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Pongal - The Tamil harvest festival

One of the most important festivals in Tamil Nadu takes place in mid-January. Pongal means "boiling over" and is the Tamil harvest festival. It has a very long tradition in Tamil Nadu and Lili and I were able to celebrate it at Hope House.


During these 4 days, people thank Surya, the sun god and giver of life, for a bountiful harvest. Before these 4 days of the festival, the whole house is cleaned first. On the first day, called Bhogi, old clothes are burnt and people throw their old belongings away. It symbolizes a new start to the new year.


The actual Pongal day is always the first day of the Tamil calendar, usually January 14 or 15. The preparation of the Pongal dish begins early in the morning. It is made from milk, rice and palm sugar syrup. It is cooked over a fire in front of the house with large sugar cane sticks next to the Pongal pot. According to tradition, the milk should boil over just as the sun rises. After this ritual, everyone can enjoy the sweet pongal.







On the third day, Mattu Pongal, people thank the cows in a ritualistic way. In some places in Tamil Nadu, competitions called Jallikattu are held to tame a bull as a symbol of bravery.







On Kaanum Pongal, the last day of Pongal, people travel across the country to visit their families. The younger generation should honor the older generation. Another tradition for this day is to lay out banana leaves with food for the birds.


We also celebrated Pongal at Hope House. Most of the children were staying with their relatives, so we celebrated with the staff and the children who were here. We cooked the sweet pongal on an open fire outside Hope House and some of the children decorated and painted the cows with flowers. We had a really great day and ended the day with a nice movie that we watched together.


Lili and I are very grateful for this opportunity to celebrate this special festival at Hope House.



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