Tradition of keeping Thaali on Pongal

The unique tradition followed for Pongal festival

Most of us know all about Pongal, why it is celebrated and how it is celebrated, but did you know that the rituals are very different in each family? There are differences (some major) in how my Mom celebrates as well as how we (in my Pugundha veedu) celebrate…thought will document here what all we do…my husband’s family hails from Kalkulam, a little hamlet near Mathuranthakam. Forefathers were typically farmers so this festival is the biggest and the most elaborate festival of the year.

Tradition of keeping Thaali on Pongal

I remember the “Pongal tension”, the high energy days preceding Pongal usually sets in by the 10th of January. Labour from our village (one or two men) usually come and stay with us to clean the house. My mother in law, Mrs Charumathy Shanmugham, very well known for her meticulous cleaning skills as well as keeping her house spic and span with everything in its place all covered with specially created cloth covers (the grinder, the mixi, the Two in One tape recorder (obsolete now), etc. ) Nowadays, this intense high energy cleaning is not there in my house, as cleaning has become a “throughout the year” affair…More so because no labour is available from our village, and the daily helper who walks in is always in a hurry, but bless her never says NO to my requests for little acts of periodical cleaning.

For Bhogi, the house which by then is thoroughly cleaned and shining, is all set. Elaborate kolams decorate the vaasal/foyer. With or without rangoli colours. The dining area is filled with special vegetables for cooking for the next two days. In the 1980s we used to live in an independent house in West CIT Nagar and the cutting of vegetables will begin at 5 pm on Bhogi evening. We used to cook a lot so to save time the following day, this ritual will begin. The live in maid, my mother in law, Bagyam Paati (Athai Paati) who was in her 80s but energetic and very adept at chores and me used to start the chopping. After this the kitchen will be cleaned thoroughly and clothes which all of us have to wear the following day will be washed and dried in a separate line which none should touch. The next day we have to remove the clothes using a stick and then take it to the bathroom and only touch them to wear after the ceremonial oil bath.

Waking up at dawn the following day, after bath, wearing the clothes from that separate line, the cooking will begin. The menu will always be:

Pidi Karanai Kaara Kuzhambu with an aromatic roasted powder made especially for this. Using the Sambar Podi which is a staple in our homes, is a big no no. Cutting this Pidi Karanai is an art. If you don’t apply enough oil on your hands, the itching will remain till after Pongal 🙂

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