16 January 2012

Pongal Time of Sunny Celebrations

Pongal was originally a Festival for the farming community but nowadays it is celebrated by all. It follows the solar calendar and is celebrated on the same days each year. Pongal has astronomical significance: it marks the auspicious beginning of Uttarayana, the Sun's movement northward for a six month period and all important events are scheduled during this 6-month period. Four festivals are celebrated at Tiruvannamalai (and throughout Tamil Nadu) for four consecutive days during the Pongal Festival. 'Bhogi' on January 13th, 'Pongal' on January 14th, 'Maattuppongal' on January 15th, and 'Thiruvalluvar Day' on Jan 16.

On Bhogi old clothes and materials are thrown away and set on fire, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day, the Pongal day, is celebrated by boiling fresh milk early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel - a tradition that is the literal translation for Pongal. People also prepare savouries and sweets, visit each other's homes, and exchange greetings. The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic.

In Hindu Temples; bells, drums, clarinets and conch shells herald the joyous occasion of Pongal. To symbolize a bountiful harvest, rice is cooked in new pots until it boils over. Some rituals performed in Temples include the preparation of rice, chanting of prayers and offering of; vegetables, sugar cane and spices to the Gods. Devotees then consume the offerings to exonerate themselves of past sins. Pongal signals the end of the traditional farming season, giving farmers a break from their monotonous routine. Farmers also perform puja to some crops, signaling the end of the traditional farming season.

I’ve made many postings about Pongal on Arunachala Grace, and to find out more about this wonderful Festival go to this link here and here.

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