SRI LANKA, January 14, 2018 (Sunday Observer by P. Krishnaswamy): The country’s Hindus are celebrating the “Pongal” harvest festival, popularly known as Thai Pongal, celebrated in the first four days of the month of Thai in the Tamil-Hindu calendar. Traditionally, Thai Pongal is the festival of farmers who depend on Mother Earth, sun, rain, other natural elements and cows and buffaloes for a bountiful harvest of their staple food, rice. It is a time when the poor, the rich, the villager and the city-dweller offer thanks to the Gods, worship the sun, the earth, the cattle and their bounty with devotion.
In Sri Lanka, the festival is celebrated predominantly in the North, the East, the Central Hill Country, and other areas where Hindus live. This year’s Thai Pongal is special to the Tamils of the North and East because a majority of them are back in their own villages and homes, engaged in their traditional professions, mainly agriculture and fisheries. Pongal is uniquely Tamil that it has been designated the State Festival in Tamil Nadu. Pongal is the only festival of the Hindus that follows a solar calendar and is celebrated in mid-January every year.