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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...:)
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