The sakkarai pongal is the highlight of the harvest festival. Pongal for the Tamils is the most important perhaps sharing its importance with Diwali. It is a three day event full of eats, festivities, fun and cheer.
It starts with the Bhogi pandigai one day before Makar sankranti. This day the whole house is cleared of all clutter. Special dishes like poli(sweet dal stuffed roti) and aama vadai(mixed lentil fritters).
The next day dawns with great enthusiasm as it has a religious and social significance. The sun enters makar heralding many changes. A new big pot is placed in the courtyard with large kolams. It is decorated with tall sugarcane stalks and placed over a big open fire. Freshly harvested raw rice, New jaggery, milk, ghee and moong dal are cooked into a delicious sakkarai pongal amidst shouts of Pongalo pongal. It is garnished with dry fruits and offered to the Sun God.
This is the rustic scene but even in cities the entire ritual is carried out in a bronze pot known as vengalai paanai over the gas burner. The ritual is so sacred to Tamils that the vengalai paanai forms a part of the bride’s things to take to her marital home.
Another important aspect of the festival is the jallikattu or bull fight organised during this time.
It culminates on the third day with maattu or kanu pongal. On this day ladies wake up early and celebrate by keeping special offerings for crows (rice, pongal and fruits). A variety of special rice dishes are made and people visit their relatives or go for a picnic by the riverside. Kanu is usually celebrated at the maternal home.
Having lived in Gujarat makar sankranti is synonymous with kite flying also for me . I used to miss the first half of kite flying and my son always complained about this.
Thus ends the three day festival. The sakkarai pongal forms an important part of the Prasad in all poojas throughout the year.