January 12, 2015

Bhogi Pongal: First Day of Tamil Harvest Festival in January

What is Bhogi Pongal? 

The first day of the four day Pongal festival, which falls on the last day of the Tamil month, Margazhi, (typically January 13 in the Western Calendar) is called Bhogi. Bhogi is "dedicated to the god Indra (Bhogi). He is the god of clouds and rain, which make the crops grow." (Source- Anita Ganeri, page 9

On Bhogi all people clean out their homes from top to bottom, and collect all unwanted goods. In the evening, people will light bonfires and burn what can be burnt. In the village where I celebrated Pongal, the people lived in mud huts with thatched roofs. The porches of these homes was fully covered by the thatch material, but somewhat elevated from the ground. This part of the home was taken apart and reconstructed on this day along with the front section of the walkway in front of their home (pictured to the left). Both the porch and ground in front of their home was solid mud which had dried. So, to undo this, they put in water to soften it, and dug it out and rebuilt it. After rebuilding it, they took cow dung and added water to make a paste and spread this mixture evenly over the new fixtures to coat and sanitize them. This mixture was also spread on the floor of the hut, on which we slept at night. As they don't have beds, we slept on the floor of the mud hut with a mat between our bodies and the floor. Although, the mixture had been spread on the floor, it did not have an unpleasant smell. In addition, the family I stayed with installed a new ceiling fan for Pongal.

Day 2 - Thai Pongal 

Jennifer Kumar, author of this blog, is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys. Authentic Journeys provides cross-cultural business coaching to Indians and Americans to promote improved cross-cultural business exchanges. Contact Jennifer here. 


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