Celebrate the South Indian Holiday of Pongal!

By Sunita B. RSS Tue, January 12, 2021

The South Indian holiday of Pongal is a multi-day harvest festival full of music and food observed by the Tamil and Telugu community, celebrated this year per the Hindu religious calendar, starting on Thursday, January 14 and ending on Sunday, January 17.

The festival marks the end of the winter solstice, and the start of the sun's six-month-long journey northwards when the sun enters the zodiac Makara (Capricorn). In the Tamil language, "pongal" means "bubbling up," and it is also the name of a delicious, hearty dish made with rice, lentils, and cashews.

We will celebrate Pongal virtually on Friday, January 15 at 3:00 p.m. on Donatucci Library's Facebook page with music and a cooking demonstration of the holiday’s namesake dish. We will learn about and follow many of these very old traditions in a new place, with a new audience. I will also present a short Carnatic (South Indian Classical) vocal performance and then take it to the kitchen to show our patrons how to prepare for a traditional and tasty dish!

Here is a sample recipe for Pongal (from KannammaCooks.com):


  • 1 cup raw rice (sona masuri)
  • 1/2 cup to 1 cup split moong dal
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoon Ghee
  • 1 tablespoon Oil
  • 2 tablespoon broken cashew nut
  • 1 teaspoon minced ginger
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 green chillies, chopped
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  1. Soak rice in water. Take split moong dal and dry roast it on a very low flame until you can smell the roasted dal. It would take approximately 3 minutes. Don’t roast for long. Cook the dal and rice together in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water for a good 15 minutes or 10-12 whistles.
  2. Coarsely grind pepper and cumin with the help of a mortar and pestle. Set aside.
  3. Heat some ghee and oil in a pan. I used 2 tablespoons of ghee and a tablespoon of oil. Add in the broken cashew nut, ginger, curry leaves and green chillies. Roast on a low flame. Once the nuts are roasted add in the pepper-cumin mixture. Roast briefly for 20 seconds.
  4. Add in the cooked rice-dal mixture and salt. Mix everything to combine. Saute briefly for a minute or two.
  5. Remove off heat.

One of the pieces I will be performing is a Tamil song titled "Kaliyuga Varadan", in the raga Brindavana Saranga, composed by the revolutionary Periasamy Thooran in the mid 20th Century.  Each year, the Pongal holiday coincides with the uplifting of the deity Muruga. The song is a tribute to Muruga and to his history in the Hindu canon.

We welcome you to enjoy another virtual trip to another culture this Friday, January 15 at 3:00 p.m. on Facebook Live!

Previous week's storytimes and programs are also archived and viewable via Donatucci Library's Facebook page.

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