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January 13, 2015

Thai Pongal: Second Day of Tamil Harvest Festival in January

When and What is Thai Pongal? 
2019: January 15, 2019
2020: January 15, 2019
2021: January 14, 2019

Do my colleagues in India get Thai Pongal off?
Yes. Thai Pongal is the second of the four days of Pongal.

Keep in mind that while Thai Pongal is the main holiday that most companies could have as a paid holiday (check your company's official holiday listing), colleagues with children may take off more days as children (and government employees) tend to have leave on all four Pongal days. And, in some cases, when Pongal falls on particular weekdays, the government may issue a notice allowing more days off to aid in families traveling to their native place for Pongal, as is the case in 2019. Read more here

What is Thai Pongal and How is it Celebrated?
Creating a kolum to decorate the new patioThe second day of Pongal falls on the first day of the Tamil calendar, Thai 1 or typically January 14 in the Western calendar.  Thai Pongal is also known as Surya Pongal because Surya, the Sun God is worshiped on this day. Women will wake up early on this day to create an elaborate kolum (floor designs made with rice powder) on the ground in front of their doorway or home. Kolums are created with colored rice flour placed on the ground carefully by using one's hand. The picture shown to the right shows the beginnings of this. The woman in the picture took several hours to finish that kolum. Everyone will wear their new dresses and use the new utensils or household items which replace the ones discarded the previous day (Bhogi Pongal). On this day the new rice is collected and cooked in pots with milk until it overflows. The pot used to cook Pongal is not the one used for cooking ordinary meals, but according to Viji Varadarajan, it is, 
"...a new earthenware pot called Pongapanai, on an open fire. The neck of the pongapanni is decorated with the fresh green turmeric and root ginger with is tender green leaves. The green leaves signify prosperity, the turmeric signifies auspiciousness, and the ginger is representative of the spice in life. (source, page 68)" 

When the rice boiled in milk begins to overflow, it is a joyous occasion, and the children and adults as well will shout out 'Pongal-o Pongal!' Children will dance and make music to the tune of these words. "Pongal-o pongal" loosely translates into English as 'it's boiling over.' More than the translation, the feeling behind these words is that the universe, god and mother earth offer us a rich abundance and harvest, so much so that it overflows our requirements and our lives will be full of abundance in many ways for the years to come! The rice is cooked and prepared as a dish called Pongal. There are two kinds of Pongal, savory (venpongal) and sweet (chakrai). This Pongal variety is called venpongal, ven meaning white. Another variety is also prepared with dhal and jaggery (sweet), called chakraipongal, chakrai meaning sweet. To accompany the venpongal, people eat brinjal (eggplant) sambar (stew), vadai, idli, and spicy accompaniments. This is one of my favorite meals! 

On to day three, Maatu Pongal

ennifer Kumar, author of this blog, is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys. We provide cross-cultural training for India - US virtual teams. Jennifer has lived in Chennai for 2.5 years and in Kochi, India for 6.5 years. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. See our 2017-2018 client project portfolio. Or, to build your teams, check out our India Cross Cultural Training Program or US Cross-Culture Program for Virtual Teams in India.

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.