India is a land of diverse cultures. So naturally we celebrate a variety of festivals all year round. Thanks to our agricultural economy, we have a lot of harvest festivals too in different seasons. Just like people in the north India celebrate Lohri and Makar Sankranti in January, Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal.
Pongal is a 4-day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu in the month of January. This is the time when crops like rice, sugarcane, turmeric etc. are harvested in the state.
The festival as such marks the beginning of the harvest season and signals the start of the sun’s six-month journey towards the North and is celebrated with good and delicious food.
The word ‘Pongal’ is derived from the Tamil word ‘Pong’ meaning ‘to boil’ or ‘spill over’. It is associated with the practice of boiling rice.
Pongal is also the name of the famous dish prepared with boiled rice and lentils during the festive season.
The festival of Pongal is spread over 4 days and each day has its own significance, customs, and rituals.
The first day is celebrated as Bhogi Pongal. On this day, people try to get rid of all the useless items in their homes and clean it up for the festivities.
Homes are adorned with floor designs made with a white paste of rice and outlined with mud. They burned bonfires, dance and sing around it and it’s a tradition to burn all unwanted items in the fire.
The second day is celebrated as Surya Pongal or Thai Pongal. It is a custom to boil rice with lentils first thing in the morning in an earthen pot which has a turmeric plant tied to it. The Pongal once prepared is first offered to the Gods, then to the cattle, and then distributed among everyone.
People wear new clothes on this day.
The third day is celebrated as Mattu Pongal. This day is dedicated to worshipping the cattle.
The popular cattle sport – Jallikattu is also organised on this day.
The fourth day is called Kaanum Pongal and it marks the end of the festivities.
It is a custom to prepare sweet pongal on this day and keep it on a banana leaf as offering to birds.
Since Pongal is all about food and new beginnings, let’s have a look at the delicacies people love to enjoy.
This is the same dish prepared in Maharashtra on the occasion of Gudi Padwa. Sweet and spicy lentil mixture is stuffed into dough and rolled to make crispy snack.
This traditional dish is prepared with rice, dal, and ghee. Different variations of Pongal are prepared during the festivals.
This version of pongal is made of rice, milk, moong dal, jaggery, and ghee. Apart from being a traditional preparation of the festival, is also a popular breakfast dish.
This is snack made with urad dal.
This is a sambar preparation using seven seasonal vegetables – broad beans, pumpkin, ash gourd, potato, raw banana, sweet potato, and lima beans.
Happy Pongal to everyone. Stay safe while you celebrate the festival.