Pongal Festival happening today in Roanoke

ROANOKE, Va. – Pongal Festival Celebration by Roanoke Valley Indian Community “Pongal - The Festival of New Beginning” Roanoke Valley Tamil language speaking families of Indian community are planning to celebrate this year Pongal Festival on 28th January between 11 to 3pm at Lions Club located at Roanoke Southwest County. On this day, a traditional Pongal prayer in Tamil heritage followed by traditional Banana leaves special meal with Cultural programs by children is planned.

India is a land full of diverse cultures and numerous festivals spread throughout the calendar year. Pongal, also known as the festival of farmers, is a very unique among other Indian festivals. This festival taking place in South India at the same time every year, starting at the Tamil month, Thai, which always condenses either on January 13th or 14th and lasts a total of 4 days.

The harvesting festival is celebrated in various states of India in a different name. This festival is celebrated as Lohri in Panjab state and Makar Sankranti in the state of Karnataka, just to name a few. In 2017, Virginia commonwealth house of delegates and senate passed the resolution to declare 14th January of each year as “Pongal Day” and recognized Pongal as state festival to recognize the traditional values of 40,000 Tamil speaking families of Virginia Commonwealth.

More about Pongal The word “Pongal” in Tamil means “overflowing”, which signifies abundance, prosperity, and hope for a bright future. This festival is marked as a time for thanksgiving and harvest, marking the start of the spring season and the end of the traditional farming season, and the gathering of the first food from the harvest. In addition, it is meant to show appreciation towards the Sun, who is the source of life for all beings on the earth and to show thanks and respect for a successful year of harvest. The day prior to Pongal, is commemorated by what is referred to as the Bhogi festival.

On this day, old items and clothing no longer being used are tossed into a bonfire as a symbolic gesture of burning unwanted thoughts & cleansing the clusters, and allow for the opportunity of a new beginning. On the day of Pongal, communities come together for a special offering to Sun, where rice and milk are combined and cooked until they boil over (“Pongal”). to signify Sun is the source of energy for all living being and offer thanks for its source of energy & hope. The items like sugarcane, banana, coconuts who signify the sweetness are offered to Sun and then shared with the family members and relatives. This symbolic gesture is to appreciate and share blessings among family and relatives.

The spilling over of the rice and milk signifies an abundance of blessings and prosperity. Additionally, “Kolam”, a traditional, auspicious, hand-drawn design created using rice flour is drawn at the entrance of homes and festivity places to bring beauty and happiness and also with the intent to feed the insects like ants on this auspicious day to make the belief that the good blessings received from Sun must be shared not only with families and even to the small insects like ants. After the prayer, families and friends cook together and share a special meal served in banana leaves with the sense of togetherness and belongings followed by cultural events to portray the rich heritage of Tamil culture to the children to strengthen the family bonding

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Duke Carter returned to 10 News in January 2022.