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Ponggal Essentials

Earthern Pot

Traditionally, a newly made clay pot is decorated and placed on a firewood stove in the open yard of the house, ready to face the rising sun. This firewood stove is made by arranging three stones represent love, patience and eliminating desires. The pot is adorned with ginger roots (indicating good health) and turmeric stalks (to ward off evil), and marked with vibuthi (sacred ash) and vermillion. In these modern times, cooking Ponggal in a stainless steel pot in the kitchen is also deemed acceptable.

Ponggal Rice Pudding

The main feature of this festival is the boiling of fresh milk in the clay pot until it overflows. Milk brimming over denotes the overflowing of wealth and prosperity, so it is considered auspicious to gather around the pot and watch it boil over. Once it does, family member declare “Ponggalo Ponggal”, which means “boiling over” or “overflowing”. After which rice, jaggery or brown sugar, ghee, cashew nuts and raisins are added to make the famous Sakkarai Ponggal or sweet rice pudding. The finished product is offered to the gods as a symbol of thanks and later served to those present.


Elaborate Kolam designs are drawn using either white rice paste or white and coloured rice powders in front of houses. Although drawn throughout the year in most homes in South India, it is especially significant during Ponggal. It is said to purify the entrance and symbolize symmetry, balance, happiness and prosperity in the household. And even Kolam has an environmental touch to it; insects and birds feed on the rice flour used for drawing these designs at the entrance of houses, representing man’s concern for all living creatures.

Sugar can and mango leaves

The entrance to Hindu homes is decorated with sugar cane to symbolize a sweet start and good happenings for the family. Mango leaves are hung at the doorway to ward off evil. Turmeric leaves are also used to ward off bad omen.

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