Scientific significance of Pongal: Prof Swaminathan

Chennai, January 14, 2018: The Pongal festival is an important landmark in the cultural and scientific history of Tamil Nadu and allied regions. The ceremonies are associated with a few other initiatives like safeguarding our animal wealth and linking nutrition and health. There are four areas which attract particular attention during the Pongal festival.

The first is the emphasis given to the life saving characteristic of solar energy. We thank the Sun for the multiple blessings it is conferring on our lives and livelihoods. The contribution of solar energy to the household energy security is clearly emphasized by the attention given to the use of such energy in day to day life. Solar energy also provides an important contribution to health security as for example by helping to overcome Vitamin D deficiency. Inadequate Vitamin D consumption poses health risks such as a) increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease; b) Cognitive impairment in older adults; c) Severe asthma in children; d) Cancer.

The second contribution is the promotion of cropping patterns which can help to overcome the problems of soil health and water salinity. The sugarcane crop can grow under moderate conditions of salinity as for example along the sea coast. The third aspect of the Pongal celebration is strengthening the bonds between nature and human beings. The association of animal welfare with human well being is also emphasized during the Pongal festival by thanking the farm animal population for their invaluable contribution to improving the income and work opportunities. Finally, the significance of Pongal also comes from the emphasis given to understanding the role of science as for example photosynthesis in improving agriculture.

I hope the wider implications of Pongal will also be understood. We should express on this day our gratitude to sunlight, green plants and the farmers who cultivate the plants for our home, agriculture, and industrial needs.