Pongal, a joyous festival of Tamil Nadu

Pongal. 123rf.com
It is needless to emphasis the fact that India is a land of so many festivals and each one of them has its own significance and religious connotation. These colorful and vibrant festivals are a testimony to our diverse tradition and culture that are being retained even to day. They provide an opportunity to bring people closer and creating unity and respect for fellow beings. Normally, Hindu festivals revolve around Gods' birthdays (Krishna Jayanthi, Rama navami, etc), legend and traditional myths (Oonam in Kerala, Diwali), seasonal changes, (like ploughing day, harvesting day,  advent of Spring -Holy, etc), nature worship (Aadi Perukku in Tamil Nadu, worship of rivers, Pushkaram, and others), etc. A festival is a tool to bring in joy and  enthusiasm to our otherwise mundane survival on this earth.

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The India's cultural tradition based on religion and festivals is an unbroken one for centuries; they are deep rooted.  Pongal, also known as Makar Sankranti in Andhra and other states, heralds the  arrival of  first day of the sun's return journey to the northern hemisphere. A famous  festival of Tamil Nadu, it is more popular in the rural areas than in the urban space because it is always tagged as a harvest festival.  In India, the monsoon season provides  two harvest seasons. The NE monsoon (also called retreating monsoon) plays a key role for the ensuing  agricultural season in the coastal regions of Tamil Nadu, Andhra, etc . whereas SW monsoon that begins on the  west coast brings in lots of  rain in  the catchment area of the Cauvery river (and others) which is the lifeline of the delta districts of Tamil  Nadu. Here, rice is the staple  crop.
pongal.  shutterstock.com
Pongal is also a sort of thanks-giving festival to the ''Sun''(Surya) which plays a crucial role in our  survival on the planet. Besides, we also  thank other deities for the  copious supply of water  by way of rain for food crops,  agricultural works, irrigation and drinking . ''Pongal'' also  refers to a special  sweet dish made specially on this occasion and this custom has been vogue for several centuries - more than 1000 years and it is not a broken tradition to use  earthen pot to make pongal with boiled rice, grated coconut, cashew nuts, raisins and jaggery (unrefined country sugar made from sugar canes).  The real meaning of pongal in Tamil is "boiling over" or "spilling over" when cooking it and it is symbolic of prosperity, plenty and welfare. Mind you, it is cooked only during the auspicious time.
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The festivities last for  four days always beginning on the 13th or 14th of January) toward the end of Tamil month of  Margazhi), followed by Pongal. It  also marks the beginning of Tamil month 'Thai', an auspicious one.  Bhogi, the main Pongal day and Mattu pongal get due importance.   Bhogi is dedicated to rain god Indira. On Pongal day, we invoke Sun God.  Cows and bulls are worshiped on the Mattu pongal day by the family members  and they are well cleaned, decorated and their horns well-painted.  Bulls are farm animals much used in agricultural lands. With the advent of machines in the last two decades, bulls are not widely used as in the past for ploughing, etc. 
Jallikattu is a popular sport  associated  with pongal festival in which bulls are tamed by a large group of men and it is famous in southern Tamil Nadu. Normally, they are held in selected places during later period, not during pongal holidays. A controversial sport, the events are conducted  with several restrictions. The reason being  participants are not physically well-protected,  In many villages women make pongal en mass in a public place near the temple. After puja/ prayer to Sun God and other deities in the morning, people will taste the dish.
The last and fourth one is called Kanya Pongal (Kanum  Pongal).  A variety of cooked rice (in small balls), etc will be placed  on the plantain leaf and left in the open terrace  and they are meant for birds -crow, etc. Further, it is done by young girls for the welfare and longevity of their brothers and other family members.
 During  festive days, colorful rangoli or kolam is displayed in front of home and offices and it is a sign of positivity.  People in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere are looking for the birth of Thai month because all
pongal festival, Tamil Nadu, you tube.
auspicious family functions, etc are held in large number. Anyway, pongal festival is a joyous occasion all for all. After all our ''life is dependent on hope, positive thoughts and trust in God''.