Harvest is a time of joy, prosperity and gratitude in rural India where agriculture is the main source of income for several thousands of farmers. South Indians in the state of Tamil Nadu observe a four day long harvest festival called Pongal during the month of January to express their gratitude for the bountiful produce gathered in the harvest cycle.
This traditional practice is not confined to rural areas alone. Even in the capital Chennai and other developed cities in the State, grand Pongal Festival celebrations are observed. This is because Pongal is a deeply ingrained aspect of Tamil Culture. Pongal is the first day of the Tamil month íThaií. An old adage in Tamil says íThai peranthaal vazhi perakumí meaning the month of Thai ushers in a new way or makes a way out.
The day before Pongal is called Bohgi and on this day people clean their homes and bring out the unwanted items. Many even white wash their homes and clean up entirely. The waste thrown out of the house is burnt in heaps in the early hours of the morning on Boghi as a preparation for the celebration on the next day.
The following day that sees the dawn of the first day of the auspicious Tamil month Thai is called Thai Pongal and is celebrated with colorful rangoli, worship rituals, traditional decorations and festive food of which Pongal tops the list.
The next day is special too. Most rural dwellers have at least one cow to give milk and very often excess milk sold to customers becomes the primary income for the entire household. Size of these enterprises varies yet all of them believe in expressing their gratitude to the animals (both cows and bulls) that form the basis of their livelihood. So the day after Thai Pongal is celebrated as Maatu Pongal (Maadu means cow in Tamil). Jallikattu which is the Indian Bull Taming Sport is one of the highlights of this dayís festivities.
The last day of Pongal is not to be left out. On this day, people visit their family, friends and most often go on excursion trips as large groups to enjoy the day. Referred to as Kaanum Pongal (Kaanum means sees or meets) or more recently Thiruvalluvarís Day, this is the last day of the Pongal festivities. In some rural areas it is a custom for young teenage and unmarried girls of the town or village to wear their best and assemble in local temples to make and serve pongal along with several worship rituals.
With these four days the grand Pongal festival draws to an end. After Diwali, this is the most popular festival of South India.
Here is a book that details the traditions of Pongal Festival.
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