Chennai by Night: Bhogi

I have some interesting photos and videos to share since I last posted in mid-December – but first, some information on the current happenings in Chennai!

It’s Thai Pongal, the four-day harvest festival and one of the most important holidays in Tamil Nadu and for Tamil people in general.  The festival actually begins tomorrow.  But this morning, we experienced “bhogi”, the traditional “day-before-Pongal” activity.


The day preceding Pongal is called Bhogi; this is the day when people discard old things and focus on new belongings. People assemble at dawn in to light a bonfire to discard old used possessions. The house is cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look. In villages, the horns of oxen and buffaloes are painted in colors.  For us city dwellers, it is possible to see and experience a bit of the bhogi tradition by getting up at 4 am and seeing the small fires lit here and there on the streets and in alleyways.

No Regrets

A number of families were up with their children, some of whom were playing small drums or simply sitting and gazing into the fire.

Kids at the Bonfire

Burn the Old

Meanwhile, the early morning tradition practiced daily by many South Indian women of making a “kolam” from rice flour is also ongoing.


Many of the kolams are more ornate than usual, and may have the addition of colored rice flour as well. Many mothers or grandmothers are out with their daughters or granddaughters, passing along the designs handed down from generation to generation.

Mother and Daughter


It’s also a rare opportunity to see what goes on at night in Chennai. At 5 am the city is at its quietest – but there is always someone moving around in the streets of Chennai.


Bananas for Sale

At the Mosque

And while the people of Chennai, regardless of their faith, continue to prepare for the day’s activities and the festival ahead, the gods silently look on.

Hindu God

You may view all of the photos taken on this walk, here.

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