Saturday, January 14, 2012

Happy Pongal!

As you may know last year I married the love of my life. My husband is from India, so in addition to making a commitment to him, I have also committed to a lifetime of learning. A great source of lessons about Indian culture are India's many festivals. This weekend my husband and I celebrated our first 'Pongal' together, which is a harvest festival widely celebrated across southern India. During this festival, a ceremony or 'puja' is conducted for the sun, which on this date is said to start its journey back north from the southern hemisphere, and is a very auspicious time. This 'solar' event also marks the traditional end of the growing season, so farmers finally get some much-needed rest. Generally there are four consecutive days of festivities and various activities, all of which are listed and explained on this great website completely dedicated to Pongal! 

My husband and I participated in a few of these activities, including getting rid of old clothing (which by the way fits in really well with my goals to live simply, although we did not burn the items as the tradition suggests). We made 'wen' (Tamil: 'plain') and 'chakar' (Tamil: 'sweet') Pongals, which are relatively simple dishes made with lentils and rice (and are for what this festival is named). Interestingly, the word 'Pongal' means 'boil over' in Tamil, which is what you are supposed to let the dish do while cooking as a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Before eating these simple but delicious preparations, my husband and I performed a 'puja' or offering to the Sun God, which was represented on our altar by a big sun face that I drew on a dry erase board. Finally, my husband and I also wore new clothes as advised by his mother and grandmother. I wore a new salwar kameez made from material given to me by my husband's aunt.

Another thing I did was draw a kolam (design) on the sidewalk in front of our apartment. Often geometric or floral, these designs are traditionally fashioned from white and colored rice flour, (although many people today use chalk). Birds feed on kolam made of rice flour, which is a symbol of sharing abundance with all creatures. Kolam designs (also called rangolis, among many other names) are also symbols of purification that are often drawn in front of the main door, allowing the goddess Laxmi to enter the house and bring peace and prosperity to the inhabitants. Kolams are drawn throughout the year, but have special significance during Pongal.

Finally, feeling inspired after our month and a half in India, I decided to make my first attempt at wearing a sari 'by myself'. With the help of a great online video and a few pointers from my husband, I was able to wear a traditional cotton sari, although I think I do need some practice. (However, something tells me I will probably get that practice in the future :) It was truly a great 'Thalai Pongal' (First Pongal) for my husband and me, and I will always remember it.

Me in my new sari next to the simple chalk 'Kolam' on our front sidewalk.

A closer look at the kolam drawing in blue. In the spirit of the festival I also decided to draw a happy, smiling sun. 

My first attempt at wearing a sari by myself. The material was given to me by kindly neighbors who live near my husband's grandparents.

New salwar kameez for Pongal!

Happy Pongal, Everyone! May all beings be happy!


  1. Hello Renata,
    That is beautiful, plus I really like your drawing as well, very nice!

    Much peace, and happiness, to you and your husband!

    Have a wonderful day!

  2. Hello Now! Thank you so much for your kind comment and blessings. It was a wonderful day, and also fun to write about. I am glad you enjoyed the pictures.

    Much peace and happiness to you and your wife as well. _/|\_


Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and leave a comment! If you enjoyed this post, please share with others. -With Metta, Renata

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