Have a blessed Thai Pongal!

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By 2018-01-14

By Milan Lu

Thai Pongal celebrations begin today. It's a two day celebration in Sri Lanka while it's a much longer celebration in other parts of the world. Thai Pongal is a harvest festival that is dedicated to the Sun God and on the second day gives thanks to the livestock that helped with cultivation.

The word thai is the name of the tenth month of the Tamil calendar. Pogal means to boil over. It is also the name of the festival and the name of the rice dish that is prepared during the festival. Thai Pongal has been celebrated for thousands of years and is celebrated by Tamil people mainly in Sri Lankan, in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry in India but it is also celebrated by Tamils who live all over the world like in Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, United States, Singapore, Canada, France and UK.

The celebration
On Thai Pongal day you normally wear new clothes, prepare pongal rice in a new clay pot, go to the kovil and draw kolam in front of your house. Pongal rice is prepared at dawn so that it can be offered at sun rise to the Sun God in thanks for the abundance of harvest. Normally kolam can be drawn around the pot of boiling milk and in the porch.
Once pongal rice has been prepared, you share it with everyone at home along with other traditional food prepared for the festival. You also go visit family and friends offering pongal and other traditional food.

Traditional food
The main food prepared during Thai Pongal is the pongal rice. Pongal rice is a rice dish boiled with cow's milk, spices, raisins, Green gram (split), and cashew nuts. You begin to prepare pongal rice by boiling milk in a new clay pot in a spot that faces the sun. When the milk starts bubbling and boils over, rice is added to the milk to prepare pongal rice.

Jaggery is added to the pongal rice at the kovil when cooking it as an offering for the Sun God and it is called Prasadam. After it is offered to the deity, it is served to the people at the temple on a banana leaf. The sweet pongal rice can be made at home as well along with a savoury version. Other than pongal rice, families also make dishes such as murukku, vadey, payasam and many others.

Maattu Pongal
Maattu Pongal is the day after Thai Pongal. It is the day dedicated to giving thanks to the bulls that helped with cultivation and farming. Tamil people think of cattle highly because they provide dairy products, fertilizer, and labour for ploughing and transportation. The cattle are given a bath, given special food to eat, decorated with bells, beads and flower garlands and pottu.

Kolam
Kolam is a form of drawing that is drawn by using rice flour, chalk, chalk powder, white rock powder that is usually dyed into vibrant colours. Kolam are very beautifully drawn on the ground in loops, curves, lines and dots depicting flowers, birds, the sun and other beautiful images. They are normally drawn by female members of the family.

Kolam invite prosperity into the family. If the kolam are drawn using seeds, as it was done in the past, it becomes a quick snack for the ants and the birds. Kolam were drawn using seeks in the past so that the insects and animals would not have to go too far to find food and would become a way of welcoming other beings into a person's house. This was a way of existing peacefully with nature.

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