Pongal-The day to rejoice farm harvest

India is always best known for its diversity in culture, traditions and vibrant festivals. Agriculture is the backbone of the country. The long-standing history of agriculture in India dates back to several thousand years. The richness of cultures holds to the ground of farming and the associated traditional practices.
It is more evident from literature, especially the Sangam literature in Tamil that has innumerable anecdotes to prove the immense bond between agriculture and day to day life. Agriculture is celebrated widely across the states under different names and different traditional practices. January is the month of harvest in most of the states. The ritual of exuberantly celebrating the harvest is common here. In Tamil Nadu, the harvest festival is known as ‘Pongal’ and the four-day celebration begins on the last day of Tamil month Margazhi.
As per the annual agricultural cycle, most regions of the state would have done the harvest shortly before Pongal and hence the homes of farmers and stockyards would be overflowing with the newly harvested paddy. Therefore, Pongal is the occasion to rejoice in the gifts of nature that support and enrich our lives.
The day prior to Pongal is called ‘Bohi’. On this day, people usually discard old belongings- a symbolic way of renovating the household. People usually clean their houses, welcoming the new harvest-the new beginning. The people assemble and light a bonfire in order to burn the heaps of discards. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated to give a festive look. The horns of oxen and buffaloes are painted in villages. New clothes are worn to mark the start of the festival. The deity of the day is Indra – the god of rains, to whom prayers are offered, with thanks and hopes for plentiful rains in the year ahead.
The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu falls on 14th January, the first of the Tamil month ‘Thai’. On this day, newly-reaped rice is offered to the Sun God to honour a bountiful harvest, as a token of respect and gratitude. The Pongal delicacy, i.erice and jaggery is one of the inseparable elements of this occasion and is savoured by one and all. It is typically cooked out in the open, as an offering to the Sun God.
The next day of Pongal is called the ‘Mattu Pongal’. Cattle are an immense part of Indian Agriculture. Cows and Bulls are usually treated like family members in south Indian households. The farming community rejoices on this day with joy and enthusiasm. The sport called ‘Jallikattu’ -adventurous bull taming is considered a glory to the roots of the agricultural lineage of Tamil Nadu. The staunch protest to revive the sport back in the state is marked as an unforgettable revolution in Indian history.
Kanum Pongal, sometimes the fourth day of the festival, marks the end of Pongal festivities for the year. The word kaanum in this context means “to visit.” Many families hold reunions on this day. Communities organise social events to strengthen mutual bonds. Villagers cut and consume farm-fresh sugarcane during social gatherings. Relatives, friends and neighbours visit and greet each other.

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