History of Pongal Festival

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Pongal Festival

Pongal is a four-days-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, a southern state of India. For as long as people have been planting and gathering food, there has been some form of harvest festival. Pongal, one of the most important popular Hindu festivals of the year. This four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature takes its name from the Tamil word meaning "to boil" and is held in the month of Thai (January-February) during the season when rice and other cereals, sugar-cane, and turmeric (an essential ingredient in Tamil cooking) are harvested.

Mid-January is an important time in the Tamil calendar. The harvest festival, Pongal, falls typically on the 14th or the 15th of January and is the quintessential 'Tamil Festival'. Pongal is a harvest festival, a traditional occasion for giving thanks to nature, for celebrating the life cycles that give us grain. Tamilians say 'Thai pirandhaal vazhi pirakkum', and believe that knotty family problems will be solved with the advent of the Tamil month Thai that begins on Pongal day. This is traditionally the month of weddings. This is not a surprise in a largely agricultural community - the riches gained from a good harvest form the economic basis for expensive family occasions like weddings.

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Kongu History

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Kongu Landscape

Kongu Vellalar Community is the dominant community in the Kongu Region of Taminlnadu.  Kongu region mainly comprises of the district of Coimbatore, Periyar, Dharmapuri, Salem and Palani taluq of Madurai district.  The total area of the traditional Kongu region is about 7500 sq. miles.  Through the Kongu plain flows the Kaveri, one of the most important rivers in South India. There are a number of small rivers such as Bhavani, Amaravathi, Neyyaru etc. that finally join with Cauvery and flow to Cauvery delta in the fertile Tanjore district.  Despite its many small rivers, Kongu is essentially an extremely dry plain. Rain is infrequent and less dependable than anywhere else in Tamilnadu.  Most of Kongu farmers however still depend on deeps well for farming.

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Gounders Kootam

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The Gounders follow the system of Gotram, popularly called Kootam in which persons from the same Kootam do not marry one another as they are considered to have descended from the same ancestor. Each Kootam has its own Kulaguru (or popularly saamiar- a brahmin- for example, the kulaguru of melkarai poonthurai nadu kootams is Pasur Akilanda Dikshitar), who is traditionally respected. (This fact is cleverly skipped by Dravidian historians). Every Kootam also has one or more Kuladeivams or a Clan Deities. Some of the Kootams are:

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Pioneers of Kongu Migration

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Even a thousand miles journey starts with a single step. It is said that Kongus migrated to Kongunadu and established settlements in the erstwhile sparsely populated forests and wooded Kongunadu. With hard work and firm determination, Kongus cleared the forests and wooded areas into lands for cultivation and became a dominant community. In course of time they became inveterate and habitual farmers. Hard work, fierce defense to hold to the land, ready to fight to defend the lands became their hallmarks in addition to Kongu hospitality and Kongus fellowship in the fight against intruders. The livelihood of Kongus was very much intertwined with land and land became their life.

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Legends

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If there is a one distinctive symbol that you can identify in whole of Kongu area, it is the ubiquity of little temples dedicated to Annanmars who fought for the establishment of the Kongu community in Kongunadu. Annanmars are celebrated by many other communities. It in in fact unfortunate that valiant symbol of the whole of gounder community is not celebrated by the gounder community extensively. Annanmars remains the quintessential definition of brotherhood and their sister Arkani Thangam another symbol of sisterly love to her Brothers.

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