Did You Know
Agriculture permeates all aspects of life in Jaffna. So it’s no wonder that the people of Jaffna have their own special series of festivals relating to cultivation and harvest. The first of which is Thai Pongal. Thai is the 10th month in the Tamil solar calendar. Pongal means ‘boiling over’. Thai Pongal signifies the abundance of harvest and prosperity. However, in essence it is a thanksgiving celebration.
The Sun and The Bullocks
The Sun determines the weather patterns and the bullocks provide considerable amount of assistance for a successful harvest. In July-August period, with the timely arrival of the rains, the seeds of rice are sown and grown. The wet fields are then ploughed by the bullocks. During September, the seedlings are ready for transplanting. Weather conditions act favourably for the rice to grow and be harvested in December. The bullocks help in threshing to separate grains from plant. So Thai Pongal is a thanksgiving harvest festival paying homage to the Sun. In case you are wondering about the bullocks, the day after Thai Pongal is Maattu Pongal. On this day, the bullocks and cows will be honoured for their contribution towards agriculture.
On The Day
On the day, every home will be cleaned and decorated with mango leaves, coconut leaves, flowers and flower garlands. Early in the morning, sweet pongal rice is cooked on a makeshift open-fire outside the house and symbolically offered to the Sun. All begins with the drawing of rice flour kolams or floor decorations. The kolam will include a drawing of the Sun. A makeshift stove is constructed in the middle of the kolam and cow’s milk is brought to boil until it spills over. As the milk spills over the rim of the pot, all who are present, will rejoice by shouting – Pongal-lo pongal! Then the new rice from December’s harvest, is used to prepare sweet pongal rice in the same pot the milk was boiled in. Brace yourself for you’re sure to hear loud firecrackers in all directions.
There are various fun activities for a visitor to the City. Join in by lighting fire crackers, flying kites and joining kite flying competitions. Bicycle races and other fun community activities including traditional sports and cultural shows will be scheduled at various locations. Some might be surprised to see the men undertaking most of the work including the sweet pongal rice preparation. Since Jaffna men have traditionally been involved in agriculture, they tend to play a major role in the festivities. So there is something for all, join in and get involved! If you are around on the 8th of February, why not visit the Nallur Kandaswamy Temple to partake in the Puthir Day rituals? Enjoy some sweet pongal rice that will be offered to all who visit the Temple on that day.