The Festival of Pongal

If you happen to be in Tamil Nadu in southeast India in mid-January, there’s a special treat in store! You will be able to witness one of the most celebrated festivals in South India Pongal. Like Uttarayan, the festival celebrates the first harvest of rice and is a thanksgiving to the Sun God for future prosperity.  
Handmade designs made with rice flour during Pongal
Intricate Kolam designs to adorn the entrance of homes during Pongal
During the festival, a lot of effort is put into decorating homes. A visitor will be fascinated by the intricate designs (kolam) made using rice flour to decorate the entrances of homes. The saying goes that the ants who eat it bless the residents of the house. Mango leaves are also strung together and used as decorative door hangings and are considered especially auspicious. During these festival days, men and women can be seen in the traditional wear men in dhotis and women in colorful sarees. Pongal, the star attraction of this holiday, is a sweet dish made with rice from the first harvest, milk, ghee (clarified butter) and jaggery. To this day, it is cooked in the same way as it was centuries ago, on a wood fire in decorated earthenware. In villages, it is cooked outside homes as an offering to the sun and fed to farm hands. In cities like Chennai, people may cook inside their homes and bring the Pongal to the verandah and offer it to visitors. Milk boiling over while cooking the dish is considered auspicious as it means the household has been blessed by God. The second day of festivities is called Mattu Pongal and celebrates the cattle which help the farmers to plough their fields. While cows are worshiped, villagers organize Jallikattu or bull racing. This sport was banned four years ago but is expected to be revived again.  

Do you like timing your travel so you can participate in local festivities? Would you like to know more about the different festivals of India? Check out this nifty calendar…

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