Celebrated by millions of Hindus across the world, Thai Pongal reinforces the custom of thanksgiving to the sun god.
ON the festival day, even before the break of dawn, Hindus spruce up and decorate their abodes with fresh banana leaves and garlands of mango leaves or Mavillai Thoranam. A makeshift hearth is arranged in front of the house to prepare the ‘Pongal’, a delectable dish prepared using a range of lavish ingredients including red/white raw rice, milk, jaggery, mung dhal, cashew, raisins, and ghee.
Signifying prosperity and fortune, two freshly cut sugarcane plants are also positioned on either side of the hearth. The floor is adorned with vibrant murals a unique traditional art called Kolam.
As the rising sun signals the dawn of the auspicious hour, from the oldest of the family to the youngest, all gather around the makeshift hearth to witness the milk bubbling from the pot. The delightful sight of creamy milk overflowing the pot heralds good fortune drawing heartwarming cries of ‘pongalo pongal’, meaning ‘overflowing’ abundance. Afterwards, the delicious pongal rice is cooked and the first portion dedicated to the Sun God is kept within the Kolam as an offering of great reverence.
Families visit temples to pay homage to the divinity and to seek their blessings in order to thrive in the forth-coming cultivation season as well.
Pongal rice and sweetmeats are shared among relatives as a way of strengthening relationships and inculcating new bonds.
The day following Thai Pongal is dedicated to the cattle and is known as ‘Mattu Pongal’.
The harvest feast is a time to thank, a time to rejoice as well as a time to reflect. Therefore, Hindus do not forget to show their gratitude to the cattle who helped plough the paddy fields and reap the bounty of the land. On the Mattu Pongal day, the animals are cared for, their horns painted, necks garlanded and stomachs satiated with pongal delights.
A thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest, Thai Pongal rejoices the true spirit of gratitude while rejuvenat- ing bonds.