A devotee uses her mobile phone torch as she cooks a rice dish as devotees attend Pongal celebrations early morning on January 14, 2021.(Reuters)
A devotee uses her mobile phone torch as she cooks a rice dish as devotees attend Pongal celebrations early morning on January 14, 2021.(Reuters)

Pongal 2021: Kolam, rice, and prayers for a better year ahead

With fun, food and frolic at home, Pongal celebrations in Delhi-NCR will be an intimate affair as the Tamil community prays to the Sun god for a brighter year ahead.
By Mallika Bhagat
PUBLISHED ON JAN 14, 2021 05:49 PM IST

As most in north India prepare khichdi to usher Makar Sankranti today, those from the south, in the Capital, are geared up for the harvest festival of Pongal, which is also dedicated to the Sun God, and in some Tamilian households is celebrated till January 17. But amid the pandemic, the celebrations will be mostly among close family and friends only.

Keeping up the tradition

“While we don’t celebrate the festival as elaborately as we did in Tamil Nadu, we try to assimilate all important aspects of it on a smaller scale,” says Shivani S Raj, a graduate from DU, who is planning to celebrate Pongal with her family at home. Starting on January 14, the festivities will continue till the 17th of this month. But Raj says her family will only celebrate it on the first day of the festival.

“We will try to celebrate as our relatives in Chennai — we will make Pongal, followed by puja in our traditional attires and a traditional meal,” Raj describes, adding how owing to safety concerns, they plan to stay at home for the festival.

Faith and food will mark the festival for Delhiites

“Like Makar Sankranti, Pongal is also dedicated to the Sun god, Surya. The festival is named after Pongal, the dish prepared from the new harvest of rice boiled in milk with jaggery,” explains Geetha Ganesh, a resident of Gurugram, who is excited about the festivities. “On the 14th, after choosing an auspicious time, we will make sweet Pongal and offer it to Surya. We put on the milk over a small fire and see it boil over; it symbolises prosperity,” adds Ganesh.

Rekha Nair, a Gurugram-based home chef, will be preparing a Pongal special menu for her celebrations. “Charkara pongal, Venn pongal, Sambhar with nine vegetable, Vada and Thair Sadam (curd rice) are a part of my menu. Since this is a harvest festival, the dishes are prepared with new harvested rice and first offered to the god,” she adds.

Another Pongal special is Kolam, which is a traditional floor mural made with rice flour. “Back in our hometowns, we used to prepare for days and make huge kolams, it was like a competition for us. But here, I will continue to make a small rangoli at the entrance of my home for a month till Pongal,” says Ganesh.

Celebrate, but with safety

Amid the pandemic, for many, the festival will mark an occasion to get together and offer prayers but with adequate social distancing. In Delhi’s Inderpuri, the Tamil community plans to have a small gathering in the morning for Pongal, and an evening of fun for the younger members. “As opposed to last year, when we had a gathering of 500 people, this year we are expecting a small crowd, spread across a large area so there is proper distancing. We will put banners stating rules of distancing and also provide free masks to all visitors who wish to celebrate Pongal together,” explains Karthik, one of the organisers of the event.

“For the children, we have plans for a cultural evening with a few games and distribution of prizes, just so there is a sense of community among our people here. These months have been hard on everyone; Pongal will bring people together and help them prepare for a better year,” he adds.

Author tweets @bhagat_mallika

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