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Pongal: The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu

Pongal is a three day festival, celebrated in South India. Sankaranti is a day when the sun passes from one sign of the Zodiac to another. Pongal Marks the beginnings of the sun’s northern course. Punjabi’s celebrate this as Lohri as a traditional festival as Harvest Season in traditional style.

For Tamilians the first day is Bhogi Pongal, the Pongal of Joy. On this day people exchange sweets and lit a fire and dispose off the old items and look for a new year. The second day is Surya Pongal, and this day is dedicated to the Sun God.  People get up early in the morning and have their early morning bath. The married women have their chores to complete. They put rice to the boiled milk ideally in a pot on fire and as soon as it begins to simmer, they all shout together “Pongalo Pongal”.  The sweet thus prepared is then offered to the Sun god and Lord Ganesha. A portion of it is also given to the cows, and then taken by the people themselves. Again sweets are exchanged. On meeting each other they ask “Has it boiled”? (Just like the Ganga Sthanam Achha during Diwali Day.) To which they invariably answer, “Yes it is boiled”. That is why this festival is called Pongal.  Pongal means to boil milk to the hilt.

The third day is Mattu Pongal or the Pongal for the cows. On this day cows and oxen are worshipped and circumambulated. Their horns are painted in various colours and cows and oxen are given good wash and garlanded of leaves and flowers are hung around their necks. On this day the cows are allowed to graze anywhere they like, without any restraint. Pongal also marks the change of season, and is primarily a harvest festival. India is an agricultural country and cows and oxen play a vital role in agriculture. That is why cows and oxen are worshipped and venerated so much. The new reaped harvest is shared with friends, relatives, beasts and birds. They all partake in the cooked food and sweets. In Chennai the streets will have Festival look for the whole week. And on the fourth day that is Thiruvalluvar Day (remembrance of noted Tamil Poet) people go for picnic to visit Trade Fair, museum, watch Pongal release films by carrying eatables along with them. Notably we can see yellow rice, white coconut rice and Pongal are being carried by picnickers. Pongalo Pongal brings unity amongst the Tamil Nadu residents.

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