Hinduism 101: Pongal

How to Celebrate Pongal Abroad

January 15, 2016 – Pongal!

Happy Thai Pongal

Pongal is the Tamil Harvest Festival (think American’s Thanksgiving).  Wikipedia says it’s called Thai Pongal, with Thai indicating the Tamil calendar.  But perhaps it is like French Fries or Belgium waffles – don’t you wonder what they call them in their namesake countries?  Well, Tamils seem to drop the Thai.  While the general feeling conveyed by my FIL is giving thanks to the earth for its bounty, further research indicates that the festival specifically thanks the Sun God for providing energy to the plants to grow.

Pongal also means overflow and a type of sweet rice, both of which now come in to play.

Celebrating the festival abroad includes:Moong Dal, Jaggery, Ginger, Tumeric, Rice

  1. Wash up!  You must be clean to conduct a ceremony.
  2. Don’t eat meat the entire day.  Skip the eggs while you’re at it.
  3. Cook/boil the following in a pot that has never touched meat:
    1. Moong Dal
    2. RiceIMG_1512
  4. The froth may boil over… that’s ok – it’s part of the symbolism and celebration.
  5. Play a piece of raw tumeric and ginger on the top of the pot, though it can also be tied around.  Tumeric is auspicious.  Ginger gives you good health – it is both sweet and not sweet, Ginger, Tumericwhich will help you get through the good and bad times in life.  It will make you resilient.  We all need that, right?
  6. Turn the heat off
  7. Add jaggery, a state of molasses/sugar, and cardamom seeds.
  8. Bring the food to your family alter and perform a pooja
  9. There you go. You’ve celebrated pongal abroad.

My next step included dashing off to work.  But I can’t wait to celebrate this in its home state where I’m sure the multi-day festival will include much more.

Pongee Festival in South India
Pongee Festival in South India

Lastly, I’d like to share a bit of wisdom my FIL imparted on me on this rainy Friday morning at daybreak…

Hinduism involves a lot of ritual because the religion comes from a time when people did not read or write.  Therefore, the consistency and repetition of the rituals helped people remember and pass down their traditions.  It becomes a natural reaction, subconscious and automatic; all of the individual things blend together.   “Like Ctrl-Alt-Delete,” he laughed.

ctrl alt del

So there you have it folks, Hindu rituals are like “Ctril-Alt-Delete.”

Until next time…

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