Giving Thanks, the Tamil Way

I am a South Indian and my mother tongue is Tamil.

I just said that, because today is a special day for us Tamils. It’s called Pongal.

Pongal is also a famous food item prepared with rice. It could either be sweet – prepared with jaggery, and ghee roasted cashews, or savory – prepared with lots of black pepper.

It’s the day farmers thank the Sun for a good year’s harvest and pray for a better harvest the following year. It’s like Thanksgiving Day for them. It’s only their special day, farmers who work so hard to fill our plates – but as things go on the real world, we all get a public holiday.

Ironically though, while the rest of us relax and rest, farmers spend the day making pongal and offering it to the Sun god. The following day, is a celebration for the cattle that helps in farming. They bathe their cattle, feed them grandly and thank them too. The following day is when they take meat – and in grand fashion too! Generally, it’s a week-long celebration for farmers.

Students celebrate this holiday as much as the farmers; all schools and colleges close for a whole week. And with the weekend just around the corner, most people have gone home to family to celebrate the holidays. They make pongal early in the morning, offer it to the various gods they worship, and spend the whole afternoon watching the back-to-back movies telecasted on TV. A typical holiday at a typical (modern) South Indian home.

Did I mention Pongal is one of the most auspicious days of the Tamil calendar?

Thought you ought to know.

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