The happy cries of Pongolo Pongal fills the air, as people wearing their new clothes and jewellery stand outside their freshly painted homes, decorated with flowers, kolams and sugarcane arrangements crooning together as the milk rice boils over the earthen pots. Pongal is one of the most awaited festivals in Tamil Nadu in the month of January. It is in celebration of a good harvest as thanks are directed to the
Sun God and other higher powers for the food on the table and prosperity. The festival spans a duration of four days.
The word 'Pongal' translates to mean overflowing in abundance, this is also symbolically represented in the overflowing milk and rice that is prepared as the tasty dish called pongal. The first day of the festivities is the Bhogi Pongal, this day people clean out the old and bring in the new. Houses are cleaned and decorated and people prepare for the next day, that is referred to as Pongal Pandigai and it marks the first day of the Tamil month Thai. People wear new clothes, prepare both sweet and spicy pongal dishes and enjoy the day with friends and family. The third day is Maatu Pongal, a grand gesture for the farmer's best friend; the cattle. They are bathed and decorated, worshipped and fed their favourite dishes!
On this note here are the top five places you can travel to witness the Pongal fervour in Tamil Nadu. And as wishes go in Tamil; Iniya Pongal Nalvazhthukkal!
Madurai with its many temples, fields and villages displays the true essence of Pongal festivities. Temples carry out special rituals on all four days of Pongal and visiting the temple during this time is an unforgettable experience despite the crowds. The farmers and their families display a portion of their harvest to the Sun God and dishes are prepared from this harvest and offered to the almighty. Sugarcane, mango leaves, rice flour patterns and flowers decorate homes. Clay pots are used to cook Pongal and the festival is celebrated with much pomp and glory. The excitement and joy is surely infectious! The controversial sport of Jallikattu was also conducted as part of the Pongal festivities in Madurai.
The controversial sport of Jallikattu.
Photo Courtesy: Vinoth Chander
Thanjavur exudes a certain charm that is hard to define in words. Is it the simple people, the ancient temples, the lush green fields or the mouth-watering food? What is it exactly that makes Thanjavur so special? Well, you have to travel here to discover the answers and they may be more than one! During the Pongal festivities the place turns into a vibrant region with decorated homes, kolams or patterns drawn out with rice flour are by themselves a competition among the neighbourhood women. A special event to look out for is the Brihadeeshwara Temple's celebration of Mattu Pongal as many cows are lined up by the owners for puja at the temple.
Photo Courtesy: Kamala Lakshminarayanan
Pollachi is located at a distance of just 44 km from Coimbatore and is the gateway to many scenic tourist destination in the surrounding region. The drive from Coimbatore to Pollachi is very enjoyable with scenic sights, great roads and even fresh fruit produce being sold on the roads, especially Guava! The city has many fields and agricultural activities, making Pongal a festival of immense significance in the region. Enjoy the festivities and also explore the surrounding region that includes attractions such as Topslip, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Aliyar Dam, Valparai, Monkey Falls, Masani Amman Temple, etc.
Photo Courtesy: J'ram DJ
Salem in Tamil Nadu is an industrial town that is popular for its textile manufacturing. A great place to observe the people dressed in their new finery. But what is most unique about celebrating the festival in Salem is the traditional activity of 'Fox Darshan'. Bewildered? It is true that the male members of the villages, forage the forests for a fox that they carry back to the village for everyone to see and worship before releasing it back into the forest. Other activities include the usual Pongal preparations and worship of cows across the three main days.
Unique temples of Salem.
Photo Courtesy: JayakanthanG
Coimbatore like Salem is another popular textile city in Tamil Nadu. Here Pongal is celebrated akin to the Thanksgiving festival of the west. Even though most of the city folks are not engaged in any activity remotely agrarian, they celebrate Pongal with great pomp and show. The homes all look fresh and decorated, a new coat of paint, kolams and flowers, in some homes even pandhals and lights make Pongal a joy to witness here. It is also a great place to go festive shopping with many stores offering special discounts and variety beyond imagination! The local temples and the surrounding villages can also be visited for a rustic experience.
Photo Courtesy: ramesh Iyanswamy