Wednesday the 15th denoted Thai Pongal in Sri Lanka. While for some of us it’s another holiday, for the Tamils of Sri Lanka this Festival denotes a whole lot more. Here is what we found out about this beautiful festival of Harvest.
Thai Pongal is a traditional harvest festival observed by all Tamils and Hindus. It is celebrated in India, Sri Lanka and in other parts of the world where there are Tamil communities. It is held to thank the Sun God, Earth, the Rain God, other natural elements and the cattle for a good harvest. Thai Pongal is the Tamil equivalent of the American/Christian tradition of Thanksgiving and falls between January 12 and 13 in the Christian calendar.
The Tamils of Sri Lanka decorate their homes with Banana leaves and embellish their floor with colourful patterns also called Kolam.
Day 1 – Bhogi
Bhogi is the day before Thai Pongal when people discard their old unused belongings in a bonfire in order to focus on new possessions symbolising the end of the negativities of the past and new beginnings in the days to come. Houses are cleaned, painted and decorated. Some villagers decorate their cattle and shine their horns to honour them as well.
Day 2 – The Thai Pongal Day.
On the Thai Pongal day, the womenfolk get up before dawn and draw new kolam/rangoli in front of the house. Then the families dress in their Sunday best and get ready for the cooking of the Pongal.
A colourfully decorated clay pot will be used to cook the Pongal. Rice, milk, green gram (mung) jaggery, spices, cashews, raisins, and other ingredients are used to prepare this sweet concoction. Tamils consider it a good sign to watch the milk boil over as it connotes good luck.
The first offering is to Surya or the Sun God. Fruits such as mangoes and bananas are served with Pongal rice. Then the family members will eat using banana leaves for plates and will share their Pongal with relatives, friends and neighbours and exchange gifts as well.
Day 3 – Mattu Pongal
This is the day after Pongal and cattle are felicitated on this day. It is celebrated together by the villages to thank their cows for their part in farming by bathing their cattle and shining their horns. In the evening people offer their prayers to Lord Ganesha.
Day 4 – Kaanum Pongal
This is the day dedicated to family reunions. Brothers gift their sisters with gifts. And young girls feed crows with a prayer that their ties to their brothers are as strong as those among crows. Employers give gifts of appreciation to their employees.
Although Thai Pongal started as a festival for farmers today it has become a national festival for all Tamils irrespective of their origins. It is as celebrated in urban areas as in rural. Pongal this 2020 will begin on the 15th of January and go on till the 18 of January. However, the Tamils of Sri Lanka mostly celebrate day two and three of Pongal. Nevertheless, may this festival of harvest fill your life and your family with unity and prosperity and the beautiful Kolams fill your life with colour!