Pongal – Harvest Festival
In Tamil Nadu- Sankranti is known by the name of ‘Pongal’. It is the most popular harvest festival to the farmers of South India. Pongal – Harvest Festival lasts for four days.
FIRST DAY IS BHOGI/BOGI
Observed as the cleaning day where houses are cleaned, painted and decorated with Kolam designs. Their doorways are adorned with strings of Mango leaves and plaited Coconut leaves.
They collect old clothes and waste materials from their houses and make bonfires. It marks the celebration of good over evil. Special pujas are performed to the Sun god and their agricultural machinery thanking them for their priced crops.
SECOND DAY IS SURYA PONGAL
People gather in front of their houses and cook ‘Pongal” in new clay pots. Pongal means boiling over of food. People prepare sweets by boiling rice-milk-jaggery mixture to an extend where it boils over the pot.
Their courtyards are decorated with long shalks of sugarcane and under this sweet rice is cooked in milk.
THIRD DAY IS MATTU PONGAL
This day is dedicated to the cattle, which help to reap the harvest. People bathe and adorn their cattle on this day also offer prayers to the Bulls, Cows and other farm animals. Bull fighting also known as Jallikattu takes place on this day.
Farmers take pride in bringing their bulls into the arena and challenging the matching people to bring the bulls under control. Each bull has a cloth tied around its neck and the person who takes up the challenge has to take this cloth away. The deafening noises of drums and whistles and shouts, infuriates the bull and the exciting and dangerous game begins.
FOURTH DAY IS KAANUM PONGAL
A great deal of visiting takes place among friends and neighbors and sweets are exchanged among families. People offer sugarcane to deities so that sweetness prevail in their life and prayers to sun god is also performed. Pongal – Harvest Festival songs and folklore’s are sung on this occasion. This marks the end of Pongal festivities with hopes of a fresh new beginning and peace and prosperity for the coming year.
SANKRANTI AROUND THE COUNTRY
Call it Lohri, Pongal or Sankranti, the festival conveys the same message — the bond of brotherhood and the spirit of oneness should prevail despite all odds. Pongal – Harvest Festival is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.
Til and jaggery are an essential part of Makar Sankranti. These two provide warmth and energy to the body and by exchanging them between friends and family it symbolizes that sweetness prevails in one’s life.
In Uttar Pradesh – Makar Sankranti is called ‘Khichdi’. As the name suggest Khichdi is prepared with rice and lentils. People bathe in the holy waters (on the ghats of Haridwar, Ganga Sagar, Triveni etc.) on this day as it is considered as most auspicious. Kumbh ka Mela also known as ” Magha Mela begins in Pryag (Allahabad) on this occasion.
In Karnataka– “Makar Sankranti’ is known as Pongal. Cows and cattles are decorated and fed ‘Pongal’- a sweet preparation of rice. People also exchange Ellu Bella (a dish made with sesame seeds, coconut and sugar) among their neighbors and relatives.
In the night a bonfire is lit and the animals are made to jump over the fire. People wear colorful clothing and special prayers are offered.
In Maharashtra – On this day people exchange til- gur-laddus made from til and jaggery. When they exchange til guls they greet ech othey by saying – ‘til-gul ghya, god god bola’ meaning ‘take these tilguls and talk sweetly’. The under-lying thought is that sweetness spread in your life.
In Gujarat – Makar Sankranti is observed as Uttarayan. People celebrate this day by flying colorful kites on their terrace.
In Punjab – Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Lohri.
In Kerala – Makar Sankaranti is celebrated in Sabrimala . In the evening devotees of Ayyappa visit temples of Sabrimala and wait for Makar Jyothi – it is the celestial light that is seen in the skies from the Sabrimala temple during the Makara Sankaranti festival.
In Assam– Makar Sankranti is celebrated as Bhogali Bihu also known as Magh Bihu. Early morning people get up and lit up their Mejis ( strctures made of wood and bamboo). After the Mejis are burnt people dance, sing and sit down to enjoy festival food.
In other states of India Makar Sankaranti is celebrated under different names like Sankarat in Madhya Pradesh and people of Orrisa have their Maghyatra.
In Bengal – Grand Mela is held at Ganga Sagar where the river Ganga meets the sea. Festivities are the same people cheer for their harvest and thank the elements of earth and offer special prayers to sun god for their bountiful crops. They lit bone-fires, exchange sweets, sing and dance all night.
RECIPES OF PONGAL