Pongal is an important festival in the Tamil region, celebrated in the Tamil month of Tai (Janu-ary–February). Technically, the month starts when the Sun enters the sign of Capricorn. Pongal is a celebration of the harvest, which in Tamil Nadu occurs when the rainy season ends in December.
   The word Pongal is from the Tamil root pongu, which means to boil. During the festival, a pot is filled with rice, ghee, milk, and sugar or jaggery (palm sugar) and is heated to boiling. The pot is supposed to boil over to show the abundance of the harvest. The day before Pongal old imple-ments and clothing are discarded to be replaced by new ones. On this day cows and other cattle are directly worshipped and are allowed to run free. Bullfights are staged, and young men chase wild bulls, in a somewhat gentler version of the running of the bulls in Pamplona, Spain.
   Further reading: M. Arunachalam, Festivals of Tamil Nadu (Tiruchitrambalam: Gandhi Vidyalayam, 1980); Anita Ganeri, Hindu Festivals throughout the Year (Mankato, Minn.: Smart Apple Media, 2003).

Encyclopedia of Hinduism. . 2007.

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