Saturday, January 21, 2006

Our Pongal Celebrations!

'Somebody' wanted to see how we celebrated Pongal. Since the request was made and the picture was already in my camera, I'm writing this entry, a week later, after Pongal was celebrated.

Pongal is the harvest festival of South Indians. The harvested rice, sugarcane, turmeric, pumpkins and jaggery freshly made from that year's sugarcane - are offered to the Gods along with dishes made out of that year's harvest. The main dish that is made is also called Pongal or chakara Pongal (sweet Pongal). It is made out of rice, jaggery, milk, moong dal and ghee. The word 'Pongal' literally means 'overflowing'. Traditionally, the dish is made in earthen pots and it is allowed to overflow a bit to symbolize the abundance in the harvest and also as a prayer to the Gods to ask for a similar harvest, the following year.

Pongal brings home a lot of memories - The pongal which helped me lose my first tooth from biting into a succulent sugar cane, the days when my mother makes a family affair of preparing a whole feast during the first day of Pongal 'Surya Pongal' (for worshipping the sun god) when we were at home, the next day when we goto Grandma's place to celebrate 'Maatu Pongal' (for worshipping cows. Cows are considered to be very holy in Hindu customs.), where the Pongal is made in huge earthen pots near the fields and with typical pongal rangolis and decorations symbolizing the harvest and the pongal is offered to the cows first before eaten by everybody, and then go to periamma's(Aunt's) place for celebrating the second round of 'Maatu pongal' at her place.

A typical Pongal feast at our place consisted of the special 'Pongal' dish, white rice, getti paruppu(dal/varan), sambar made with brinjals and ash pumpkins (wintermelons) and drumsticks, the orange colored pumpkin poriyal, green plantain poriyal or avaraikai poriyal, yellow cabbage poriyal, rasam, thayir(fresh yogurt), paal paayasam(milk and sago or vermicelli porridge/kheer), two types of vadai (one sweet and one spicy), appalam(papaddum) and bananas. It was a huge meal which was relished with much gusto, enjoying each other's company since Pongal was one of the very few times when we, cousins gathered together and it was fun catching up and pulling each other's legs.

These days, its' a different Pongal altogether. My mother makes Pongal in a rice cooker. Grandma doesn't have a cow anymore, so the Pongal at her place has changed too. All the cousins have grown up and celebrate Pongal at their houses. We still follow our traditions and celebrate Pongal wherever we are.

This year, We celebrated Pongal is a simple way. There were so much going on in the days preceding Pongal that Pongal caught us totally unprepared. Amma called us and told that she missed us and that she made a Pongal feast this year since my sister and bil were home for Pongal. That motivated us and also gave us a taste of what we were missing. So, we got down working and quickly dished out a simple Pongal meal (Pongal, rice, sambar, yellow cabbage poriyal and yogurt) and offered to God and relished our first Pongal, after getting married.

Our recipe for Chakara Pongal - Cook one cup of rice with 1/2 cup yellow moong dal (slightly roasted in ghee) with about 4 cups of water and 3-4 cups of milk. Powder one mound of jaggery and add to the rice, after the rice is cooked and stir slightly. Heat 3 tbsp ghee in a small kadai and roast chopped almonds(I don't use cashews and buying a whole big bag of cashews to use just 2 tbsp in Pongal seemed a criminal waste) and raisins and crushed cardamom. Add this to the Pongal and stir well. Voila! Pongal ready!


Lera said...

Kay,Belated pongal wishes to you!!
It's dish which brings in sweet memories of festivities of bygone days...which makes me love it even more.

Indira said...

Kay.. first pongal after marriage, that's a big surprise to me. I imagined you much older.:)

You Pongal meal looks scrumptious.

Kay, would you please consider, correcting the spelling of my blog name to 'Mahanandi'. I'd greatly appreciate it. Thank you!

Kay said...

Thanks Lera! yeah, the memories make it even more special.

Thanks Indira! I'm 28 actually. How much older did you imagine me to be? :)

Sorry about the extra 'h' in the name. I just corrected it.

Indira said...

Thanks Kay for the correction.

Never mind about the age. You are quite young compared to me and already have an impressive food taste (like me).:):)

Kay said...

:) Thanks Indira! Now that's a compliment!