How Pongal became one of the festivals I celebrate
Making our home - one festival at a time
This is my 11th year in Tamil nadu, the first 3 in the early 90s as a young woman in Salem and this stint in Coimbatore crossing 8 years. Somewhere along the way I have picked up ungrammatical but working Tamil, a love for a lot of things Tamil and in awe of how the Tamil people are so connected to their roots.
This is particularly evident during Pongal celebrations in the middle of January . Everyone who has a link to their village travels back to celebrate this agrarian festival as it has been done since decades or even centuries. The festival Pongal named after the main rice dish cooked to celebrate the bountiful harvest of the main Samba crop season spreads joy across four days. Everything comes to a standstill for four days except the festival.
A festival to celebrate the bounty of the harvest, a festival for the family to express gratitude to the cattle who are an integral part of farming, an occasion for families to relax and enjoy.
The first day of Pongal is bhogi to clean out all that is not required for a new start.Delicious, sweet sugarcane is brought home along with the bunch of koorai poo-neem and mango leaves to tie it in front. The second day of main pongal ( Surya Pongal) celebrations to pray to the sun god. This is the day the pots of Pongal spill over offering the food to the gods and the delicious ven pongal and sakkarai pongal are relished by the family.
The third day when the cattle are celebrated ( mattu pongal) bathed, decorated and fed delicacies. The fourth day for going out with family & friends, to play games, to eat variety rice preparations. It's a lot about rice and more rice, a great reason for me to fall in love with this festival.Generally not big into celebrations I have slowly got drawn into Pongal, moved by the fervour and simplicity of the celebrations, the connections to the roots that are reforged and the groundedness of it all.
My first ever Pongal in our Village, I was fed a raw rice flour ball with jaggery , which I could barely eat. Almost every year we attend the mattu pongal celebrations at one of the farms .
The only tradition ( a new one at that) we have not adopted is to set out on the fourth day to watch the new blockbuster movie of one of the reigning superstars on the big screen!Now we make Pongals at home, chomp through innumerable pieces of sugarcane, place koorai at the entrance of the home and attend mattu pongal celebrations.
We hope that the bounty of harvest will continue to bless this land and its people and its ancient culture , a land we are slowly making our home- one festival at a time. Pongal o pongal !