Tag Archives: T.V. Antony Raj

Mattu Pongal, the Third Day of the Four-day Harvest Festival of South India.


By T. V. Antony Raj



To mark the end of the harvest season, the Tamils in Tamilnadu, Puducherry, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia, celebrate the festival called Pongal (பொங்கல்) or Thai Pongal(தைப்பொங்கல்). The farmers in these regions thank the Sun, the principal energizer that helps to reap a bountiful harvest.

In Tamilnadu and Puducherry,  Pongal is a four-day festival comprising Bhogi Pandigai, Thai Pongal, Maatu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal. The Pongal festivities begin on the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi and culminates on the third day of the Tamil month Thai (January 13 to January 16 in the Gregorian calendar).


Maattu Pongal (Source: happy-2013.blogspot.com)
Maattu Pongal (Source: happy-2013.blogspot.com)


Cattle are important and are a form of wealth to people living in rural areas all over the world.




In Hinduism, the bull Nandi is the mount (Vahana), attendant (gana) of the god  Shiva, and also the gatekeeper-deity of Kailashagiri, the abode of Shiva. According to a legend linked to Mattu Pongal, Shiva sent Nandi from the heavens to earth to deliver his message to the people on earth that they should have an oil bath every day and eat once a month. Nandi inadvertently advised delivered the message that people should take an oil bath once a month and eat every day. When Shiva came to know of his message related to food delivered wrongly, he was annoyed and in a fit of rage, banished Nandi to earth to live permanently among the farmers and help them to produce the extra food crops needed for the people to eat every day.

The rural folks in Tamilnadu and the Tamils in Sri Lanka dedicate the third day of the four-day-long Pongal festivities to their cattle and call it Maattu Pongal (மாட்டுப் பொங்கல்).  Though the name Maattu Pongal seems specific to Tamil Nadu, it is also celebrated in other southern states such as Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

According to the Gregorian calendar, Maattu Pongal is celebrated on January 15, the second day of the Tamil month Thai ((தை ).   


Maattu Pongal (Source - tamilrasigan.wordpress.com)


The rural folk show their affection towards their cattle by applying kungumam (kumkum) on their cattle’s foreheads and garlanding them. They then feed their cattle with a mixture of venn pongal (sweetened rice), jaggery, banana, sugar cane and other fruits.


The sport of Jallikkattu (bull embracing)


Youths trying to tame a bull at a jallikattu held at Idaiyathur, near Ponnamaravathy, in Pudukottai district, Tamilnadu, India (Source - thehindu.com)
Youths trying to tame a bull at a Jallikattu held at Idaiyathur, near Ponnamaravathy, in Pudukottai district, Tamilnadu, India (Source – thehindu.com)


In many parts of Tamilnadu, the youths take part in the adventurous ancient sport of Jallikkattu (or sallikattu), also known as Manju virattu (chasing the bull), and eru thazhuvatal (bull embracing) to celebrate Mattu Pongal.

Proof of Jallikattu, as an ancient sport of Tamil Nadu, has been corroborated from rock paintings of ‘bull chasing sport’ discovered on massive rock surfaces at Karikkiyur in Nilgiris in Tamil Nadu, which are dated between 2,000 B.C. and 1,500 B.C.

Initially, and were a mild form of sport in the in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, particularly in Madurai, Tiruchirapalli and Tanjavur.

The sport was held in the afternoon or evening of the Mattu Pongal day. After worshipping and feeding the bulls in the morning, their owners tied money in the form of coins or notes on the horns of the bulls and let them loose among the crowd. Young boys chased and lassoed the bulls to retrieve the money tied to their horns.

Nayak dynasties emerged after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire. During the Nayak rule in Tamil Nadu, this traditional harmless bull-chasing sport transformed into the present form of Jallikattu, which is a bloodier bull-wrestling sport.

Nowadays, ferocious Bos indicus or Bos taurus indicus bulls, also known as indicine cattle or humped cattle, characterised by a fatty hump on their shoulders such as the Pulikulam or Kangayam breeds are selected, trained, and released into a crowd of people. The youngsters to exhibit their valour endeavour to subjugate the bulls by attempting to grab the large hump on the bull’s back with both arms and hang on to it attempting to bring the bull to a stop while it tries to escape. Participants who hold the hump for a long period are declared winners.




Triple Talaq


By T. V. Antony Raj


Quran 2-229 in Arabic

In Islam marriage is considered as an extremely desirable institution, hence its conception of marriage as the rule of life, and divorce only as an exception to that rule. According to a Hadith, Prophet Muhammad said, “Marriage is one of my Sunnah (way). One who does not follow it does not belong to me.” (Ibn Majah, Sunan, Kitab an-Nikah.)

The disintegration of a family has an injurious effect on the society. If the family no longer exists, the whole of humanity suffers.

Nature demands that men and women lead their lives together. According to the Sharia, or Islamic religious law which forms a part of the Islamic tradition, the ideal way of leading such a life is within the bonds of marriage.

In Islam, marriage is both a highly sacred bond to which great religious and social importance is attached and a civil contract entered into by mutual consent of the bride and groom.

The state of marriage lays the foundations for family life. Once a man and a woman are tied together in the bonds of matrimony, they are expected to do their utmost, till the day they die to honour and uphold what the Qur’an (4:20-21) calls their firm contract, or pledge.

وَإِنْ أَرَدتُّمُ اسْتِبْدَالَ زَوْجٍ مَّكَانَ زَوْجٍ وَآتَيْتُمْ إِحْدَاهُنَّ قِنطَارًا فَلَا تَأْخُذُوا مِنْهُ شَيْئًا ۚ أَتَأْخُذُونَهُ بُهْتَانًا وَإِثْمًا مُّبِينًا – 4:20
But if you want to replace one wife with another and you have given one of them a great amount [in gifts], do not take [back] from it anything. Would you take it in injustice and manifest sin?

وَكَيْفَ تَأْخُذُونَهُ وَقَدْ أَفْضَىٰ بَعْضُكُمْ إِلَىٰ بَعْضٍ وَأَخَذْنَ مِنكُم مِّيثَاقًا غَلِيظًا – 4:21
And how could you take it while you have gone in unto each other and they have taken from you a solemn covenant?

To this end, the full thrust of the Sharia Law is levelled at preventing the occurrence of divorce and exists primarily, as checks and not incentives.

All men and women are by nature quite different from each other, biologically. It is an accepted fact that everyone, man or woman, has strengths and weaknesses. This is equally true of husbands and wives. So, when a man and a woman are enjoined to live together as husband and wife, naturally they would have their differences.

Unity can be achieved only through patience and tolerance. According to Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet said, “No believing man should bear any grudge against a believing woman. If one of her ways is not to his liking, there must be many things about her that would please him. “ (Muslim, Sahih, Kitab ar-Rada’, 2/1091)

So, in a marriage, each partner should consciously recognize the plus points of the other and ignore the minus points. Nevertheless, in a few cases, unpleasantness crops up gradually increasing the friction between a husband and his wife preventing them from arriving at a just settlement of their differences reaching a stage of desperation that they become intent on divorce.

In such a situation, the Sharia Law gives them guidance by prescribing a specific method for separation.

The Qur’an (2:229) expresses it thus:

الطَّلَاقُ مَرَّتَانِ ۖ فَإِمْسَاكٌ بِمَعْرُوفٍ أَوْ تَسْرِيحٌ بِإِحْسَانٍ ۗ وَلَا يَحِلُّ لَكُمْ أَن تَأْخُذُوا مِمَّا آتَيْتُمُوهُنَّ شَيْئًا إِلَّا أَن يَخَافَا أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ ۖ فَإِنْ خِفْتُمْ أَلَّا يُقِيمَا حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَلَا جُنَاحَ عَلَيْهِمَا فِيمَا افْتَدَتْ بِهِ ۗ تِلْكَ حُدُودُ اللَّهِ فَلَا تَعْتَدُوهَا ۚ وَمَن يَتَعَدَّ حُدُودَ اللَّهِ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الظَّالِمُونَ – 2:229
“Divorce may be pronounced twice, then a woman must be retained in honour or allowed to go with kindness.” (Qur’an, 2:229)

From this verse, we understand that once a man gives notice of divorce to his wife (not menstruating at that time) by pronouncing twice, “I divorce you,” both are expected to think the situation over a period of two months and should remember God before giving notice a third time. If the husband has a change of opinion during this period, he can withdraw his words and he should keep his spouse with him in a spirit of goodwill. On the other hand, if he still wants to divorce her, he will say again, “I divorce you,” to his wife (not menstruating at that time) and they must again review the situation for a further month. During that period, if the husband has had a change of heart, he has the right to revoke the proceedings. If at the end of the third month he does not change his mind and does not revoke the proceedings then the divorce becomes final and the man ceases to have any right to revoke it. Now he is obliged to part with his wife in a spirit of goodwill, does no injustice to her, and gives her full rights.

This prescribed method of divorce has ensured that it is a well-considered, planned arrangement and not just a rash step taken in a fit of emotion. When we remember that in most cases, divorce is the result of a fit of anger, we realize that the prescribed method places a tremendous curb on divorce. It takes into account that anger never lasts and tempers cool down after some time.

Those who feel like divorcing their wives in a fit of anger will certainly repent their emotional outburst and will wish to withdraw from the predicament it has put them in. It also takes into account that divorce is a not a simple matter: it amounts to the breaking up of the home and destroying the children’s future. It is only when tempers have cooled down that the dire consequences of divorce are realized, and the necessity to revoke the decision becomes clear.

When a man marries a woman, he has to say only once that he accepts her as his spouse. But for finalizing a divorce three utterances are required, and the Qur’an enjoins a long gap of the three-month period for formalizing it. The purpose of this gap is to give the husband enough time to revise his decision and to consult the well-wishers around him. It also allows time for relatives to intervene in the hopes of persuading both husband and wife to avoid a divorce. Without this gap, none of these things could be achieved. That is why divorce proceedings have to be spread out over a long period of time.

All these preventive measures clearly allow frayed tempers to cool, so that the divorce proceedings need not reach a stage that is irreversible. Divorce, after all, has no saving graces, particularly in respect of its consequences. It simply amounts to rid oneself of one set of problems only to become embroiled in another set of problems.

Despite all such preventive measures, it does sometimes happen that a man acts in ignorance, or is rendered incapable of thinking coolly by a fit of anger. Then on a single occasion, in a burst of temper, he utters the word “divorce” three times in a row, “talaq, talaq, talaq!”

Such incidents, which took place in the Prophet’s lifetime, still take place even today. Now the question arises as to how the would-be divorcer should be treated. Should his three utterances of talaq be treated as only one, and should he then be asked to extend his decision over a three-month period? Or should his three utterances of talaq on a single occasion be equated with the three utterances of talaq made separately over a three-month period?

There is a Hadith recorded by Imam Abu Dawud and several other traditionists which can give us guidance in this matter: Rukana ibn Abu Yazid said “talaq” to his wife three times on a single occasion. Then he was extremely sad at the step he had taken. The Prophet asked him exactly how he had divorced her. He replied that he had said “talaq” to her three times in a row. The Prophet then observed, “All three count as only one. If you want, you may revoke it.” (Fath al-Bari, 9/275)

A man may say, “talaq” to his wife three times in a row, in contravention of the Sharia’s prescribed method, thereby committing a sin, but if he was known to be in an emotionally overwrought state at the time his act may be considered a mere absurdity arising from human weakness. His three utterances of the word talaq may be taken as an expression of the intensity of his emotions and thus the equivalent of only one such utterance. He is likely to be told that, having transgressed a Sharia Law, he must seek God’s forgiveness, must regard his three utterances as only one, and must take a full three months to arrive at his final decision.

On Tuesday, August 22, 2017, in a landmark judgement, a five-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, Kurian Joseph, Rohinton Fali Norman, Uday Umesh Lalit and Abdul Nazeer struck down the practice of Triple Talaq declaring it as unconstitutional on the grounds that it goes against the Sharia Law and the basic tenets of the Quran.


Tahir Mahmood, a noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities (thequint.com)


The Quint spoke to noted Muslim jurist and former chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Tahir Mahmood, on the obscurity of the debate surrounding triple talaq. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

“If we go strictly by the teachings of the Holy Quran or by the teachings of the Prophet, it is one of the best laws that humankind can have. This law is about 1,500 years old. It is a wonder that we had such a progressive law at that time.

In 7th century AD, Prophet Mohammad gave inheritance rights to women. We did not have equal rights for men and women, but the law provided for at least half the share to be given to the wife, the daughter, granddaughter, the mother, or even distant relatives. This would’ve been inconceivable anywhere else in the 7th century. That was one progressive aspect of it.

But the law as written in the holy book of Quran is very different from what is in practice. The world has no time to look at what the Quran says. Muslims all over the world go by what the community dictates, not by Quranic text.

The practice of triple talaq is most un-Islamic, most un-Quranic. Even if it’s single talaq, the result will be the same. What is being objected to, in the name of triple divorce, is the practice of Muslim men unilaterally divorcing their wives without following the procedure laid down in the Quran.

Triple divorce is a misnomer. The problem is unilateral divorce. The divorce laws are very comprehensive, but no one, including the maulavis, is following the religious text. The law is not just being implemented wrong, its interpretation is being completely distorted. The judiciary is the only means to correct this. There is no other way.”

To read more of the interview click this link:



Sharia (en.wikipedia.org)

What is meaning of triple talaq (quora.com)

To Ban Triple Talaq, We Must Stop Talking About UCC: Tahir Mahmood (thequint.com)

What is ‘triple talaq’ or instant divorce? ( aljazeera.com)

Nikah, Nikahnama and Talaq: Why understanding it is essential by Rana Safvi (shethepeople.tv)

Arrack, the Spirit of Sri Lanka!

By T. V. Antony Raj


Marco Polo in his 13th-century travelogue, “Il Milione“, commented about Arrack, the wonderful spirit, documenting it as a legendary beverage forever, and the predecessor to nearly every new world spirit.


Variations abound, but the purest, single-ingredient spirit remains exclusively handcrafted in the island nation of Sri Lanka, where the country’s oldest and most prestigious distilleries distill Premium, Old and Very Special Old Arrack (VSOA).

700 years of knowledge handed down from generations of master artisans, makes VSOA a spirit unique to the island. Premiere blends of handcrafted refined single and double-distilled spirits stored in Halmilla wood barrels are allowed to mellow for 2 years.

Mendis Ceylon Arrack

Have you tried DCSL VSOA, WHITE LION VSOA, Mendis Special, or IDL OLD ARRACK? If not, I would say you do not have any knowledge or respect for old age!

Chanakya’s advice to Chitragupta!


By T. V. Antony Raj


Varalakshmi Vratham Pooja (Source: blog.buzzintown.com)
Varalakshmi Vratham Pooja (Source: blog.buzzintown.com)


Every year, the married Hindu women in the southern states of India undertake the Varalakshmi Vratam. It is a pooja (a prayer ritual) to honour and worship goddess Varalakshmi, the granter of boons (Varam). Varalakshmi Vratam falls on the Second Friday or the Friday before Poornima (full moon day) in the month of Śravaṇā, also called Śawan in Hindi and Aadi in Tamil, corresponding to the Gregorian months of July–August.

Last Friday, my wife on invitation attended the Varalakshmi Vratam celebration at three houses of our Hindu neighbours.

This brings to my mind an apocryphal yarn about Chanakya and his advice to Chitragupta, the Hindu god who keeps complete records of actions of all human beings on earth and decides whether to send them to heaven or to hell after their mortal death.


Chankaya (Source: religion.bhaskar.com)
Chanakya (Source: religion.bhaskar.com)


Chanakya, traditionally identified as Kauṭilya or Vishnu Gupta was a teacher, philosopher, economist, jurist and royal advisor to Chandragupta, the first Mauryan emperor. He authored the Arthashastra, the ancient Indian political treatise.

In Hinduism, the cosmic functions of creation, maintenance, and destruction cum transformation are personified as a triad of deities, namely Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva respectively.

Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi noticed that every woman in the course of the Vratam prayed to the goddess to grant her the boon of getting married to her present husband in the next seven incarnations.

Chitragupta also heard the men pray for a new wife in each and every future incarnation!

Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi were perturbed.

So, they approached the four-faced Brahma, the creator deity, for advice.

Brahma: “The wish of these women are laudable! So, what is the problem? “

Chitragupta: “Lord, every woman wants her present husband to be reborn and marry only her in her next seven incarnations, but all men want a new wife in each and every future incarnation!”

Brahma: “Yes. It is a real dilemma indeed!”

Chitragupta: “Lord, what are we to do?”

Brahma thought for a while and said: “Go to Earth and seek the advice of Chanakya, the wise man.”

Chitragupta and goddess Varalakshmi appeared before Chanakya. After relating the problem they asked the scholar for a solution.

Chanakya smiled at them and said: “This is not a problem at all. Tell those silly women that if they want their present husband to be theirs for the next seven incarnations then they will have to accept their current mother-in-law too to be theirs for the next seven incarnations!”





The Story of the Little Firefighter – Frank “Bopsy” Salazar



By T. V. Antony Raj


As his mother, it was very meaningful to me that people who didn’t know us stepped forward to be in Bopsy’s life.” – Octaviana Trujillo, Mother of Frank “Bopsy” Salazar

Note: This story is in circulation through emails since February 2001. In most of the versions the boy is fictitiously named “Billy” instead of using his real name – Frank “Bopsy” Salazar. This story is relatively true. 

Octaviana Trujillo, 26, sadly stared down at her 7-year-old dying son. Like all mothers, Octaviana too wanted her son to grow up and fulfil all his dreams. But leukaemia would not allow him to live long enough.

In 1981, in Phoenix, Arizona, doctors diagnosed Frank “Bopsy” Salazar as having terminal leukaemia.

Octaviana clasped her son’s hand and asked, “Bopsy, did you ever think about what you wanted to be once you grew up? Did you ever dream and wish what you would do with your life?”

Bopsy replied, “Mommy, I want to be a firefighter; I want to go up in a balloon; I want to go to Disneyland. “

She smiled back and said, “Let’s see if we can make your wish come true.”

Later that day, she went to her local fire Department in Phoenix. She explained her son’s last wish and asked if it might be possible to give her little son a ride around the block on a fire engine.

The Chief said, “Madam, we can do better than that. We’ll make him an honorary Fireman for the day. He can come down to the fire station, eat with us, go out on all the fire calls, the whole nine yards!”

The Chief’s reply enthralled Octaviana.

The Fire Chief decided that the Phoenix Fire Department should make sure the dying boy had an experience truly befitting a fireman.

“And if you’ll give us his sizes, we’ll get a real fire uniform for him,” the Chief added.

The first wish-granting team started with the Phoenix Fire Department.

A full uniform, complete with a yellow coat and a helmet, was custom-made for him.

A few days later the Fire Chief picked up Bopsy, dressed him in his uniform, and escorted him from the hospital to the waiting hook and ladder truck.

The 7-year-old  got into the truck. He was in heaven. Bopsy scrambled around the back of Engine 9’s ladder truck, turned on the horn.

The boy went out with the firefighters. He rode in different fire engines, the Paramedic’s van, and even the fire chief’s car; and he doused a few cars with water from a 75-pound hose.

At the end of the day, the Phoenix Fire Department made Bopsy the first honorary fireman in Phoenix history and pinned him an official firefighter’s badge.

There was more to come. Media coverage of Bopsy’s first wish made others want to help, and more offers came in from people eager to lift the little boy’s spirits.

Hot-air balloon pilots and owners Chris and Bob Pearce took Bopsy on an unforgettable ride in their balloon that gave him a bird’s-eye view of Phoenix.

Next, the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim created a special day complete with private tours, meals, gifts and more just for Bopsy. In Anaheim, they treated him with every courtesy a visiting fireman could wish for from his Southern California colleagues. They chauffeured him to and from the Los Angeles airport in a fire truck, and two of his fellow firefighters from the Anaheim Fire Department escorted him around the park.

Having his dream come true, with all the love and attention that was lavished upon him, Bopsy lived three months longer than the doctors thought possible.

One night, after Bopsy returned to the hospital after his trip to Disneyland, he became critically ill. The head nurse, who believed in the hospice concept – that no one should die alone, began to call the family members to the hospital.

Remembering the day Bopsy had spent as a Fireman, she called the Fire Chief and asked if it would be possible to send a fireman in uniform to the hospital to be with Bopsy as he made his transition.

The Chief replied, “We can do better than that. We’ll be there in five minutes. Will you please do us a favor?”

The nurse said, “Sure. What do you want me to do?”

The Chief said, “Please keep the window to his room open.”

Five minutes later a hook and ladder truck arrived at the hospital and extended its ladder up to Bopsy’s third-floor open window. Five of his fellow Phoenix firefighters climbed through using the ladder. Bopsy shared a few laughs with his friends.

Before going back to sleep Bopsy looked up at the Fire Chief and asked, “Chief, am I really a fireman now?”

“Yes. You are,” the Chief said.

Later that evening, Bopsy passed away peacefully with his fondest wishes come true.

Frank “Bopsy” Salazar – Make-A-Wish Foundation’s first OFFICIAL wish kid.
Photo of Wishchild

Getting a handle
on firefighting

Photo of Wishchild

Soaring over

Photo of Wishchild

Getting goofy at

Add this anywhere