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A harvest festival

SATHYA NARAYANAN, November 24, 2015: The Times of India

Why Is Pongal Called A Harvest Festival

Pongal is the version of Sankranti festival celebrated in Tamilnadu. Typically occurring on January 14-15 every year, this event is heralded as harvest festival with a special focus on the agricultural and farming life of the society. Especially in Tamilnadu, agriculture is the predominant occupation of people in the villages. Agriculture is in fact the most vibrant aspect of Tamil culture and is best reflected during Pongal.

What is Pongal

Pongal is actually the name of the dish that is made chiefly of rice during this festival. However, this name has become a symbol of prosperity and growth. The literal meaning of pongal is overflowing. For instance, pongal is typically cooked by boiling milk first, letting it overflow a bit upon full boil as a symbol of prosperity and then putting in it newly grown rice to boil till cooked. The event is therefore named after this dish that indicates prosperity.

When is Pongal celebrated

Pongal marks the beginning of the month of Thai in Tamil calendar (mid January). The crops sown three months or six months before this date come to harvest just before pongal. Therefore, this becomes an event of thanks giving to all the factors that helped in agriculture including the sun god, the bullocks used for ploughing and other farm animals. The homes overflow with the new produce and the hearts of farmers overflow with happiness and therefore, the name pongal (overflow) is appropriate for this event.

Preparing for the grand event of the year

Pongal is perhaps the most important festival among all. Before pongal, the houses, farms and offices are cleaned, painted and decorated. The day before pongal is called Bhogi. On this day, people pile up the old clothes and belongings that need to be cleared off and burn them. They stand around the bonfire to sing songs and beat drums.

Thanking sun god

Farmers have special reason to pay their gratitude to sun for the crops they received. At the same time, all people participate in thanking sun god since food is the basis of life and sun god is the chief cause of the food they receive. The first day of pongal is dedicated to worshipping sun god. People prepare the dish of pongal in open place amidst decorations and rangolis. When it boils, people shout in ecstasy, “Pongalo Pongal” heralding prosperity.

Thanking the bullocks and cows

The second day of the festival is dedicated to thanking the bullocks and cows. Bullocks help in ploughing. Cows give milk and therefore, they are worshipped on this day. They are decorated and offered nice dishes, fruits and raw rice. In the evening, processions in bullock carts are popular in villages.

Seeking the blessings of elders and enjoying

The third day of pongal is to dress up in new clothes and seek the blessings of elders and teachers. The elders give some money and gift to those touching their feet as a mark of honour. After this, all the people in home gather together to visit places of interest and sightseeing. Thus, the day is meant for celebrations. Thus, the entire concept of pongal is focused on agriculture and therefore this is a harvest festival.

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