Pongal
Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu. It is believed that for as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival, and Pongal is a representation of the same. This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word Pongal, meaning “to boil” and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.

Legend has it.
The third day of Pongal is known as Mattu Pongal, and has a tale associated to it. According to the legend, Lord Shiva once asked his bull Nandi to go to Earth and tell the people to have an oil massage and bath daily, and eat food once a month. Mistakenly, Basava announced that the people should have an oil massage and bath once a month, and eat food daily. Enraged, Shiva cursed Basava and said that due to his mistake, there would be lack of grains on Earth. So he banished the bull to live on earth forever, helping people plough the fields. Thus, Mattu Pongal has an association with cattle.

Common Rituals
The festivities begin with `Bhogi’, and the first day is considered to be a prelude to the celebrations that follow. `Bhogi’ is observed as a thanksgiving occasion to Lord `Indra’, the God of Heavens. The next day is the `Pongal’ day, which is celebrated to honour `Surya’, the Sun God. It is considered as the day of a new beginning, witnessing people celebrate it with great enthusiasm. As a mark of respect to the cattle, farmers’ best friends, the third day of Pongal is celebrated as `Maattu Pongal’, while `Kaanum Pongal’ marks the end of the four-day celebrations.
Generally people go out for sightseeing, shopping, and exchange pleasantries with family and friends; and all four days of the Pongal festival people visit temples to invoke blessings of God for a good and prosperous beginning to the year.

Puja Vidhi
Puja Preparation
Women usually get up early this day to create ‘kolam’ at the doorway. Kolam is created with coloured rice flour placed on the ground carefully. The women take several hours to finish the kolam. On this day, new rice is collected and cooked in pots until they over flow. It is this overflowing which means Pongal. This overflowing of rice is a joyous occasion, as the children and adults alike shout out ‘Pongal-o-Pongal!’

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Puja Process
A plank is placed on the ground, and a large image of the Sun God is sketched on it and Kolam designs are drawn around it
At the centre of the plank is drawn a large figure of the Sun God with his effulgent rays
The Sun God is offered boiled milk and jaggery
Prayers are rendered to the Sun God to seek his benedictions
In villages, people gather in the courtyard and prepare Pongal in the open. The pot in which Pongal is cooked is decorated with flowers, sugarcane pieces, turmeric plant etc. The first offering is made to the Sun.

Recipes
Ven Pongal
Preparation time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 15 mins
Serves: 1
Ingredients
Raw rice – ½ cup
Split yellow moong dal (pasi paruppu) – ¼ cup
Cashew nuts – 6 to 7
Salt to taste
For seasoning
Oil – 1 ½ tbsp
Ghee – 1 ½ tbsp
Ginger finely chopped – 1 tsp
Cumin/Jeera seeds – 1 tsp
Whole black pepper – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – few

Preparation
Dry roast moong dal and rice separately until it is hot to touch. Do not over fry it
Fry cashew nuts in a tsp of ghee and keep it aside
Method
Mix both rice and dal, pressure cook it adding salt for taste
Add 2 ½ – 3 cups of water for and let it whistle 4 to 5 times
The rice has to be cooked until it becomes mushy
Open the cooker once the pressure subsides and mash the contents well while it is hot
Heat oil and ghee, add finely chopped ginger, and sauté for 2-3 seconds
Then add pepper, jeera seeds (you can pound pepper and jeera slightly to add more flavor), curry leaves, and pour it over rice and dal and mix it well.
Add fried cashew nuts and mix everything well,Ven Pongal is ready to be served hot!

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