Ekadaksha Learning Center for Children with special needs

What we do - Ekadaksha Learning Center Chennai - By Stephen Eastop

Pongal is one of the most important festivals celebrated in TamilNadu. It is the festival of harvest in which people express their gratitude to mother nature, farmers, animals like bullocks and all people who help to produce the food that is put on our tables everyday. In current times, technology has pitched in and machines are being used for ploughing, harvesting and other farm work. However, there continues to be a touch of tradition as well.

Ekadaksha also celebrated pongal with great fervour. The preparations for the celebrations commenced 2 weeks before the actual event. This time, the basic idea was to give the children a visual treat, showcasing the traditions of The Pongal Festival. The entire staff at Ekadaksha - Special educators, Assistants, Volunteers and Helpers planned and executed the event. Click here to see their pictures. 

The day of the celebrations is always exciting as the entire center is set up and buzzing with the day's festivities. All of us are eager to see eachother all dressed up in traditional wear. The center is filled with positivity and happiness. 

To begin the festivities, the staff of Ekadaksha sang the "Tamizhthaai vaazhthu-Neeraarum Kadaludutha" song. Click here to hear the song. 

After this, Ms. Nithya, special educator, explained about the 4 days of Pongal. The first day being Bhogi Pongal, we discard old things and welcome new things. The second day, Thai Pongal, we thank and offer prayers to all the mother nature, farmers and the Sun God who help in production of fruits, vegetables and grains. The third day, Maatu Pongal is the day to celebrate the bulls and cows who help in the farming activities like ploughing fields and providing milk. The fourth day, Kaanum Pongal, is the day when everyone visits their relatives and seek blessings from elders.  Click here to hear the explanation.

Once this brief introduction was done, two of our children performed a small ritual of Pongal. Amaan who was dressed as a farmer introduced himself and told everyone that the farmer works to produce the fruits and vegetables that make us healthy. He placed a basket of fruits and vegetables in the Pongal display. Akshaya was dressed up as a beautiful village girl and displayed the Mulaipari. Mulaipari is a small basket which contains the sprouted germinated plants from nine grains which women carry on their heads. 

The next part was to show a kind gesture to the bulls on display. Two children, Vishal and Sanjeev put red thilak onthe bulls foreheads and garlanded them. Click here to watch the rituals. 

Followed by these rituals, was a wonderful dance performance by Ms. Komathi, Ms. Ganga, Ms. Selvi and Ms. Anitha. The 'Oyilattam' is a traditional folk dance of TamilNadu in which men and women perform rhythmic stpes with bright coloured handkerchiefs tied to their fingers. The peppy song, the colours and synchronised steps made the children watch and enjoy themselves. Click here to watch the oyilattam dance. 

Next, it was time for a game. Ms. Archana conducted the traditional seven stones game. The children were chosen by picking chits and they played the game one by one. Each child had two chances to hit the stack of rings. Almost all the children were able to aim correctly and throw the ball either on the rings or somewhere nearby. It was amazing to see the interest with which every child played. Even those who are usually not able to stand in one place, stood properly and focused. Click here to see the children play happily. 

Now for the final treat - The Bullock cart ride. A customised bullock cart entered the center.This was a peppy performance of bullock cart riding around the center. Two people, Ms. Akila and Ms. Priya dressed up as bulls depicted the real bulls. With music, they made the sounds and movements of bulls. The cart rider, Ms. Nithya, made it all the more enjoyable with her actions and liveliness. The colourful dressup, the shaky tails, the beautiful bull masks, the jal jal sound of the chalangai (anklets) and the mooooo sounds was a great entertainment and admired by all the children and staff alike. Each class was then called to interact with the bulls and the rider by touching, saying hello to them and clicking pictures. Click here to enjoy this peppy time. 

During the entire celebration, the children stayed put in their places. None of them got up, none of them ran around, none of them had a moment when they were not entertained. They were having a blast. In addition to the visual treat, there was also a yummy treat to tickle their taste buds too. Delicious sakkari pongal and vada was served during snacks time.  Click here to see how much the children enjoyed.

The clock ticked off really fast with everyone being immersed into the chain on entertainment that was showcased on this Pongal day at Ekadaksha. 

Wishing everyone a Happy Pongal. Eat well, pray for good food produce and let all of us acknowledge and appreciate our farmers and farm animals. 



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