Saturday, December 10, 2011

Travel to South India During Pongal - The Harvest Festival

India is a fantastic choice for a change of scenery after the Christmas holidays. So traveling to India in January is a very good option. South India still enjoys a great weather in January. It is a good time to enjoy the festival season. On January 15 Pongal is celebrated in Tamil Nadu, the famous festival in which everything old is burned. Pongal is a four-day long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India.

This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning to "boil". It is celebrated in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.

Pongal, typically falls in the 14 or 15 January and is the quintessential 'Tamil Festival'. Tamils say 'Thai Piranthal Vazhi Pirakkum', and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the arrival of the Tamil month of Thai that begins on Pongal day. This is traditionally the month of weddings.

Pongal wallpaper

The legend behind the celebrations

There are few interesting legends behind the Pongal celebrations. Mattu Pongal is also called "Kanu Pongal", and women pray for the welfare of her brothers. This is similar to the festivals of Raksha Bandhan celebrated in some states of North India.

Rituals Followed

A typical traditional Pongal festival is a series of rituals attached to it. Where the Pongal Puja is to be performed is cleaned and smeared with dung, a day before the festival. People usually opt for an open courtyard for this purpose.

Kolams (Rangoli) generally made from rice flour are special for the occasion. The idea behind using rice flour is that the insects feed on it and bless the family. In the center is placed a piece of cow dung with a pumpkin flower with five petals. It is considered as a symbol of fertility and love and an offering to the presiding deity. Similarly, the houses are also cleaned, painted and decorated. Kolams are made in the entrance of houses and new clothes for the whole family is brought to celebrate the festivities.

Tempting recipes

Sweet rice, known as "Pongal" is cooked in a clay pot new in the same place where puja is to be performed. Turmeric and fresh ginger are tied around this pot. Then a delicious mixture of rice, moong dal, brown sugar, and milk is boiled in the pot on an open fire. According to ritual, it should spill out of the pot. Pongal, once ready, is offered to the Sun God first in a new banana leaf along with other traditional delicacies like Vadas, and Payasam. Besides this, sugarcane, cereals, and sweet potatoes are also offered.

In the south the climate is mild and very pleasant, making it an ideal destination. If you're traveling to India in January we recommend you follow these tracks. And it is important to remember that in most parts of the country January is considered high season, so book your accommodation and flights in advance.

1 comment:

nityakalyani said...

Thanks Kalyan for this write up. I am eagarly waiting for this festival. In tamil there is a saying that "thai porunda vazi porukum"- when the month of thai comes there will definately be a new way.Regarding this "Many people leave cooked rice on banana leaves for birds on this day.
" there is is sone that is sung when we place all the eats. It consists of pongal and a lot of variety rice [yellow ric made from termeric, red rice - prepared from kumkum, and white rice - curd rice] "kaka ku oru pidi, kanu[kuruvi] oru piddi, kakaikum kuruvi kum kalyanum. Meaning all these are for birds and they can have a feast. Now I am waiting for your write up on Vaikuntha Ekadashi. Kudos for all your efforts.