Pongal, the traditional tamil festival celebrated all over Tamilnadu. Pongal is the festival that thanks Sun as it is the primary source of life on earth. Without sun and its rays plants can not produce food. Pongal is celebrated after the farmers harvest their agriculture produce.
Here is an account of how the Pongal festival is celebrated in a typical tamil village. Pongal is celebrated on the Month of 'Thai' when sun enters makara rashi(capricorn sign) of the zodiac circle. The first day of Thai is the pongal day. The day before is celbrated as 'bogi' festival, in which the old and useless household items are put into fire. 'Kappu kattu' (kappu means secure) is done in the evening. The 'neem' leaves are kept along the walls and roof of the houses. This will eliminate the evil forces. This announces the coming of new beginning, new year, new fortunes and hopes. (Though, traditionaly tamil new year commences in the month of 'Chitra', Government of TamilNadu announced in the year 2009, to celebrate Tamil New year in the month of Thai).
Houses will be cleaned and whitewashed for the pongal festival. Women will make sweets and savories. In the morning in front of houses beautiful rangoli will be drawn by women. All members in the family will take bath and wear new clothing. They will exchange wishes with the neighbors. The celebration of pongal can be traced back to the ancient Chola and Pandya dynasties.
Next is the main event. Pongal wil be cooked with new Clay pots. With raw rice (pacharisi) Jaggiri (Vellam) Elakkai (Elaichi) are put together and boiled. When the water boils and comes out of the pot women and children will sing 'Pongalo Pongal, Pongalo Pongal'. After pongal is cooked, Padayal is performed to the Sun God and other dieties, thanking them for their help in good harvest. Newly harvested paddy, sugarcane are kept in the padayal.
The after pongal is 'mattu pongal' in which the Cows and other cattles are washed. Their horns will be beatuifully painted. Another pongal will be cooked. This is to thank the cattles for their hardwork in agriculture fields. In south india and Tamilnadu, cattles are still used to plow the fields and pull carts.