Serving food on banana leaves can be dated way back into the past and most South Indians have been following the customary procedure till today. Why Pongal is served on Banana Leaf? To start off with, banana leaves were widely used probably because of their easy availability and nature to be disposed of. Banana leaves, being leaves, dispose of quite quickly without harming the environment in any way and on top of that make the soil rich with minerals where they have been disposed. Another reason is the waterproof nature that helps it hold fluid foods which are a major component in the South Indian delicacies. Being waterproof, its very easy to clean and hence reduces wastage of water, unlike any other tableware. What better way to have a traditional feast than on a leaf that has been used for centuries now and still holds its ground for being reasonable and giving off that unmistakable aroma when hot food is served onto it?
Looking from a more scientific point of view, banana leaves have been known to contain antioxidants like polyphenol that help cure ailments like cancer and Parkinsons.
- The first day of Pongal, Bhogi Pongal, consists of the practice of collecting all old and unwanted items in the house and burning them. Whilst the practice may have had some significance in the early times, doing that now would only hurt mother earth with all that pollution you would cause to the poor old ozone layer and your peaceful neighbors. Out with the old and in with the new is a good motto as long as it doesn’t involve things being put on fire. Instead of blazing them into a huge inferno, donate clothes and other items that can still be used to the ones who can make use of them and put a smile on their face.
- The second day of Pongal, Perum Pongal, Pongal is cooked and relished by every single member of the family. Since this calls for a lot of dishwashing, people tend to prefer disposable plates over the regular tableware. With the plastic ban implemented in Tamil Nadu, the residents are left with no option but to opt for biodegradable banana leaf plates or areca leaf plates. While this is the scenario for the other state residents should also be sensible and follow the same path and stick to biodegradable dishware.
- Mattu Pongal, the third day of Pongal, is celebrated by decorating the cattle in clothes specifically made for them. While buying new clothes is an option, the much more practical way is to reuse old clothes and stitch them into a better and beautiful looking piece.
- Kannum Pongal, visiting relatives and feasting is the major part of any celebration in any part of the world, which translates to a major concern of food waste, and a lot of it at that. Because we as Indians believe in Aditi Devo Bhava and shortage of food during a feast is the biggest embarrassment to us, we make sure that food is in plentiful quantity even for the smallest of banquets. There are many organizations in almost all cities in India that receive leftover food and distribute it among the needy, so make sure you don’t let the poor souls in your city sleep on an empty stomach on the night of Pongal.
Just like attending a feast, gifting is a major part of any celebration. Us being responsible residents of the planet Earth, let’s plan on endowing a present that won’t harm the environment in any way, thus gifting the planet too. Taking the gifting scenario a notch further, you can present your host with something that might actually wake the environmentalist in them and help them contribute to the world in their own way too.
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