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Tamils gearing up for Pongal
Pongal, one of the most important Tamil festivals is going to be celebrated on January 14. Tamils have already started cleaning and decorating their houses for the festival. Tamil women have started making the floor decorations in front of their houses called Kolam as a preparation for the festival. Pongal is the thanksgiving harvest festival of Tamils, where the gratitude is expressed to the sun god for bountiful rice crop and agricultural abundance during the season.
Drawing a Kolam in front of the house is thought to bring prosperity. In Tamil Nadu, women draw kolams on the ground with white rice powder daily and more so on Pongal. A Kolam is a line drawing, which comprises of curved loops in dotted pattern. Instead of using rice powder to draw Kolams, chalk powder, white rock powder and synthetic coloured powders are also used.

It can be a good occasion to learn to draw the simplest Kolam for North-Indians with eight dots. First, make three columns of two dots placed vertically. Then, add one dot each above and below the central column. Lastly, circling the top dot, draw continuously the line with powder to enclose all dots and ending at the starting point (see inset picture). Kolams are drawn as one or many continuous line drawings.

Pongal is celebrated by the Tamil community all over the world and particularly in Tamil Nadu, Puducherry and Sri Lanka. Pongal festival is celebrated for four days by Tamil with different activities on each day.

Signifying the end of bountiful harvest season, Pongal marks the beginning of the northward journey of the sun from its southernmost position from the last day of the tenth Tamil month called Maargazhi to the third day of Thai month. On the occasion of Pongal, the Sun god is thanked for the good harvest by offering the first grain of the harvest to him. This ritual is called 'Surya Mangalyam' by Tamils.

Newly cooked rice and savouries are prepared for celebrating pongal. It is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new clay pots at sunrise. The cooked rice is then topped with various rich things such as ghee, cashew nuts and raisins. When the milk boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of "Pongalo Pongal,'' put the freshly harvested rice grains in the pot and blow a conch for good luck and prosperity.

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