Monday, January 14, 2008

Ponggal - The Harvest Festival, 15 Jan '08

Pongal is a Southern Indian festival celebrated with much fanfare over 4 days. The festival is celebrated for four days and the celebrations on the first day of the Tamil month Thai and continues for the three days. The month of Thai is supposed to be very auspicious for every kind of activity. The Sun is worshipped for his rays are responsible for the life on earth.

In Hindu temples bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the joyous occasion. To symbolise a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new pots until they boil over.

Sweet rice, known as "Pongal", is cooked in a new earthenware pot at the same place where puja is to be performed. Fresh turmeric and ginger are tied around this pot. Then a delicious concoction of rice, Moong Dal, jaggery and milk are boiled in the pot on an open fire. This Pongal, according to ritual, is allowed to boil and spill out of the pot. Pongal, once ready, is offered to God first, on a new banana leaf along with other traditional delicacies like Vadas, Payasam, etc. Besides this, sugarcane, grain, sweet potatoes, etc are also offered to the Sun God. Devotees then consume the offerings to exonerate themselves of past sins.

Kolams' (Rangoli) generally drawn with rice flour are special to the occasion. The idea behind using rice flour is that the insects would feed on it and bless the household.

In rural India, Community meals are made from the freshly gathered harvest and enjoyed by the entire village.

The Pongal festival is also celebrated in
South East Asian countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and others.

Pongal Celebrations in South East Asia