit with cow dung cake and wood and all old items and clothes are sacrificed in this fire. All agricultural and household waste like old mats and broom sticks are thrown into the fire. Women of the family chant mantra and sing songs of praise of the Gods while taking rounds around the holy fire. Women wear new clothes and ornaments after taking a holy dip on this day.
Pongal Panai is a ritual that follows Bhogi, during which new earthern pots are painted and decorated with flowers and mango leaves. As a mark of the festive mood, the horns of buffaloes in the village are often painted and decorated by the local people.
This day signifies family get-togethers and meeting friends and relatives.
Bhogi pallu is prepared by keeping freshly harvested rice and fruits along with money; this is then distributed among children.
This festival is marked with activities such as rangoli making and rural sports such as kite flying, cock fights and bull fighting.
Other names of Bhogi
Bhogi Pandigai in Tamilnadu
Lohri in Punjab and other parts of North India
Maghi Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in Assam