The summers have passed into monsoon and the rains have also subsided and there is a slight nip in the air as winter sets in. There is a smile on the lips of farmers as they prepare for a good harvest. Happiness and hope seem to permeate the air.
This is the time when festivals across India to celebrate the harvest and thank the heavens for the bounty fall. Given India’s diversity, though the essence of the festivals remains the same, they vary from region to region. These festivals also herald the arrival of the traditional New year in many cases. The harvesting festival is celebrated as Pongal in Tamil Nadu, Lohri in the north of India, Makar Sankranti in some of the western and southern states and so on. To know more about celebrating Makar Sankranti, check out our blog on celebrating Sankranti: from pujas to gastronomical delights. Though traditionally these festivals owe their origins to the rural and agrarian ethos of India, today they have become an integral part of the urban milieu and are celebrated with great joy and enthusiasm.
Pongal is the name of the harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu and interestingly it is also the name of the mandatory sweet dish made of rice and lentils that is prepared in millions of homes during this festival. To know more about some of the dishes made during Makar Sankranti/Pongal, check out our blog on the different flavours of Sankranti.
Pongal literally means “to boil”, which refers to the cooking of the dish using the freshly harvested ingredients. The festival is celebrated with lots of fervour and enthusiasm as the sounds of Pongal O’ Pongal rent the air and people meet each other renewing old bonds and forging new ones. To know more about Pongal, check out our blog on the spirit of Pongal in rural Tamil Nadu.
Pongal is a celebration of and a thanksgiving for the harvest and is spread over four days and falls in the Thai month of the Tamil Calendar. In terms of the Gregorian Calendar, the festival happens in January and usually begins from the 14th of January.
Day One- Bhogi Pongal
This is the day which literally signifies a new beginning as old household articles, agricultural waste, etc., are tossed into a bonfire which is known as Bhogi Mantalu. The bonfire is lit across the towns, cities, and villages in residential colonies, squares, and junctions. The bonfire is made of wood and dried cow dung cakes. Probably this tradition also has scientific significance as it was a good method waste disposal. The day is dedicated to the Hindu God of rain, Indra who is worshipped with gratitude for the good harvest, on this day.
Day Two- Thai Pongal
This is the day when people worship the Sun God and express their gratitude for a good harvest. Rice is cooked in an earthen pot filled with milk in the open. The earthen pot is also tied to a turmeric pot and is an offering of gratitude to the sun. Houses are decorated with colourful rangoli designs known as Kolam and the women folk too turn out in their colourful best.
Day Three- Mattu Pongal
This is the day reserved for payback to the domestic animals who have toiled hard for the harvest. Cattle are decorated gaily and worshipped in recognition of their yeoman service throughout the year.
Day Four- Kaanum Pongal
This is the concluding day of the Pongal festival. On this day the womenfolk lay out the Pongal which has been cooked along with other food, sugarcane, betel leaves and nuts outside their homes on a leaf. This is then ritually offered to the Gods. This ritual is done for the well being and prosperity of brothers by their sisters.
Pongal festival needs to be experienced in the state of Tamil Nadu. Being there during the Pongal festival affords a unique and immersive experience of this fascinating festival. You can experience Pongal at the following resorts- Sterling Kodai Lake, Sterling Kodai Valley, Sterling Ooty Elk Hill, Sterling Ooty Fern Hill, Sterling Yelagiri and Sterling Yercaud. If you want to experience Pongal first-hand, then head to Tamil Nadu, you have a number of Sterling Resorts across the state ready to welcome you with Pongal O’ Pongal.