wealthymattersPongal is a  thanksgiving festival celebrated by Tamils at the end harvest season. Pongal marks the beginning of the northward journey of the Sun from its southern most limit i.e. uttarayana. It is celebrated from January 13–16 i.e. from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi to the third day of Thai.

The first day of the celebration is called Bhogi .On this day people assemble at dawn to light a bonfire to discard old used possessions. Then the house is cleaned, painted and decorated to give it a festive look.

The first day of the month of Thai is marked as Thai Pongal. The celebration starts by decorating homes with banana and mango leaves and drawing kolams. Then at daybreak rice is boiled with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots. The rice is later topped with sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins. This tradition gives Pongal its name. Pongal means “boiling over” or “spill over”. The boiling over of milk in the clay pot symbolizes material abundance for the household.The moment the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout “Pongalo Pongal!”, introduce the first of the freshly harvested rice grain in the pot (Surya Mangalyam)and blow the sanggu ie conch. It is considered a good sign to watch the milk boil over as it connotes good luck and prosperity. The newly cooked rice dish,called pongal, is traditionally offered to the Sun God-Suriya at sunrise to demonstrate gratitude for the good harvest. It is later served to the people present in the house for the ceremony. Symbolically, Pongal signifies the warming i.e. boiling of the season as the sun travels northward towards the equinox.

A traditional Tamil saying goes:”Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum” meaning “The commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities”.Thai Pongal is seen as a day for fresh beginnings.

The third day is called Mattu Pongal. On this day farmers thank cattle for their help in farming .Cows are washed with manjalthanni (turmeric water).All the cattle are then given an oil bath and washed with shikakai-soapnut powder.Next kungumam i.e vermillion is applied to their foreheads.Their horns are painted and the animals are decked out with garlands of flowers.Then they are fed with a mixture of Venn Pongal, Jaggery,honey,fruits etc.In the evening  people make a torch out of lighted coconut leaves and run around the cattle thrice and drop yje torch at the village boundary to remove the evil eye and guard the cattle wealth. Jallikkattu or taming the wild bull is a highlight of this day.

Kanu Pidi is a tradition that the women and young girls of the house follow on this day. Women of the family place different kinds of flavoured rice, cooked vegetables, bananas and sweet pongal on a ginger or turmeric leaf and invite the crows, which descend in hordes to share and enjoy the “Kaka pidi, Kanu pidi” feast. The womem offer prayers for the well being of their brothers and  that the brother-sister ties may remain forever strong like that of the family of crows.

 The final day is celebrated as Kanu Pidi.The word kaanum means “to view”.This is a time for family reunions in Tamil Nadu. Brothers pay special tribute to their married sisters by giving gifts as affirmation of their filial love.

Landlords and rich farmers present gifts of food, clothes and money to their workforce.People visit friends and neighbours to enjoy the festive season and thank them for their support in the harvest.

In the cities this day is synonymous with people flocking to beaches and theme parks to have a day out with their families.

About Keerthika Singaravel

3 Responses to Pongal

  1. Alex Jones says:

    It seems every culture has a festival to mark the start of the season of “spring” or its equivalent.

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