Maattu Pongal in Ramanashram
Maattu Pongal the third day of the Pongal or Harvest festival is the day consecrated to the cows. Everywhere, on this day, cows are bathed and decorated with flower garlands and then puja is performed to them with offerings of sweet pongal and fruits. In Ramanashram too, it has always been the tradition right from the time of Bhagavan to celebrate Cow Pongal in a graceful way. Devotees will remember that Sri Ramana was very fond of the cow Lakshmi and He used to feed sweet pongal to Lakshmi with his own hands on Cow Pongal day.
The Maatu Pongal celebrations in the Ramanashram consist of 3 different ceremonies. First the Nandi (bull mount of Shiva) in the Mother’s shrine is decorated in a spectacular way. He is adorned with garlands of vegetables, fruits, sugarcane, grass, flowers. Vadais and other tasty sweetmeats. Then an elaborate Aarathi puja is performed by the priests with devotees looking on with rapt admiration. The next event takes place at the Samadhi (tomb) of the cow Lakshmi which is located outside in the open courtyard beside the dining hall. A group of devotees are assembled here and the statue of Lakshmi is bathed with milk abhishekam and then a puja is performed with the photo of Bhagavan fondling Lakshmi placed in front. The ashram ladies sing many beautiful hymns in praise of Lakshmi describing her devotion to Bhagavan and other touching episodes in her life like how she used to give birth to a calf every year right on Bhagavan’s birthday. This creates a wave of devotion among the group and many devotees are moved to tears to listen to the words about the cow Lakshmi’s unusual and rare bhakthi to her Master and how, even though she was in the body of an animal she behaved like a deeply spiritual human being .
The third event takes place in the cow shed of the ashram, called ‘Goshalai’. Inside, it is nicely cleaned and beautifully decorated with flower garlands and sugar cane and turmeric plants. In the centre, a lovely white cow (believed to be the descendant of Lakshmi) and her calf are decorated and honoured. A puja is performed to them by the ashram priests with the same respect and energy as they would to a deity in the temple. The president and his wife feed the white cow with sweet pongal from their own hands and the cow and calf eat it with quiet relish. It is an enchanting scene and one feels transported to times of yore when cows were considered as godly beings and people treated them with respect and devotion. Let us follow the example of Bhagavan Ramana and recognize and respect the Divine Being in every fellow creature on this earth.