Celebrating Pongal in PondicherryBy kamla bhatt • Jan 14th, 2012
Category: Books and Authors, Featured, India, Life
The Hindu festival Pongal is celebrated on 15th January all over South India. This harvest festival is to give thanks to the Sun god for a bountiful harvest, and takes place 21 days after the winter solstice.
In the former French colony of Pondicherry there is an interesting tradition where the Catholics celebrate Pongal to mark their festival of epiphany. Lourdes (Lulu) Louis Thiruvanjiam talks about this fusion of Hindu and Christian elements in their Pongal celebrations in the former French colony. This includes attending an early morning mass, and celebrating a traditional Pongal lunch with their family and friends.
Pongal is a dish that consists of rice and lentils that you cook in a claypot and let it boil over. But Lulu and the Catholics of Pondicherry make their pongal a little differently. Instead of milk, they use coconut milk as one of the ingredients in their preparation of Pongal, which is served with a special gravy made up of 13 different types of vegetables.
Until about 25 years ago the Catholics of Pondicherry celebrated Pongal on January 15th like the Hindus. Due to a change announced by the Vatican – epiphany is now celebrated on the first Sunday after Christmas. Even though the dates have changed the tightly knit Catholic community of Pondicherry continue to celebrate Pongal with their mix of Hindu and Christian traditions.
This year Lulu celebrated Pongal with her family and friends on January 8th, one week ahead of the traditional Hindu celebration.
Lulu is the author of Cuisine Traditionenelle de Pondichery.