Pongal Festival also called Uzhavar Thirunaal (Farmer’s Day) is a widely celebrated South Indian Festival which is the first day of the Tami month ‘Thai’ (January). There are a host of traditions that accompany the festivities of this day. Residents of rural parts of South India, especially farming communities celebrate with elaborate arrangements.
Let’s take a look at the main traditional practices of the day.
The day before Pongal is called boghi and people clean their homes and burn all unwanted and useless items. Many even paint their homes and prepare themselves for the festivities. A cloud of smoke can be seen everywhere in the early hours of the morning on this day.
The entire household wakes up early on pongal day and after having a bath and wearing their new clothes, the women of the household busy themselves, cleaning their doorstep and decorating it with colorful Pongal Kolam (Rangoli).
Once the doorstep is neat and brightly decorated with a special Kolam showing pongal pots and sugarcane, a stove is placed and lighted. Next a decorated pot called Pongal Paanai, is placed on the stove and milk and rice are allowed to boil in this.
Sugarcane is an integral part of the celebration. It is the produce of the harvest season and is displayed outside the home, sometimes tied to the doorpost.
The Pongal Chant
The ingredients in the pot cook and are purposely allowed to flow out of the Pongal Paanai. When this happens, everyone chants together ‘Pongal O Pongal’. The festival is on in full swing now.
This is followed by worship rituals and the freshly made pongal along with the sugarcane is offered to Hindu deities.
The women then busy themselves making a variety of goodies for the family and friends. Everyone is served the Pongal that is made along with traditional South Indian Food that includes Vadai, Payasam and sweets.
Pongal greetings and wishes are shared with one and all after these rituals are carried out. Though Pongal festival is of utmost importance to the farming community, all Tamilians, even those living in cities with no association with agriculture celebrate Pongal.
Here is a book that details the traditions of Pongal Festival.
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