Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated in praise of the Sun God. In school, we had twelve groups each representing one zodiac sign or one month of the year. In other words the 12 raashis.. We would have rangolis of each of the zodiac signs in front of our chullas.. In the center would be a giant Rangoli of a Ratham( a Chariot) which was the vahana of the Sun God. We would spend the previous evening making this one.. Margazhi pani illa dupatta vai talai illa potundu colour kolam potundu hmmm...those were the days ..
The Pongal(read as ponga) paanaigal(Earthen pots), were placed in front of the Deity of our choice.. Once the karpooram (Camphor) was lit and the bells struck, we would take our Pannai to our respective zodiac houses and get ready to make the pongal..
The pongal is made this way .. If I remember right.. First the paanai is placed on a tripod chulla. We then light the firewood and the chulla is ready.. The worst part about a chulla is that the smoke really smokes u :) and u have to continuously keep fanning it.. Wonder how ppl cooked before the LPG days ...We then pour milk and water and wait for it to boil. When it comes out ( didnt find a very apt word for pal pongaradu) we say,'Pongal -O- pongal' and put the rice and the dal in it to cook. We then add jaggery and ghee and keep stiring it until it is cooked... Once it is done we garnish it with raisens and cashews ...
We even had a competition as to which team would say "pongal-o-pongal' first.. It is really thrilling to wait anxiously for the 'pal' to 'pongu'( er.. no other better way to put it in english :). The excitement that you get when your pongal is made and that too when u have never entered the kitchen and this is your first attempt :):) . Then we go around tasting the pongal from the other team. It is served in the traditional 'donnai' (A cup made of Lotus leaves)
Its fun to make pongal out in the open, facing the Sun, decorating your pot and your zodiac sign and wearing a sari :).. its nice to do a lot of things for the first time and even better when u can show what you have made to your parents ( they didnt believe that I er.. we made it :) Did I tell you about the pongal.. Well it had a totally different flavour..( no it wasnt burnt ).. the earthy taste combined with the smell of burnt firewood..and yummy with the cooked pongal soaked in Ghee... A different flavour .. a flavour that we can never get from a cooker pongal.. :)
Happy Pongal To all of you!!!!!