Pongal – A Series Of Celebrations Rolled Into One Festival
Signifying the rural traditions, Pongal is the most important festival of Kerala. Encompassing different aspects of life such as harvest, cleanliness, feast, plants, animals and relationship bonds, Pongal is the time to make merry. Pongal seems to be a series of celebrations all rolled into one festival. The Pongal series consists of Bhogi Pongal, Thai Pongal, Mattu Ponal and Kanum Pongal. Each Pongal is unique in its concept and has its own rituals and celebrations. During the festival the people clean their houses, wear new clothes and make colourful rangoli at the main entrance of their houses. This festival falls in the month of January and stretches for four days.
Pongal festival occupies a prized place in the life of farmers as it mainly a harvest festival. The word Pongal means “ boiling over or spill over”. During this festival the people of Kerala boil milk in the clay pot as this act is believed to attract prosperity and happiness for the family. During the festival the Keralites thank the Sun, rain and the farm animals that have helped in the harvest. It is believed that this festival is more than 2000 years old and according to the historic records it used to be celebrated as “Puthiyeedu” during the rule of Medieval Chola empire.
The first day of the festival is celebrated as Bhogi Pongal which envelops several domestic activities and worship of lord Indra, the lord of rain. It shows the sense of gratitude of the people towards the heavenly deity. The lord is thanked for good harvest. The people discard torn dresses and other useless things in their home and thoroughly clean their homes on this day. It marks a new beginning.
The second day of Pongal is celebrated as Thai Pongal which is considered to be very important day. It is marked by a ritual of boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots in the early morning, allowing it to boil over the pot. Later it is garnished with dry fruits. Keralites believe that it is good to see this act as it bring prosperity. This delicious dish is then offered to Mother Nature thanking lord Sun and nature for providing happiness. Several other sweet dishes are also made on this day. Thai Pongal is also marked by planting of saplings and it is said that the saplings planted on this day bloom.
During the Maattu Pongal cattle are thanked for their contribution in agriculture. The cattle are washed and then adorned with paint, flowers and bells. Special feast consisting of sweet rice and sugarcane is offered to them and they are allowed to roam freely.
On the day of Kaanum Pongal(kaanum means to view) people visit their friends and relatives to exchange sweets, gifts and greetings. It is also the time to go out with family for entertainment. On this day people also chew sugarcane and decorate their homes with kolam. Kolam is a sort of a painted prayer with rice powder which is believed to bring prosperity to the houses.
Dedicated to heavenly deities, nature, plants, animals, homes and human bonds, Pongal festival reflects a sense of gratitude which should always be a part of our being.