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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holiday: Pongal + Sankranthi

Today is a harvest festival. In the South, particularly Tamil Nadu it is celebrated as Pongal. In other parts of India it is Sankranthi.

It is a day to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season.

It's interesting to me that it falls in January. I think it shows how festivals and holidays form differently in different parts of the world because of differences in weather. Weather has such a tremendous effect on the development of society and culture, since we all started out as hunter/gatherer and moved into agriculture (from what I understand of anthropology, anyway).

In America, harvest festivals all occur in October and November. There is Thanksgiving and there is Sukkot, a Jewish holiday. Harvest festivals here are connected to trees that turn yellow, orange, and red; to corn and pumpkins and other gourds.

Pongal in Tamil means "spilling over." Using a clay pot to boil milk until it runs over symbolizes prosperity and abundance. The festival is dedicated to the sun God, Surya.

Sankranthi is celebrated differently in different areas, so I will simply link to the Wikipedia article about it.


  1. Did you cook Khichadi yestrday or ate Til ka laddu?

  2. No. I'm bad. I'm cooking chatpate alu and shahi paneer tonight for some friends...does that count? ;)

  3. Wow. You must be a great cook.Anything counts that is tasty.I love paneer.Plz invite me.

  4. We call it Sankaranti also.In Tamilnadu it is a 4-in-1 holiday,celebrated over 3-4 days. The Sankaranti[sun's movement into the Capricorn sign],Uttarayana Punyakala[Sun's Northward Journey],and Surya-Narayana Puja,the Month beginning[Thai Masa pirappu] are celebrated on the
    same day.The previous day,Bhogi Pongal,is for Indra and the last day of Margazhi[Margasirsha],the Holy month..They prepare ven -Pongal on this day early in the morning.It is also the day when we symbolically say goodbye to the old.[by cleaning out the House,repainting etc.].
    the Next day is the Main -Thai Pongal,/Makarasankaranti/UttarayanaPunyakalam.Celebrated with the Dish that gives its name to the Festival.I don't know of another festival that gets its name from the dish prepared.Some make Chakara Pongal on this day.Some of us make Pal[milk]Pongal this day.The next day is for the Cows and Bulls. They Do Go-Puja and make Chakkara Pongal in our house to feed the cows.We also have a vrat with fasting[not for long,only until you have fed the crows in a special way,praying that "We should be together the same way you[the crows] are."] for our brothers and parental Family on this day.We make mixed rice on this day.Their are families that don't observe this day,this way.Recently[2 yrs.back] our govt. tried to mark this as the Tamil New Year,in a political/anti-hindu/anti-brahmin gesture,but failed as people refused to give up their beliefs for such obvious propaganda/coersive techniques.The Govt. used ancient texts to make-out they were right.,but we just stuck to our traditions[based on other texts that clearly distinguish the two[New-Year vs. Thai -Pongal]

  5. we have many festivals in october-november too.

    though they are not harvest festivals but religious festivals - timing, in my opinion follows the same reasoning.
    traditionally that was the end of one harvest season - and people used to have both money and leisure.

  6. Aamba,

    I had the opportunity to have a traditional Pongol meal on Friday. Our friend "M" is from Chenai. Since he's been here in the US he's always had family here(cousins and such) that would fix the Pongol meal, but this year it was just him in the area. He fixed us a proper Pongol. Not sure what the official names of the dishes were, but we had a sweet potato pongol, a green bean pongol, a potato pongol, sambaar, sweet was all so yummy.

    Hope the new year is treating you well.