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Pongal !

Pongal is the Harvest festival or the Thanksgiving festival of South India celebrated particularly in Tamil Nadu suring the month of January every year. It follows the solar calendar. The word 'Pongal' actually means boiling over which symbolizes the growth of agricultural success and prosperity as this festival is celebrated mainly in rural areas. Pongal is a four day festival. The first day is called 'Bhogi Pongal', the second day 'Thai Pongal' or 'Surya Pongal', the third day called 'Maatu Pongal' and the forth day is called 'Kaanum Pongal'. Pongal is the name of the dish made from harvested rice, lentils and spices. These three things are put in an earthern pot and left untill it begins to boil and outpour and as it pours people shout Pongal-o-Pongal.  
The Bhogi Pongal is the day of celebration of God Indra, the God of clouds and rain who helps in the growth of crops. On the evening of this day unwanted wastes are burnt in bonfires. On the day of Surya Pongal the Sun God is worshipped. Women decorated their houses and draw colorful 'kolam' with colored rice four at the front of the houses. People wear new clothes and use new utensils and household articles discarding the old ones on the previous day. Children and young boys and girls participate in cultural programmes on this day as a token of celebration. On the day of Maatu Pongal cows and bulls are offered thanks as they play a great role in making the lands suitable for agriculture. Bulls and cows are decorated with bells hanging around their neck and they are worshipped as God. People offer aartis, place tilaks of kumkum and touch their feet and forehead as done in a temple. In some villages bull fight take place. The fourth day is called the Kaanum Pongal and on this day people travel to see other family members. On this day the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders and the elders thank and bless them by giving token money or other gifts. The other way to observe this day is to feed the crows. This ritual is called Kakkai Chatham. People leave food out on banana leaves for crows to eat. Tamils believe that the crows are the souls of their ancestors and thus feeding is a good deed. They also believe that a year in the human world is equal to a day in the life of the departed soul. It is also on the fourth day of Pongal, poets and poetry is revered as this day is alternatively called Thiruvalluvar Day or Karinall. Thiruvalluvar is a great Tamil poet who has composed thousands of poetries. Peolpe wish each other on the festival of Pongal for good luck and bounty of crops as this festival marks the end of the old harvest year and the beginning of a new harvest year.

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