HAPPY PONGAL to all my readers!
This is the harvest festival celebrated all over the country.
In the South: Four days are dedicated to the celebration of Pongal in South India, especially Tamil Nadu. The celebration is at the maximum in the villages and towns where farmers live.
Day One is called Bogi Pandigai when all old and unwanted stuff that has accumulated while cleaning up the house are burnt in a huge fire early in the morning. A special brunch is prepared and the family gets together and eat it after prayers.
Day Two is Pongal (Makar Sankranti), the day dedicated specially to the Sun God or Surya Bhagavan. It is to thank the Sun for the role he plays in agriculture – how he shines and brings forth the rains on time. Freshly harvested rice is combined with fresh moong dal (பயத்தம் பருப்பு) and along with fresh jaggery, ghee and cardamom, Sweet Pongal (சர்க்கரை பொங்கல்) is prepared as prasadam. The villagers usually get together and prepare this together in the village square or in a temple compound. Freshly harvested sugarcane is also served as prasadam.
Day Three called Mattu Pongal is set aside for the domestic animals that help out in the farms, namely cows and bulls. The morning begins with feeding the crows with a feast consisting of rice coloured with haldi and kumkum, sweet pongal and curd rice with pieces of sugar cane thrown in. Then a special lunch consisting of mixed rice such as புளியோதரை (Tamarind Rice), தேங்காய் சாதம் (Coconut Rice) and அவியல் (A mix of vegetables in coconut gravy) are prepared for lunch along with fried vadams and pappadams. Those who have cows at home, decorate their horns, put garlands on their necks and worship them. Jallikattu - ஜல்லிக்கட்டு (Bull fight) is a form of sport that happens in the villages. It is a form of sport that has been followed over many centuries in the South of India. Unlike the Spanish bull fights, neither the humans nor animals are harmed, weapons are not used and there is always help at hand.
Day Four - The final day is all about going on a picnic. The villagers set out in their bullock carts. They deck up in finery while the carts and bullocks are also decorated beautifully and they set out for a long ride to a river or lake nearby and spend the day there relaxing under the shade of trees and playing games. They carry lunch baskets along with them that they get together and eat with great merriment. A well-deserved break indeed to the farmer and his family!
In the North: The festival is called Makar Sankranti and is celebrated in gratitude of a good harvest. Til-gud – a sweet made of sesame and jaggery – is a very important ingredient of the fest. Both items give warmth to the person eating them and are therefore ideal for the winter season. Then there is the flying of exotic kites that is followed especially in towns and villages.