Mention Bhogi and fire, out with the old, in with the new and Thai Ponggal come to mind although most of us only care about the heavenly, delicious, sticky and sweet pongga soru concocted the day after Bhogi. The major activity during Bhogi is the burning of things that are of no use as we all know.
Bogi festival or Bhogi is the first day of Ponggal 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.
Why is Bhogi celebrated
Most of us practice rituals because our elders did and we just ape them. Few know the significance of traditions and rituals and Bhogi is one of it.
Well, the spiritual significance for Bhogi is to control our senses and clean kama, krodha, moha, lopa etc so that spiritual Bhogam in our life is fulfilled. The word Bhogi is derived from the word Bhogam which means ‘enjoying divine joy‘ hence Bhogi, a day to enjoy divine joy.
How Bhogi got misunderstood
Many of our mothers treat Bhogi as spring cleaning day where they collect whatever deemed as useless and old not to mention can be burnt and set them ablaze.
My earliest childhood memories was treating the Bhogi fire as a bonfire. If I had marshmallows, I would have toasted them over the conflagration.
Now, history has it that when the British colonized India what they first did was strip Indians of their immense knowledge, cognizance and sentience of science, astronomy, medicine and clairvoyance as well as the connected self respect, dignity and even identity. How they went about doing it was burning such treasure of knowledge, citing them obsolete and redundant in Bhogi fires.
The colonial masters wanted their literal slaves to be ashamed of themselves and be in awe as well as glorify western attributes and norms. We still are slaves to that kind of mentality albeit in different ways than it was in our ancestors’ days. We get proud when whites espouse Hinduism or take kavadi on Thaipusam. Whites don’t get proud when we follow their budaya kuning.
Let’s do justice for Bhogi
Although Bhogi and Ponggal are big deals in India with celebrations stretching for 4 – 5 days especially in the agricultural community, in Malaysia, they are modest affairs. We don’t even get public holiday for Bhogi and Ponggal.
Many of us had our precious school days memories burnt on Bhogi. I was not spared.
My primary and secondary school notes, buku latihan, report cards, my UPSR, PMR, SPM and STPM question papers, my exam papers, my pen pals and dad’s letters to me, my newspaper cutouts, my artworks comprising of water colour, pencil sketches and colour pencil drawings, including the ones I got A, paper lanterns, weave pieces, collage, paper stars, my collection of dried and pressed flowers, my autographs, Deepavali and friendship cards my friends gave me, birthday and congratulatory cards my brother sent me, love letters boys gave me were all burnt by my mother on every Bhogi.
I still cannot forget she calling my artworks, my beautifully written notes and autograph, ‘kuppe’ (garbage) and proceed to set fire on them as I watched helplessly, my throat tight and eyes stinging with tears. My feelings mirrored the feelings of Rajinikanth in the movie Thalapathy where his mother dumps him as a baby on Bhogi day.
Mothers, please don’t burn our memories on Bhogi day. If you want to burn something, burn the rag cloths you use as kitchen cloths, not our precious nostalgic mementos.
And, if you have have primary and secondary school old reference books and notes give them to needy children instead of burning them.
If you have old clothes, shoes, bags, blankets, pillows, mattress yet wearable and usable, don’t burn/throw them, give them away to orphanages.
Bhogi means spring cleaning but we don’t necessarily have to burn things to signify Bhogi.
Tradition and culture are meant to be followed but sometimes we must take the redundancy of them into consideration and consign it.
Plus, air pollution is a real threat to our health
The only things we need to discard on Bhogi are negative attitudes, pessimism and outdated thinking.
Have a happy and a good feeling memorable Bhogi everyone!