Blog Pongal #2 – Best posts of the year 2007

In keeping with the knowledge is scrumptious theme, i had this bright idea last year to celebrate Pongal with a harvest festival of my own – harvesting the best posts of the past year. This is the 2nd edition of the Blog Pongal covering the best posts of the year 2007. It was another great year, with a number of posts generating a good amount of discussion. And yeah, our blog is finally on WordPress, my favorite blogging platform and we now have our own domain name as well.

First a few words about Pongal – yeah, we all know that it is the Tamil harvest festival, but did you all know that it is probably the only festival which is based on the solar calendar? [Most other Hindu festivals are either based on the day of the moon phase or a star position] Pongal is celebrated during the winter solstice or the first day of the Uttarayana punya kalam – the sun moves northwards on this day. In North India it is celebrated as Makar Sankranti – Sun’s movement into Capricorn. It appears that Tamils follow the solar calendar whereas the rest of India follows the lunar or luni-solar calendar. I am not sure why or how this dichotomy happened. Need to do some more research on that.

I picked the 12 posts that I consider the best from last year [last year used the google search rank, but the pagerank has fallen dramatically after the move to the new URL]. I picked one for each month in chronological order, oldest first:

1. My Celibate Dog by Priya Raju – Her rib-tickling yet sentimental post about her dog Brownie.

2. Why do human females have menopause – For the longest time, menopause was thought to be another uniquely human trait, which is unfortunately not true.

3. When you praise someone’s talent, you are most likely discouraging effort while the focus of this post is children, it applies equally to adults.

4. Lot of people are stumped by the differences and different uses of blogs, wikis, forums. This is a post created out of comments based by the readers of this blog. A fine example of how community intelligence can be tapped into using blogs.

5. My observations on how the reading habits of children has not changed even a wee bit since i was a child. Some excellent comments on this post.

6. Can passion be taught is a question that has haunted me forever. The insightful comments on this popular post have helped me a lot on this subject.

7. Why do we ask less as we age? Sibu Kutty’s thought provoking post generated a lot of interesting discussions.

8. Great teachers don’t teach – The best teachers we have come across in our lives actually let us learn things ourselves instead of teaching.

9. You can become a better conversationalist by listening more and talking less.

10. It may be difficult to agree with the fact that words that we use have a powerful influence on our behavior – why is this so?

11. Ganesh spots a new technology called Freebase that may usher in the age of the Semantic Web. Check out the comments as well.

12. Why do beautiful people make more money and are generally more successful? Ganesh responds by connecting it to the Warren Harding effect from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink.

Hope you all have enjoyed reading this blog as much as we enjoy writing this blog. Here is wishing you all a Happy Pongal/Makar Sankranti and this being my first post of the new year, Happy New Year 2008 as well.


  1. Quote

    Great picks, Sukumar. I have read all of them and ejoyed them very much. Do keep writing. Hope to see many more thought provoking posts on this blog.

  2. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 16, 2008, 12:36 am:

    Sukumar – I did some reading up on Makar Sankranti. I’m unable to understand this: Why is Uttarayan so important for a tropical country? It signals the start of Summer, but in most parts of India, its just hot, hot, hot all year round. So, why celebrate the movement of the Sun to the Northern hemisphere?

    I know this isn’t related to your post directly, but I’d like to know what you & others think about the significance of Makar Sankranti.

  3. Quote

    I will try to answer that question. In our religion, south is the direction of death. When the sun, who is the giver of life and everything else moves south, it is considered very inauspicious. Sun moving towards north is considered a sign of regeneration. It is also believed that you will not go to heaven when you die during Dakshinayanam.

  4. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 16, 2008, 12:59 am:

    Archana – Thanks for the explanation.

    But, why is the South considered the direction of death? The Sun sets in the West – Ancient Egyptians considered that the direction of death. So, I’m a bit confused.

  5. Quote

    Interesting question, Priya. I don’t know the answer. I will try to find it and post the answer.

  6. Quote
    pk.karthik said January 16, 2008, 1:22 am:

    All great posts sukumar..really thought Proviking….

    @ Priya ,

    I think south is considered the direction of South because of its Lokpala…Now as per vedic lietarture all the directions had a guardian
    Kubera -North
    I guess since south is assocaiated with Yama ,it is assocaited with death….
    Atleast from Sandhyavandanam and other rituals I understood that….Even Gayarthri Mantra is never said facing south….

  7. Quote

    Does it have something to do with the fact that Ausuras are predominently from the South? It could be a sign of Aryan / Dravidian divide?

  8. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 16, 2008, 1:46 am:

    Thanks Archana & Karthik. Makes sense then from a religious point of view, on why the South is avoided.

  9. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 16, 2008, 2:28 am:

    Thanks Archana, Karthik and Priya. Interesting discussion. Karthik’s point makes the most sense. I have also heard another theory for this – Devas have a 6month day and 6 month night and their day starts on makar sankranti day. Since the devas are the protectors, this is the best period for one’s death. This is why Bheeshma waits for the uttarayana punya kalam to start so that his path to the heaven will be well lit.

  10. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 16, 2008, 8:19 am:

    Makes sense, Sukumar. Thanks.

  11. Quote

    Thanks for picking mine, its truly an honor to be among so many brilliant posts and an inspiration to write more. Catch you in Orlando?

  12. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 17, 2008, 2:55 am:

    Thanks Sibu. I am skipping the Orlando meet.

  13. Quote
    Ganesh Vaideeswaran said January 17, 2008, 11:36 pm:


    Thank You for managing the blog and letting me contribute. Looking forward to more interesting discussions on this blog.


  14. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 18, 2008, 12:21 am:

    Thanks Ganesh.

  15. Quote

    Wonderful story about Brownie…..superb narration Priya. RLOL

  16. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 18, 2008, 10:41 am:

    Thanks Vamsi.

  17. Quote
    Priya Raju said January 18, 2008, 12:04 pm:

    Vamsi – Thanks for your kind words.

  18. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said January 18, 2008, 4:39 pm:


    Some of the posts brought back nostalgic memories of how I felt reading them the first time. Great posts and a great year.

  19. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 18, 2008, 9:04 pm:

    Thanks Sreedhar for your kind words.

  20. Quote
    senthilraja said January 24, 2008, 11:33 am:

    I am not much aware about Uttarayan. However, why we celebrate pongal is that this is the time, when the harvest ends. To celebrate that, we celebrate pongal.. particularly, the time prior to pongal would be the apt time for rice cultivation.. (i think aadi pattam, in tamil)..

    Why south is a sign of death? Why yama is a gaurdian of south, than other gods? Probably, because south dips in to the sea, while North raises in to the sky (Himalayas).. I feel, there should be some big reason, that we dont know..

    Another reason is that people migrated from north would have fixed their homeland as holy, and hence, always pointed to that direction.

    Or, due to sea level rise, much of the land in south could have submerged, which might have forced the people to move north.. hence as a remembrance, they might have marked south as symbol of death, and north, (which nourished them) as symbol of fortune..(hence kubera)

    (In ariyalur, there are lot of sea fossils available still now).

    There is one interesting observation (by none other than me 🙂 ) .. Yama’s vehicle is Buffalo.. Buffaloes are predominant in south.. and rarely seen in north.. (to my knowledge).

  21. Quote
    senthilraja said January 24, 2008, 11:36 am:

    I remember the tamil saying “Thai piranthaal Vazhi Pirakkum” ..

    sukumar.. Any sugarcane in your pongal 🙂

  22. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said January 24, 2008, 8:40 pm:

    Interesting theories on the South. Buffaloes are definitely there in the North as well. It used be a key animal in the Indus Valley. Perhaps as Archana says, they decided to make Yama (saturn was a IVC God) the god of death and buffalo his vehicle.

    As for sugarcane in the pongal. I guess those are the comments from many people that enriches the blog pongal.

  23. Quote

    Very interesting observations, Senthil, on why South could have been a symbol of death. Great theories. You the makings for a symbologist. Way to go.

  24. Quote
    padma ashtekar said June 11, 2008, 10:29 am:

    sorrY! i am a latecomer in this discussion.As u said,In tamilnadu, and kerala we follow solar calendar.all other states follow lunar calendar.(according to me solar calendar is more meaning ful)sun shifts to each raasi on 14/15 of a month and thus completes 1 year after visiting 12 raasis(Astrological point of view).Jan 14 is considered important in many states.In gujarat it is a kite festival.some of my friends told me that it is good to be under the sun on that particular day because sunrays are more beneficial on that day(tropic of cancer runs thro guj).In maharashtra , they distribute lots of ellu barfi(sesame & jaggery) because they will induce heat in the body to ward off cold.In south ,NE monsoon will be over by december end.Once rainy season is over ,dampness and dirt accumulated because of rains and moisture should be cleaned from the house.This is the reason why we clean houses on bogi(pazhayana kazhidalum,pudhiana pugudhalum).Next day pongal ,sun crosses TOC and starts moving towards south, farmers who couldnt come out of their houses due to rains , come out and celebrate and thank nature(sun,earth etc) on that day.sugar cane is used for puja because that is the time they get them in abundance.whatever was available on that season,they were offered to GODS.
    As far as north south direction confusion,
    In tamilnadu south facing houses are preferred(lots of breeze from south direction),over west facing houses (breeze is blocked by western ghats).In maharashtra ,guj west entrance is preferred because sea is in western side.Generally south is not preferred in northern part of india .It should have started from ramayana period.Since ravana was in south they would have pointed out it as direction of asuras.

  25. Quote
    Sukumar (subscribed) said June 11, 2008, 10:33 am:

    Thanks for the comment Padma. Interesting explanations for some of our customs.

Leave a Comment



Formatting Your Comment

The following XHTML tags are available for use:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

URLs are automatically converted to hyperlinks.