Tamilians geared up to celebrate Pongal

Friday, January 14, 2011

CHENNAI - Tamilians across the world are gearing up to celebrate the Pongal festival Saturday.

The harvest festival is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai and is hence also known as Thai Pongal.

The Pongal festival is spread over four days with the first day being Bhogi when people clean their homes, burn the old items so as to start the new month with fresh hopes and new materials.

Cooking the “chakarai pongal” (sweet pongal - rice cooked with jaggery and milk) is an important element of the festivities. The food is then dedicated to the Sun god.

“Drawing a picture of the Sun using rice powder (Kollam - Rangoli) is another highlight. People also tie a piece of sugarcane, turmeric and ginger along with their leaves around the neck of a milk pot. The milk is then boiled until it spills over,” Shanthi Rangaraj, a housewife, told IANS.

“Once the milk boils over the family gathers around it, clang metal plates and welcomes the festival, chanting “Pongalooo Pongal,” she explained.

In villages the sweet pongal is cooked in the open ground.

The third day is the Mattu Pongal when bulls and cows are bathed and their horns painted and worshipped as they play an important role in farms. Women feed the birds with coloured rice and pray for the welfare of their brothers.

In some parts of the state, jallikattu - a bull-taming sport - is held.

The fourth day is the Kannum Pongal - the day to go out and meet relatives, friends and on site seeing.

Stepping into the election year, the ruling DMK government has announced free pongal bags to all the 1.94 crore ration-card holders in the state.

Each pongal bag contains half-a-kg each of raw rice and jaggery, 100 gram green dal, 10 grams of cashew and five grams each of raisins and cardamom.

These are ingredients used to make “chakkarai pongal.”

On Saturday a section of Tamilians in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry will celebrate Tamil New Year as stipulated by a law passed by the DMK government in 2008.

Normally Tamil New Year is celebrated April 14, when the Tamil month Chithirai begins.

“For me Tamil New Year is April 14,” Rangaraj said emphathetically.

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