Pongal - the festival of Harvest
Pongal is the traditional Indian harvest festival that is celebrated in the Hindu month of Megha that falls in the month of (Jan- Feb). It is time when there is a transition in the position of the sun from Dakshinayan (South) to Uttarayan (North).
How Pongal It is a rice dish, especially consumed by the people of Tamil Nadu. There are two types of pongal. One is sweet in taste which is known as Sakarai Pongal whereas other is salty which is made up of clarified butter. The sweet pongal is made up of rice which is first boiled using milk and later on with melted jaggery. It is prepared as prasadam in many temples. The other variation is made up of boiled rice, pepper and tamarind. It is consumed as a very common breakfast in Tamil Nadu. Other places where pongal is consumed are Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
Pongal is the four-day festival. First day is commemorated as 'Bhogi festival'. On this day, houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated.
Special Puja It is a prayer ritual performed to make offerings, honoring, evoking or worshipping gods. The ceremony can also be performed to pay homage to the beloved ones who are deadis performed on this day. Farmers worship the Sun God and the Mother Earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandalwood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly-harvested rice is cut.
In the evening, the bone fire is made with cow dung cakes and woods. In this fire, the old clothes and materials are thrown away into bonfire. This marks the beginning of a new life.
Second day is commemorated as ‘Surya Pongal’ festival. On this day, ladies wake up early in the morning and prepare Kolam (Rangoli) in front of the doorway. It takes around three to four hours.
After they finished with it then they started preparing the special dish known as ‘Pongal’. It is accompanied with brinjal (eggplant) sambar (stew), vadai, idli and other spicy south Indian dishes. People also prepare other savories and sweets and visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings.
Third day is commemorated as ‘Mattu Pongal’ festival. It is meant to offer thanks to the Cows and Buffaloes for helping them to have the good harvest.
On this day, farmers scrubbed and washed their cows. After that they paint their cows’ horns and then covered with shining metal caps. Not only this they decorate their cows with multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around their necks. Farmers then fed with Pongal and taken to the village centres. Devotees pay their respect to cows by bending down, like praying in temple, and touching their feet and foreheads, followed by an aarthi (showing fire to the object of praise) and offering the cattle prasadam (food offering, in this case, Pongal).
Farmers clean their cow on this day, a violent taming bull contest, called, Jallikattu is held at various places.
The last day is commemorated as ‘Kanum Pongal’. This day is celebrated as Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dhuj in that it is predominantly a festival where women offer prayers for the wellbeing of their brothers. All the women, young and old, of the house, assemble in the courtyard.
The rice is placed in the centre of the leaf while the women ask that the house and family of their brothers should prosper. Arati is performed for the brothers with turmeric water, limestone, and rice, and this water is sprinkled on the kolam in front of the house. On this day, people keep cooked rice on a banana leave for crow to eat.
Many people visit their relatives place on this day. Relatives then offer special tradition dishes prepared by them.
Many people have go out picnic and have fun and frolic.
Pongal was originally a festival for the farming community, especially for those who belong to Tamil Nadu. Today it is celebrated at many places in India by coinciding it with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north.