Tamil Nadu celebrates Pongal

Last Updated: Jan 16, 2011, 10:29 AM IST

Chennai: The aroma of ghee and fried cashew wafted through homes in Tamil Nadu as people cooked the traditional Chakarai Pongal dish - made with rice, jaggery and milk - to celebrate the harvest festival of Pongal Saturday.

The four-day festival thanking the rain, the sun and farm animals is a mini Diwali - minus the fire crackers.

The harvest festival is celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month of Thai and is hence also known as Thai Pongal.

People got up early in the morning, put on new clothes and went to temples where special prayers were held.

They cooked the traditional dishes of Chakarai Pongal, and the customary salted dish known as Ven Pongal, made with rice, dal and dollops of ghee and fried cashew.

People called out aloud `Pongolo Pongal, Pongolo Pongal` when raw rice and dal was added to the milk that was about to boil over.

In some houses, the conchshell was sounded out as part of the prayer.

Neighbours exchanged Chakarai Pongal and other dishes they had cooked for the festival.

On Saturday, a section of Tamilians in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry celebrated the Tamil New Year.

The DMK government in Tamil Nadu passed a law in 2008 stipulating the Tamil New Year be celebrated on the first day of Thai month.

Normally Tamil New Year is celebrated April 14, when the Tamil month Chithirai begins.