Bhogi is the first day of the four-day Pongal festival. According to the Gregorian calendar it is normally celebrated on 13 January but sometimes on 14 January.
It is a grand festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. As part of the festival, people discard old and derelict things and welcome new things. This leads to change and transformation. People get dressed in beautiful costumes at dawn and lit a bonfire with logs of wood and wooden furniture at home that are no longer useful. It acts like cigarettes to the earth. This year also Bhogi was celebrated with great enthusiasm. Consequently, people woke up to smog that leads to choking. People also had to face delay in flight services in and out of Chennai. About 10 flights were diverted from the Chennai airport to Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Bengaluru, leading to no flights after 3:30 AM. The poor visibility caused an accident on the Chennai-Tambaram bypass road with two cars crashing into a container lorry. The air quality was found to be 3-4 times above the standards prescribed by the Ministry of Environment and Forests. As a result, the elderly people, pregnant and the ones with respiratory diseases were advised to avoid outdoor activity. Additionally, the government also launched regular awareness campaigns ahead of Bhogi. It is important for the society to realize that Pongal is a festival of health and happiness, but unfortunately, the present day’s air quality levels, on the onset of festivities, contradicts the same.
By: Anuja Arora