‘Bhogi’ on first day of four days long ‘Pongal’ festival is called ‘Poki’ by many. On this day, people worship Lord Indra, Hindu mythological God of Rain. People express their gratitude for good harvest and rainfall. It is because of this reason some people know ‘Poki’ Festival as ‘Indran’. ‘Poki’ day is meant for domestic activities. Also, day is spent with family. On ‘Poki’ day, people clean their houses and discard unwanted things. Traditional ‘Kolams’ that is intricate designs are drawn in front courtyard to symbolise festival.
Some scholars believe that ‘Poki’ has been misinterpreted as ‘Bhogi’. They have mentioned that ‘Poki’ is known as ‘Mariamman’ festival and celebrated in many places. The word ‘Mariamman’ is derived from ‘mari’ meaning rain, important for agriculture. Hence, naturally farmers worship rain God Indra on first day celebration of harvest festival. Hence, first day of ‘Pongal’ is also known as ‘Mariamman’ festival. Another name of Lord Indra is ‘Poki’. On first ‘Pongal’ day, ‘Poki’ is worshipped for rain so this day is called ‘Poki’ festival. This ‘Poki’ festival or ‘Indran’ festival is mentioned in ‘Cilappatikaram’.
Rituals of ‘Poki’ Festival:
On ‘Poki’ festival, farmers perform special puja before cutting of paddies. They worship sun and earth, anoint ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. Using these sanctified tools, farmers cut newly harvested rice.
A bonfire is prepared with wood and cow-dung cakes to celebrate the ‘Poki’ Festival. All the discarded household items are thrown into the lit bonfire. Girls dance around this bonfire while singing songs praising Lord Indra. This ritual is known as ‘Bhogi Mantalu’ that keeps people warm in cold winter’s night.
In Andhra Pradesh, girls celebrate ‘Poki’ festival by burning old clothes. They wear new ones only after oil massage and bath. This is followed by ‘Pongal Panai’. New earthenware pots are painted and decorated with turmeric, flowers and mango leaves.