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Monday, January 18, 2010

Celebrating Pongal

Pongal, is a festival of farmers to celebrate the bounty harvest of various crops by thanking the sun God Surya, the rain and the farm animals, especially the cow. The word Pongal itself means to 'spill over' symbolizing prosperity.

The festival is celebrated over four days. The first day is called Bhogi where people discard their old by burning them in large bonfires. This practise is not followed in a literal sense these days due to pollution concerns. In our family we clean up the house and enjoy the holiday..:).

Day 2 is called Thai Pongal which is when we actually celebrate elaborately.

Kolam at the house entrance

This kolam was drawn out by my mom in front of our house. The white powder is actually rice flour and is said to be food for the ants in the days before ( to some extent even now..). Women actually take great pains to draw them out and it sometimes turns into a competition of sorts. So if you ever happen to see one, try not to step on it for your own good..;)


The ritual of reciting mantras and offering flowers to the sun God drawn out underneath.


The Indian version of candles.


Pongal is also the name of the dish made on that day. Its simple to make and tastes yumm... (click here for recipe). There is also the sugar cane which is very typically used in the ceremony, but only people with rather strong teeth (not me) dare to eat the fruit directly. A huge meal is made and we gorge on it for the rest of the day.

Day 3 is Mattu Pongal which is special for all the cows as they are bathed, decorated and well fed. People commonly tease each other as being the cows of the family and specifically come and wish you on that day to pull your leg. We just follow one tradition for Mattu Pongal since its perhaps been a couple of generations since our family owned a cow.

Kanu Pidi

The kanu pidi is kept as an offering to birds and other small animals at homes. In villages, a rather violent sport of Jallikattu equivalent to the Spanish - Running of the Bull is played. It is ironical that the day that the cow is worshiped, the bulls are put to such test!

Day 4 is Kaanum Pongal where people generally visit family and friends. The entire city gets so cramped up that day as everybody is outside trying to meet somebody else.

I had such a good time this year during Pongal since I am celebrating the festival after a couple of years. I must have put on a pound just from the amount of food I ate these 4 days...:)


Orangesplaash said...

I got to know the whole pongal tradition last week from my in laws who are from Chennai, though none of us celebrate it..To me it seems similar to Diwali, because of the week long celebrations may be :) Being from north India myself, I have not got any first hand experience on pongal though diwali was something we looked forward to, again because of the holildays..
Thanks for the recipe, these days I am trying my hand at such lovely dishes, had made Dosa and Idli last week..It turned out to be good, my husband enjoyed the authentic south Indian taste :)
Here's wishing you a very happy pongal!!

~Lopa said...

I must confess here that though I am from India, i didn't know many things about this festival ! Not even the fact that it lasts for four days !

But but but... ya I did know about decorations and rangoli, and pongal dish as back home i have some south India friends, who keep sharing about puja, preparations, pictures and food :D hehe ...

Thanks for sharing this Viji :)

vinaya said...

viji,how i wish i could be there with you in chromepet!!! me, the ore J :(

come back soon!!!

thamarai said...

Orangesplaash, oh great have you been to Chennai as well? And ya we all look forward to these festivals for the holidays that they bring..:)..Dosa and Idli are the most popular in Tamil Nadu..I hope you like making Pongal as well..There is also a salt version of it called 'ven pongal' which is a common breakfast. Thanks a lot for your wishes...

Lopa, I can totally understand..even the common festivals like Diwali and Navratri are celebrated in different ways in different parts of India...So you had South India friends before? I hope you like our food..:)

Vinayaaaaa..I will see you real soon..:)

~Lopa said...

To be honest, back home i never carved for South Indian food but Ashu is a big fan of Dosa that made us visit South Indian restaurant every other day, sometimes for breakfast.

But after coming here, no i actually cook much of South Indian food, as much as once or twice a week, reason it's easy, its healthier and Ashu will not say no, not again...hehehe
My fav - Sambhar and chutneys :)

thamarai said...

Oh wow Lopa! perhaps u cook even better than me..I remember here, I made Sambhar for a Maharashtrian friend once and she was like, I can make it better than this!!! Imagine my reaction..haha..

Ya, true, Dosa is so easy to make and its healthy also..especially for light tiffins I think it works well..

Pres├ępio no Canal said...

Just lovely the candles...well, all the fotos!
I never heard about it! Thanks for sharing! One thing heel goed in blogging is this: we can learn a lot of each others culture! So nice! I really enjoy the post! Thanks, Thamarai!

thamarai said...

Presepio, very true..there is so much to share and learn...the whole experience has been wonderful!!

Aledys Ver said...

Oh wonderful! It's great to get to know about this beautiful tradition - and especially, if it's a festival where food is involved, I'm loving it! I'll check out the recipe for "pongal" ...
Thanks for sharing this, thamarai!!

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