The first ever national reconciliation and integration week comes to a significant climax today with the celebration of Thaipongal, the most important festival for the Hindu community.
This festival is celebrated on the first day in the month of Thai of the Tamil calendar. Thai is the first month of the Tamil Almanac and Pongal is a dish of sweetmeats including ‘moong dal’, jaggery and milk.
Essentially, it is a thanksgiving ceremony in which the farmers celebrate the event to thank nature, the Sun and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest. Others celebrate the festival to thank the toiling farmers for providing us with food throughout the year. Overall, it is a festival to encourage social harmony and unite people by bringing them together for a common celebration.
While many Hindu leaders interpret Hinduism and festivals such as Thaipongal in different ways it would be wise to reflect deeply today on some of the sayings of one of the world’s most revered philosophers Rabindranath Tagore (1861 to 1941). “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy,” he says in a powerful message not only for Thaipongal but for all religions and for all festivals.
“Faith is the bird that feels the light when the dawn is still dark. You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water,” he adds stressing the importance of putting our faith into action and giving compassionate love, ‘maithree or anbu’ to all.“The butterfly counts not months but moments, and has time enough.
Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add colour to my sunset sky. A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it. Death is not extinguishing the light; it is only putting out the lamp because the dawn has come,” he adds in words of wisdom that give inspiration to people of all religions.
Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it. Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf. Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time, he adds.
The apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi also has some inspiring words of wisdom for Thaipongal and other religious festivals. In this era when high priority is being given for environmental conservation, the Mahatma says, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every person’s needs, but not every person’s greed.
What we are doing to the world’s forests is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another. To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature the more entitled it is to protection by people from the cruelty of humankind,” he adds in wisdom that is clearly supernatural.
So on this festival of nature of Mother Earth and how it unconditionally provides good food for us the cow and other creatures that help to produce this food and also give us life sustaining milk, let us unite with one another with nature and with all creatures to build an eco-friendly and all-inclusive society that is just and fair.