Pongal is the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu. It's celebrated with much enthusiasm, quite like Thanksgiving in America. The festival is an important one because much of the state relies on agriculture to generate an income.
When is Pongal Celebrated:
Pongal is celebrated on the same dates every year, at the start of the Tamil month, Thai. Pongal takes place from January 14-17, 2014. The main festivities occur on January 15.
Where is Pongal Celebrated:
How is Pongal Celebrated:
On the first day (Bhogi Pongal), houses are thoroughly cleaned an decorated. The fronts of houses are adorned with rangoli (kolam). People buy new clothes and take oil baths. During the festival, families gather to feast and dance.
Popular attractions on the third and fourth day of Pongal used to be bull fights and bird fights, particularly Jallikattu in Madurai. However, there's been a great push to outlaw such activities in recent years. What do you think? Should Jallikattu be banned?
What Rituals are Performed During Pongal:
On the main Pongal day (the second day, called Surya Pongal), the Sun God is worshiped. People also gather in their homes to cook the Pongal dish. It's offered to the Sun God during prayers, and later served for lunch.
The third day (Mattu Pongal), is dedicated to worshiping the farm animals, particularly cows -- and they're decorated for the occasion! Most farmers still use bulls, bullock carts, and antiquated traditional implement for ploughing.
On the fourth day (Kanya Pongal), birds are worshiped.
What is the Pongal Dish:
The most important part of the Pongal festival is cooking the Pongal dish. Venpongal is made with rice mixed with moong daal, and cooked with ghee, cashew nuts, raisins, and spices. There's also a sweet version of pongal called Sakkarai pongal. It's made with jaggery (a type of sugar) instead of spices.
The pongal is cooked in clay pots, on stoves made with stones and wood used as fuel. When it's almost ready, everyone shouts out "pongal o pongal".