India celebrates Pongal

Women celebrate `Pongal` at Dharavi in Mumbai on Jan.14, 2015.
Women celebrate `Pongal` at Dharavi in Mumbai on Jan.14, 2015.

The harvest festival of Pongal was celebrated by people of Tamil Nadu in the traditional manner – by getting up early, donning new clothes and visiting temples.

The Pongal festival is celebrated to thank the sun, rain and farm animals.

The aroma of ghee-fried cashews, almonds and cardamom wafted through from homes as the traditional dish of rice, jaggery and Bengal gram was made.

As the ingredients of Chakarai Pongal boil in milk, people called out ‘Pongolo Pongal, Pongolo Pongal’.

The mud pot or stainless steel container in which the dish is cooked is decorated by tying up ginger, turmeric, sugarcane piece and banana at the neck.

The Pongal dish is offered to the Sun god as thanksgiving and eaten as ‘prasad’. It is made at the auspicious time and in some homes conches are blown prior to the formal offering.

People exchanged greetings and Chakarai Pongal with their neighbours.

The Pongal festivities take place over four days, the first day being Bhogi, which was Wednesday when people burn their old clothes, mats and other items. Coats of new paints are applied to walls of homes.

The second day is the main Pongal festival celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Thai Thursday.

In villages, the sweet pongal is cooked in the open ground.

The third day is the Mattu Pongal when bulls and cows are bathed and their horns painted and the cattle worshipped as they play an important role in farms.

Women feed the birds with coloured rice and pray for the welfare of their brothers.

The fourth day is the Kannum Pongal – the day to go out and meet relatives and friends, and go sightseeing.