The Pongal or The Harvest Festival
The Pongal festival,is a four day Thanksgiving festival like the Harvest Festival and is celebrated by Tamils, that is, the people of a state called Tamil Nadu in South India. Pongal also symbolizes the departure of the Southeast monsoons as well as the reaping of the harvest ! Before the IT industry hit the country, the majority of the population of India depended on agriculture and hence, there are many agriculture related festivals in India . Pongal is one of them and basically it is a rural festival,nonetheless everyone in the city celebrate it as well,though not as elaborate as in rural areas.
This four day festival starts on January 13th and ends on Jan 16th. The first day is called 'Bhogi', where all the unwanted and old stuff are burnt in a huge Bonfire. The houses are then painted and the doors smeared with vermilion and sandal paste! Colourful garlands of leaves and flowers don the doorways of almost every home. On this day 'Bhogi' day, the Rain God is worshipped.
Milk and Rice cooked in open fire!
The 2nd Day is called Pongal which means "boiling over or spill over." Milk is allowed to boil over in a clay pot ,which signifies future prosperity for the family and this festival is dedicated to the worship of ‘Surya’, or the Sun God. A Sweet Rice Pudding which is a concoction of Rice, Moong dhal, Molaasis , Ghee, milk with dried fruits is cooked in an open fire and offered to God first, on a new banana leaf,along with certain other traditional specialties. Beside these foods, sugarcane and grain are also served! Moreover,community meals are also cooked from the freshly gathered harvest and enjoyed by the entire village!
The Colorful Cows
The third day of Pongal, "Maattu Pongal", is for the worship of the cattle. ‘Maattu’ means cow in Tamil and thus the cattle are pampered with a bath, their horns painted in bright colours and garlands of flowers are placed around their necks and many times even balloons adorn their horns!This festival is also called "Kanuum Pongal" in cities and towns where majority do not have cows at home. During this festival women pray for the welfare of their brothers !
The fourth day is called 'Thiruvalluvar Day' dedicated to a famous Tamil poet! Whereas in villages this day is known as the ‘Meat Day’ where each household has to cook meat!
The Bull Taming
The high light of these festivals is the ‘Bull Taming’ or ‘Jallikattu’ where bundles of money are tied to the horns of bulls and the villagers try to wrest the money from the horns. Of course, each year there are many deaths and many are gravely injured .The Tamil Nadu government tries to ban the sport but then, they are always pressurized to allow it to be continued as it is has been a tradition! Whereas from last year,the court has ordered that the horns of the bulls be blunted and the presence of Animal Activist mandatory!
The other highlight of the occasion is making designs with colored powders called ‘Kollam’ .These deigns are drawn outside the door of each house,with a lump of clay cradling a hibiscus flower perched in the center of the design. This is considered as a symbol of fertility.
The people greet each other with a “Happy Pongal” whereas the villagers shout “Pongallo Pongal.” That's about all in a nutshell regarding a tradition from Tamil Nadu in South India!