Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pongal celebration, Pongal shopping list

What is Pongal festival? Pongal festival is celebrated widely among Tamil nadu people, devoted to Sun god. It is also celebrated in the places where ever Tamil people are living - like Singapore, Malaysia, Canada, Sri Lanka, US, UK etc;.
Happy Pongal

Wishing all my reader and follower friends a Happy Pongal! I am not going to write the basic details about pongal festival, please check wikipedia if you want to know about the basics of the festival. Even Though it is celebrated by all the tamils, it's not the same way it is celebrated by every family. Each family, each household have different way, traditions that is followed. I did not even realize my in-laws family had a different way of celebrating from the way at my mom's place.
After I got married, I haven't been there to celebrate pongal with them. So every year, my mami ask me to visit them when it's pongal. But usually Aj will have cyclic test and won't be able to make it. Last time when they visited, I requested them to come here to Singapore to celebrate the festival.
So last year (2018), my mama, mami came here for celebration along with my two other brothers-in-law family🙂. Last year, I could learn a bit from my mami what is our custom and traditions to be followed. First I was little nervous on how I would manage all the things, Vj gave me confidence and told since many people are there, they will all do their part and no need to worry. As he said, While I concentrated only in the cooking part, I got all the help from my co-sisters, mami to prepare for the poojai. I just concentrated on cooking for the entire family along with pongal keeping.
Before I go through the way we celebrate pongal, if you are looking for pongal recipes, click here for the pongal recipes.
Disclaimer: This is just how we celebrate pongal festival at our household. Please check with your respective family elders to follow your traditions. I just wanted to share and keep a record of how we celebrate pongal festival. Though the customs and traditions are changing according to our convenience,  availability, I just wanted to keep it written for my future reference.
Let me also share the pongal shopping list/ checklist.

Shopping list for pongal:

Poojai items

  • Kungumam
  • Sandal
  • Flowers
  • wick (thiri nool)
  • Betel leaves, nuts
  • Banana
  • Agarbathi, sambrani
  • Camphor
  • Sesame oil/ vilakku yennai
  • Mango leaves/ maavilai
  • Kaapu kattu if applicable / available (kind of a bouquet with white flowers and yellow flower sarakkondrai, etc,)
Vegetables:
  • Fresh ginger
  • Fresh turmeric
  • Sugarcane
  • Mochai
  • Broad beans
  • Raw banana/ plantain
  • White pumpkin
  • Yellow pumpkin
  • Sweet potato
  • Colocasia/ arbi/ seppankizhangu
  • Karunai kizhangu/ yam
  • Banana leaf
  • Coconut 

Grocery checklist

  • Moong dal
  • Raw rice
  • Jaggery (preferably paagu vellam)
  • Ghee
  • Oil
  • Cashews
  • Cardamom
  • Nutmeg, edible camphor
  • Milk

Let's start with how we celebrate pongal. First and foremost, they figure out when is the Tamil month 'Thai' exactly born, by referring panjangam. We use paambu panjangam (பாம்பு பஞ்சாங்கம்) for referring all such timings for festivals etc.
Whenever the month is born, my FIL or MIL takes bath and lit's lamp. The lamp is also not the usual ones, its called madakku (மடக்கு) - large lamp made out of mud.
So let me start how we celebrate pongal festival:
Soak 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup raw rice, grind to a smooth paste in liquid form to draw maakolam (மாக்கோலம்). Draw a kolam at entrance of the house. You can refer my parents blog learnkolam.net for pongal kolams. Here's what my mami drew last year.
Draw kolam as shown below in three places. One at the regular pooja place, one for veetu deivam and one for Surya bagavan. So total three places. My mami drew these kolams last year.
Here are the lamps cleaned and kept ready for the poojai. The brass vilakku is my paati's and the other are respective from our mom's house.

In the pooja place wall, using avarai ilai (broad beans leaf or pungai ilai) crush and make a rectangle using the dye from the leaf. 7 rows of 7 dots are kept each in one different item and colour.
  1. Black - kan mai (kaajal) or sago saandhu
  2. Red - kum kum
  3. White - kola maavu (rice we ground)
  4. Green - Same leaf but darker shade
  5. Viboodhi 
  6. Sandhanam
  7. Manjal
We use cardboard to do as we do not have white wall at pooja place. So either we can keep the cardboard for the upcoming festivals or can also create new ones. I already tried to check with my family why we do it and the reason behind to understand better, but there's no much information available. So I have to check with other elders when I visit India and enlighten myself.
This setup is for two places- one at regular pooja place and one for veetu deivam. Last year, my co-sister helped me drawing this and cleaning pooja vessels with me.
Prepare one wooden plank - wash and dry. Draw kolam over it too and let all kolams dry.
A big agal vilakku (madakku - large lamp made out of mud) is tied around decoratively with a white thread. It is called thaai vilakku (தாய் விளக்கு) Which represents the late daughter-in-law of the house (here, my father-in-law's mom).
In the wooden plank, raw rice is spread {preferably new fresh harvest rice (புது அரிசி)}. Keep the thaai vilakku in the middle. Keep one lamp (brought by the daughters-in-law during their marriage) each for the daughters-in-law around the thaai vilakku. So here, one for my mom-in-law, one for me, two more - one each for my co-sisters, as I have two co-sisters. So total 5.
After my Mom-in-law, I have to take all these traditions and follow it. That time, the thaai vilakku will be for my Mom-in-law. And the tradition goes on.
The wick (thiri nool) for these vilakku is not the regular cotton wick we use. There is a thread called ''paavu thiri" (பாவு திரி) and we have to count in 50s or 100s. Take required length of the thread and cut. first tied a knot on the top. Then like we plait our hair, divide into three and make a plait. End it and tie a knot to secure. This is used same way for all the lamps. My grandfather used to run this thread 108 times in Padi, and it is then taken out, plaited to wick. But my father-in-law takes counts of thread, measures length  and plaits the wick as these days padi is not available at homes as well as madakku. 
So this wooden plank is kept in front of the regular pooja place, over the kolam we drawn earlier. In front of this arrangement, a thalai vazhai ilai (Full banana leaf) is spread. Over which, 5 or 7 betel nuts & leaves, coconut, flower on top of the leaf, vegetables like raw banana, broad beans, sweet potato, arbi (seppankizhangu), yam (pidi karanai) are kept in sets, the same count as above.

So once the lamp is lit by the eldest in the family (take bath and lit with wet veshti/ towel), Make ready the pongal pot by decorating it. Viboodhi pattai, kunguma pottu is kept. Manjal and ginger is tied around the neck of the brass pot (vengala panai). One panai, each for sweet pongal and ven pongal. The pongal pot should be full, so buy the pot accordingly. My mom in law used a thread and inserted a piece of manjal and ginger in it, tied around the pot. So you might not see much. Seems she does this usually to avoid the leaves catching fire while cooking.

The stove should be clean and can be decorated with kolam.
The whole day, everyone in the family should do fasting. Only after pongal, we can have food.
Menu to be cooked :
  1. Payatham paruppu (South Indian style moong dal)
  2. A thayir pachadi
  3. A sweet pachadi
  4. 2 poriyals - I made vazhakkai poriyal, avarakkai poriyal
  5. 7 kari kootu 
  6. Pongal sambar with payatham paruppu (moong dal)
Apart from ven pongal (to be consumed instead of regular rice) and sweet pongal.
All the menu prepared uses fresh turmeric, fresh ground spices and no onion or tomato, using only the 7 vegetables.
After the above cooking part is done, including the pongals, we start poojai.
At each place (3 places) - a pair of kuthu vilakku is lit. In front of it, over the kolam drawn, keep a plate with a pair of vethalai, paaku, coconut, a pair of banana.
In front of main pooja place, 5 banana leaves (One thalai vazhai ilai and 4 edu) is spread. Usually 7 is done, but now a days, we cannot consume all these as the family is smaller than the earlier days. So we did 3 at each place according to the number of family members.
In each leaf, ven pongal, sweet pongal are kept, patted using water and made dent in the middle. Add a slice of banana, a small piece of jaggery over it. Pour a tsp of ghee. 
Keep all the cooked items too in order. 

First the regular place is done with poojai. Later, veetu deivam and surya bahavan should be offered at the same time, so me and Mom in law did together simultaneously. 

Once the pooja is done, offered to crow, we all enjoy the food. We all sat on the floor and had food together. It was great experience last year and I was just imagining how the festival would have been celebrated those days earlier in our households where they had their own cultivation lands, cattles, cows and a very large (joint) family😃.


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