Pongal - The thanksgiving festival

Bhogi, which is a curtain-raiser to the three-day festival, is followed by Pongal - Makara Sankranti.

This is the first day of the Tamil month of Thai which heralds Uttrayana. The Sun moves to Makara rasi and so it is called Makara Sankranti.

Also called the harvest festival, farmers propitiate the gods and as a thanksgiving, they offer venn pongal, chakara pongal and other delicacies.

The soul of India is in its villages and the authenticity is found in the agrarian towns and hamlets.

Farmers and village folks celebrate this festival in a unique manner. Fresh produce from the lands is brought home. Aruvadai arisi is stored in the granary for preparing pongal. Sugarcane and turmeric and ginger tubers are harvested the previous day.

Since the village houses boast of a massive courtyard, the women wake up at dawn and smear it with cowdung. It is then decorated with pongal panai kolam. A new earthen pot is adorned with the religious marks on all sides and the neck of the panai is decorated with a piece of sugarcane, plantain fruit, a coconut, turmeric and ginger saplings. How is it possible to tie these around the neck of the pot?

These items are strung in a thick thread and tied around the neck of the pot. The matron of the house keeps it on the stove and liberally pours fresh milk into it.

When the milks boils it peeps out of the pot and the family members shout 'Pongalo Pongal' with zest and fervour. The woman then puts the freshly harvested rice into it and allows it to get cooked and then chakara pongal is prepared in the pongal panai.

It is offered to the gods along with vada and other delicious items. Betel leaves with turmeric tuber, betel nuts, coconuts, plantains are also offered by lighting a camphor.  People greet each other by asking - paal pongitha?

Offering the produce from Mother Earth is also a sort of thanksgiving to the five elements of Nature – water, land, air, fire and ether.

The smell of the produce and the mann vasanai is thing to cherish and nurture in our lives. Though urbanisation has crept into the villages, yet there is no dilution in the spirit of celebrating festivals.

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