Pongal and Pongala

It so happened that I traveled to Thrissur early this week for some work and learned from my friend that this young potter had restarted his pottery workshop after learning with a famous potter/artist in Kerala. He makes his pots from red soil combined with sand and uses filtered red soil for applying the finishing coat and fires it in his wood kiln. Unlike many conventional potters who use other chemical colors to give a bright red hue to the pot.

I just thought that I will pick up a few pots since Pongal is coming up. He normally does design pottery, but this being Pongala season in Kerala, he is frenetically making these small pots to supply to the temples. Pongala is the annual festival associated with Devi temples, mostly in Southern Kerala, where women devotees prepare pongal at the temple precincts or nearby and offer to the deity.

The most famous pongala festival is held in March at Attukal Devi Temple in Trivandrum, my hometown. The Pongala has become so big that women set up their wood stoves on roadsides, yards, shop fronts several kilometers from the temple to make the offering. It has entered the Guinness book of records for being the largest congregation of women anywhere in the world with  25 lakh women gathering to offer Pongala to the goddess. The state and citizen volunteers come together and the city provides all amenities to the women, many autos ply free, water is provided everywhere, many households near the temple allow the women to set up their stoves in their yards, the city cleaning staff come out in complete strength to clear up the city the same day. This is also a zero waste festival with no plastic allowed anywhere and all waste being segregated and cleared within hours of the end of the offering.

Are your mann kalams ready to use? And use instructions

We have done the water filling test to check if the pot leaks, but haven’t seasoned it. Since this is for the festival we thought you might want to do it yourself. Please boil water in which rice has been washed or Kanji water in the pot on a low fire, rinse the pot and apply oil inside. Generally with clay and stone vessels kindly use non-toxic cleaners as these porous surfaces can absorb these materials.

Kindly use the mud vessels on low fire, preferably use the smallest burner on the stove and start on low fire, don’t let the water dry up and burn, this could lead to the pot cracking, in addition to charring the food. These pots are fragile and need to be handled gently and used carefully.


January 10th, 2018

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