Over the past five years, a group of dedicated volunteers of the Yorkshire Tamil Forum have been conducting the Pongal festival. This year, they celebrated the festival in Bradford with fervour and success….writes Prof. Geetha Upadhyaya
For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of an annual joyous thanksgiving harvest festival for families and public.
Pongal, the quintessential harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India, is celebrated world-wide by Tamilians. This four-day festival takes its name from the Tamil word ‘Pongu’ meaning ‘to boil’. It is held in the month of January-February when rice, cereals and sugar-cane are harvested.
Bhogi, the first day of Pongal is to thank Lord Indra, the ruler of rain clouds which are needed for the abundance of harvest. It is characterised by a ritual when old household articles are burnt symbolising the burning of the negativity in our homes and heart.
The second day of Pongal is held outdoors when the ceremonial boiling of rice, milk and sugar-cane is offered to Surya, the sun-god. Mattu Pongal, is held on the third day when the cattle are adorned with flowers and bells and fed with Pongal. The Kannum Pongal, held on the fourth day, is a ladies festivity when they place the left-over coloured Pongal rice on a leaf and offer prayers for the prosperity of their brothers.
Over the past five years, a group of dedicated volunteers of the Yorkshire Tamil Forum have been conducting the Pongal festival. This year, they celebrated the festival in Bradford with fervour and success. The auspicious start with lighting of the lamp was followed by the Tamil Thai Vazhthu, the traditional praise to mother Tamil.
The audiences were treated to the artistic talents of young people and adults in an evening filled with colourful classical and folk dance and melodious music, quiz and a skit.
As always, the essential component of every Indian festival is the variety of food and the Leeds based Kaveri Kitchen’s delicious dinner and the Good Food tasty snacks stall provided a treat for the palate. As the evening drew to a close, the audience left contented wishing that this rich tradition of Pongal in UK stay alive for many more generations to come!