Among the many religious and cultural celebrations that travellers can be a part of with India holiday packages is Thai Pongal. It is a harvest festival, celebrated by Tamils, generally in mid-January as per the Gregorian calendar. The event is observed to thank the Sun for its important role in agriculture, and it is held when this ball of fire enters the Capricorn constellation. On the first day, known as Bhogi, people throw away old things and start anew. In cities, houses and in villages, horns of oxen are painted and decorated. Fruits and flowers of the first seasonal harvest are collected along with money and the contents are showered over children.
The Second Morning
Day 2, known as Pongal Pandigai, is the most important time of the festival, marked by cooking the trademark sweet rice dish, way before dawn breaks. As soon as the milk boils, people shout the name of the festival, add freshly obtained rice and blow conch shells. At sunrise, the preparation is offered to the Sun God and later to everyone else. Observers spend the day by making beautiful patterns with coloured powder at their doorstep and cooking other festive food items. Another fun aspect of the event is that the elderly offer gifts to the younger members of the family.
The Third and Fourth Days
The third day, called Maatu Pongal, is solely dedicated to cattle as traditionally, without them, agriculture cannot be practised. Cattle are bathed, painted and decorated with garlands of flower and an orange powder, called kumkum, is applied on their foreheads. Farm animals are fed the rice dish, bananas, jaggery, honey and fruits and in villages, bull-fighting contests are common. Crows are invoked for strong family-ties by offering to them coloured rice, bananas, cooked vegetables and kheer on turmeric or ginger leaves. As darkness sets in, Tamils assembles in their personal temples and worship Lord Ganesha and thereafter, gather their farm animals. Villagers use coconut leaves to make torches, light them, encircle their cattle thrice and then run towards the village-boundary. The last day is called Kaanum Pongal and it involves revellers going to their friends and family and spending time together. This event can also be attended during Sri Lanka tours as the country has a significant number of Tamil inhabitants.
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