Thai Pongal ~ the charming festival of Thanksgiving

by K. Thirukumaran

Tamil month of ‘Thai’, falling on January 14th or 15th is Pongal day, the Tamil Thanksgiving Day celebrating sun, rain, farm cattle and ushering in pureness and prosperity.

The Sun

Morning sun in Dayton , NJ

Thai Pongal is celebrated on Jan 15th in 2012, according to the Tamil almanac.

Thai harvest celebration and thanksgiving are marked by the spillover of the traditional sweet rice cookout and everything good in abundance to follow in the year it joyously indicates.

Celebrated Philosopher-Poet Thiruvalluvar says in the first Kural ~ couplet, under Part I ~ Virtue (1.1.1 The Praise of God),

“As the letter A is the first of all letters, so the eternal God is first in the world”. (Translated by Rev. G.U. Pope)

(“Agara Muthala elluththellam
Athi pakavan muthatre ulagu”
)

On Thai Pongal Day, the Sun is the celebrated Athi pakavan, eternal God.

mp3: ‘Agara Muthala’ Rendered by Dr. Seergazhi Sivasithambaram

Bountiful prosperity ushers

The farmers’ markets around towns and villages bustle with activity during days preceding Thai Pongal. The bountiful harvests parade the markets, and the final day the market convenes prior to Pongal known as Pongal Santhai (Pongal market) especially lavishes with prosperous sentiments.

Celebrating Thai Pongal, the charming festival of Thanksgiving

Thai Pongal is extremely popular with children.

The legendary Kuzhandai Kavignar Azha Valliappa, (1922-1989) a pioneer known for dedicated work of children’s literature in Tamil, wrote the following poem about Pongal in his collection of poetry for children, Malarum Ullam (Blossoming minds):

The poem brings out the charm in preparing for and celebrating Pongal festivities, and roughly translates as follows:

Walls newly painted
floors neatly polished

Day break shower
Lamp within flicker

Garner decorated crock
Dazzle around turmeric

Crock atop stove
Milk therein pour

Foaming milk spillovers
Greetings galore ‘Pongal ‘o Pongal’ *

Offer almighty rice
Coconut sugarcane feast

Together we eat
Singing dancing joyously (Translated by K. Thirukumaran)

* Greeting on Pongal day saying Pongal ‘o Pongal signifies the abundance of milk foam spillover, from the clay pot and other vessels that are used to make the sweet rice – Pongal, as sign of prosperity and happiness.

Thai Pongal ~ January, the month that bestowed you in me

‘Thai paves the way for good things to follow’, is a Tamil proverb.

Thai Pongal marks the first day of the Tamil month January; it is also the celebrated Tamil month for weddings, lasting intro to eternal friendships and love, and is dazzled on these pages with songs signifying ‘Thai’, meaning the beginning of the Tamil month of January:

Love on parade in January: Thai maatham Kalyanam andru Kaathal oorkolam

The first kiss: Poo pookum maasam Thai Masam

The month that bestowed you in me: Thanthana thanthana Thai maasam

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