Pongal – Honouring our harvest and homeland
Marking the end of the winter solstice and the beginning of a new harvest season, Makar Sankranti is a four-day festival in the Hindu calendar dedicated to the Sun God. Falling in the month of January as per the Gregorian calendar, it denotes the sun’s transit into the ‘Makara Rashi’ or the zodiac of Capricorn, from where it gets its name. Celebrated with intense vigour and devotion throughout the country, it features different customs and cultural components across the subcontinent. People take a holy dip in rivers such as the Ganga, Yamuna, Krishna and Kaveri, as it is believed to absolve one’s past sins. Prayers and salutations are offered to the sun for a year filled with success and prosperity. Sticky sweets are made from a base of sesame seeds and jaggery as a symbol of sticking together in both the good times and the tough ones. This is also the early stages in the agricultural cycle, where the hard work of prepping and sowing the fields is almost over. Overall the essence of the festival is for communities to come together, rejoice and be grateful for their crops, cattle, harvest and homeland.
One festival. Many names. Be it Suggi Habba in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Makaravilakku in Kerala, Uttarayan in Gujarat, Magh Bihu in Bihar or Shishur Saenkraat in Kashmir, this harvest season resonates with the same values across all states. Closer to our hearts in Southern India, especially in Tamil Nadu, is the four-day Uzhavar Thirunal or Tai Pongal celebration, observed at the dawn of the 10th month in the Tamil calendar, Tai. The word Pongal stems from the Tamil word ‘pongu’ with the connotation of boiling over or overflow and also refers to its namesake sweetened dish made from newly harvested rice boiled in milk and jaggery. The fervour and festivities are spread across 4 days, each bearing its own rituals and significance.
The beginning of a new month, on this day people clear out their homes, paint and decorate it for the upcoming festivities, give away their old belongings and wear new clothes for auspiciousness. In the countryside, cattle are decorated with garlands and with freshly painted horns. All prayers and rituals are dedicated to Lord Indra, the God of Rains, with gratitude for a bountiful harvest and wishes for a year filled with sufficient rains.
The second and main day of festivities, it is also called Perum Pongal, it involves the significant custom of cooking sweet pongal in traditional earthenware outside the house under the basking rays of the sun. It is decorated with fresh turmeric leaves, floral garlands, rice kolams and sugarcane stalk, as the aromatic rice, milk and jaggery boil. As it boils over, the gathering of family and friends erupt into a joyous echo of ‘Pongalo Pongal’ alongside the sound of conches or ‘sanggu’ being blown. Salutations and the Pongal prasadam are offered to the Sun and the cattle and symbolise the community’s shared hopes for a prosperous year ahead with good fortunes.
The word Mattu refers to all the agricultural cattle that are regarded as a great source of wealth and pride for all that they provide us with. On this special day dedicated to them, they are bathed, decorated with manjal and kumkumam on their foreheads, adorned with fresh flowers and garlands and fed delicacies such as jaggery, honey, fruits and pongal. It is common for temples to carry our processions of the deities on this day along with community gatherings with cultural performances.
The fourth and final day of celebrations, Kannum means to visit in this context, as families get together and communities organise social events. Gifts are exchanged, blessings are sought and delicacies are relished as the heart is filled with joy.
It is beyond doubt that this harvest festival holds a special place in our hearts and is a celebration we look forward to all year long. As a tribute to the various elements of the earth and the land that we love, we present our exclusively handcrafted Pongal Collection with weaves that reflect the magnificence of the golden harvest. Be it thematic hand-printed sarees to materials, each piece from this land to loom series is made from the finest fabric and eternalises the glorious spirit of Pongal.