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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Pongal The Winter Festival: Now celebrated all over India and in many parts of world

India is overflowing with its vast cultural heritage, the varied customs and rituals, and the stern beliefs of the people of India. India is a country where the Hindus, the Muslims, the Christians, the Sikhs and all other communities share the joy of their festivals with each other.

The time is indeed modern, yet 70% of the people believe in old rituals and customs. In ancient times, people used to worship and pray to the water, the light, trees, certain animals like cow or snakes etc. This was done by many of the people then, but today these are believed only in few villages where the people are miles away from the light of knowledge. In villages where there are shortages of food, the people celebrate the day when the harvest is reaped. As their life mainly depends on agriculture, they offer a special thanks to God by worshipping the sun, the earth and the cattle. The festival has been named 'pongal', which is basically in origin, a Dravidian festival, celebrated in the mid of January, specially in Tamil Nadu. In this festival, they show their gratefulness to God and they prepare a special sweet dish, which they call by the name of the festival. Like every other festival, this too has a legend of its own.

Pongal is the day when Lord Krishna drove away the pride and arrogance of the honoured Lord Indra, who had once attempted to flood the land with heavy thunder and rains when he was stopped from being worshipped. After he was forgiven by Lord Krishna, he was worshipped again by the people and the festival was in his name. The word 'pongal' has arrived from 'ponga', which means 'boiling'.So according to the people, when the harvest overflows or boils with excess, they call it Pongal. It shows a sign of farewell to the old crops and pave way for the new. The starting of a new season, a new set of crops, is almost like starting a new life. The festival of Pongal starts and goes on for four consecutive days, where in the first day they worship the God of clouds and rains(in Indian mythology, this God is named Lord Indra).In the second day, they worship the sun. The third day is kept for the cattle and the fourth, for the birds. This is also a day when they bless each other and pray for one's happiness, as happiness is what matters to man. No matter where the world reaches tomorrow, no matter whoever we become, the traditions and cultures of India will always be in the minds of man. India being primarily an agricultural country most of the celebrations revolve around good harvests.

Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils (people living in the state of Tamil Nadu). Tamilians have settled all over the world –from America, to Africa, to Europe to different countries in Asia and even reached the shores of Australia. With the presence of Tamil population all over the world, Pongal is now a globally celebrated festival. Tamilians have a major presence in almost fifty countries of the world. Although it started as a farmer’s festival, today it has become a festival that is celebrated not only in the rural and urban areas of Tamil Nadu but in also the far flung areas of the world. Pongal is the only festival that falls on a particular date i.e. the 14th of January every year and falls on the first day of the Tamil month of "Thai ".

Traditionally, Pongal is celebrated over a four day period from the 13th to the 16th of January but the Pongal (a sweet dish) is made on the 14th.Pongal actually means “boiling over”. Pongal is also the name of a sweet dish made from all the prominent new harvests of the season. It contains rice, jaggery, cardamoms and cashew nuts all newly harvested at this time. A good produce brings along prosperity and hence Pongal celebration is marked by unusual gaiety. Tamils draw rangolis at the doorstep and cook the Pongal in an earthen pot under the sun as it is a prasadam being offered to Surya, the Sun god as gratitude for the harvest. It is times for family get togethers.

Tamils outside India celebrate Pongal to retain their distinctive culture in a foreign land. Tamilians are joined by different states in India in celebrating Pongal. It is an almost pan-India celebration. In Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka it is the Thai Pongal, in Andhra Pradesh,Bengal,Kerala,Bihar,Goa,Karnataka, Orissa ,Madhya Pradesh,Maharashtra,Manipur and Uttar Pradesh it is Makar Sankranth or Sankranth. Gujarat and Rajasthan celebrate it as Uttarayan, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab celebrate it as Lohri while Assam celebrates it as Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu.I feel there is no other festival in India as symbolic of its “oneness “as is this festival of happiness .

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