Thai Pongal- a harvest festival of Tamils. As one stand on the inception of the harvest season, exchanging Pongal wishes, hoping it to be an omen of health, wealth, happiness, peace and prosperity. Blessings of mutual respect, understanding, faith and sincere alliance is showered on the youngsters by the elders of the family.
Pongal is celebrated on the first day of 'Thai' month of Tamil panchang (calendar). The day usually falls in the second weekend of January in the Christian calendar.Thus, Thai refers to first month of Tamil Calendar and Pongal is a sweet dish comprising of rice, moong dal , milk and jaggery. Tamils thoroughout the world celebrate 'Thai Pongal' irrespective of their religious faith.
This day is observed as the thanks giving day by the farmers whereby the farmers pay their tribute, by thanking God , the nature spirit ,the sun and the farm animals for the abundant harvest and also praying for the future prosperity . The rest of the people celebrate to pay their tribute to the farmers for the food production. There are many songs about Thai Pongal and there is much Tamil literature about it.
This festival is an expression of merriment over life's renewal. The families begin their day early before the sunrise. Everyone gets dressed in new clothes and gathers in the 'muttram' ( front courtyard) to cook the traditional 'Pongal' in a handpainted earthern pot. The front courtyard is beautifully decorated for the courteous cooking. The senior members of the family conduct the cooking and the rest of the family dutifully assists them.The other ingredients of this special dish are chakkarai (brown cane sugar) or katkandu (sugar candy), milk (cow's milk or coconut milk), roasted green gram (payaru), raisins, cashew nuts and few pods of cardamom.
Kolam drawings exposed in the direct sunlight adorns the garden . A firewood grate is set up using three bricks. The festivities begin by placing the decorated earthern pot filled with water on grate.
The prepared meal is then traditionally served on a banana leaf and offered to sun god and other nature spirits.Then the family pray to god for a few minutes to express their profound gratitude and beg to accept their offering.
Then the meal (Pongal) is served with fruits among the family. Later it is shared with neighbors, friends and relatives. Although every household makes the food, sharing each others 'Pongal' is the one of the important features of the event. Some Hindu scholars believe that the rice is ceremoniously cooked on the Thai Pongal day because of its importance as a potent symbol of auspiciousness and fertility. The evenings are spent attending cultural events or visiting relatives and friends.
Indeed, Thai Pongal is a festival of unending love compassion and peace.