January has a festive feel to it. Right from New Year celebrations to the traditional Pongal, it is indeed a month of merry-making in Tamil Nadu. Come January 15, 2019 and you will all get set to cry out aloud ‘Pongal o Pongal’ wearing new clothes and jewellery. Many of us love to spend the four-day long festival with family at our houses decorated with flowers, kolams and sing traditional songs as the milk-rice boils over earthen pots. However, if you plan to travel outside the city (just take the Monday off and club in the weekend) around Pongal to witness traditional revelry, we suggest you go to these places:
Thanjavur as a city exudes an ancient charm, that is hard to define in words. Simple people, ancient temples, lush green fields and the lip-smacking food are probably one of the few reasons. To discover more, you would need to travel there! During the Pongal festivities the place turns into a vibrant region with decorated homes, kolams or patterns drawn out with rice flour are by themselves a competition among the neighbourhood women. A special event to look out for is the Brihadeeshwara Temple’s celebration of mattu Pongal as many cows are lined up by the owners for puja at the temple.
Pollachi is a popular gateway to many scenic tourist destinations in the surrounding region. The drive from Coimbatore to Pollachi is enjoyable with great roads and sights. The fresh fruit produce being sold on the roads is a bonus! The city has many fields, making Pongal a festival of immense significance in the region. Enjoy the festivities and also explore the surrounding region that includes attractions such as Topslip, Indira Gandhi Wildlife Sanctuary, Parambikulam Tiger Reserve, Aliyar Dam, Valparai, Monkey Falls, Masani Amman Temple, etc.
It has many temples, fields and villages that display the true essence of Pongal festivities. Temples carry out special rituals on all four days of Pongal. Do visit the temples during this time despite the crowds. The farmers and their families display a portion of their harvest to the Sun God and dishes are prepared from this harvest and offered to the almighty. Clay pots are used to cook pongal and the festival is celebrated with much pomp and glory. If it has to get traditional, then Madurai is the place to be.
Coimbatore is a popular textile city in Tamil Nadu. Here Pongal is celebrated just like the Thanksgiving festival of the West. Even though most of the city folks are not engaged in any activity remotely agrarian, they celebrate Pongal with much fervour. The homes are freshly painted and decorated, kolams and flowers adorn it. Some homes even set up pandals and light up their homes. It is also a great place to go festive shopping with many stores offering special discounts and great variety! The local temples and the surrounding villages can also be visited for a rustic experience.
Salem is an industrial town that is also popular for its textile manufacturing. If you happen to be in Salem during Pongal, you will surely find most of them dressed very well in new clothes. But the most unique aspect of the celebrations in Salem is the traditional activity of ‘Fox Darshan’. Are you intrigued enough? It is true that the male members of the villages, forage the forests for a fox that they carry back to the village for everyone to see and worship, before releasing it back into the forest. Other activities include the usual pongal preparations and worship of cows across the four days.