Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum: Happy Pongal!

Last week, a former BACAS student and her family invited ISP students to celebrate the Tamil harvest festival of Pongal with them. We traveled in the college bus out to the neighboring town of Pollachi where we observed puja, or prayers, and shared a traditional Pongal meal.
Pongal is celebrated with the most zeal in the villages, as in farming villages people live more closely to the land and are more in tune with nature, harvest and crops. The festival is something around 1,000 years old (some say older!), and we were fortunate to observe it with some very generous hosts!

During Pongal, Hindu adherents show their gratitude to the sun god Surya, to the land for the harvest, and to cattle for their sustenance and aid in farming life (Some especially crazy/ brave Tamilians also tame/ attempt to tame bulls during the festival, too! See Jallikattu for more information on bull taming and its history.) 

Pongal, or sweet rice with jaggery and milk, is cooked in clay pots over an open fire during the puja. When the pot boils over, it is supposed to signify material abundance and good luck for the household.

Our host family had a portion of their field fenced off for the celebration, pictured here. Sweets, bananas and other food offerings and ghee candles sit on banana leaves in front of a portrait of Krishna, one of the Hindu deities. 

Our group enjoyed learning about Tamil festivals and culture during our Pongal celebration, and enjoyed spending an evening with a very generous host family. Thanks for reading, and Happy (late!) Pongal!

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