Today is the first day of Marghazhi. I woke up early, and woke my son early too as he had to study for his exams. He wanted to sleep on a little longer. I told him he ought to be up early as there was the larger responsibility of waking the gods up. He knows I sort of get crazy, but not first thing in the morning. I added that waking the gods up is more important than preparing for exams; he sat up immediately with a look that said ‘anytime for anything that is not related to political science and geography’.
“What do you mean?” he asked, not very vocal and wary not to be conned by me in the morning when his alertness is at its lowest. I told him that the month of Margazhi in the temporal world is the morning time in the world of the gods, our activities on this month are tuned towards serving god and the first thing is to make the gods feel that they are going to have a pleasant day by waking them up in a proper manner.
“How’sthatdun?” By lighting lamps and placing it outside the house, by having bath first thing in the morning, decorating the house with kolams, singing bajans and visiting temples to recite the ‘Thirupavai’. “Is it a holiday today then?” my son asked. “Waking up the gods involves too much work. It has to be declared a holiday.”
“We did this and more before we left for school when I was your age,” I told. My son groaned and took solace in political science to listening to my when- I-was-your-age tirades.
A straggling group of people went around my apartment building singing bhajans, they do this only on the first day of Margazhi, a symbolic recall of the bygone days when every locality had groups of people walking barefoot singing bhajans and collecting rice which was used for making venn pongal the next day and offered as prasadam.
Till I was ten I went with the bhajan singing group of women, men, boys and girls of my locality, singing hoarse as mist made my eyes smart. The group left for the rounds before dawn, cruising through fog and mist of the wintry morning, voices of people drowned by the sound of jalra. More people joined on the way and they took turns in leading the group in singing. I enjoyed these morning detours through lanes and bylanes, my hair moist after the bath and lips dry with the coldness of the morning and the strain of singing aloud. Last of all we returned to where we began and I loved that the best as we ate charkarai pongal or venn pongal and shundal. On auspicious days there were vadais as well. Each day’s prasadam was sponsored by different families. There was so much prasadam that after I ate my portion I was given more prasadam in dhonais to carry home for my family members.