Monday, January 10, 2011

Kalkandu Sakkarai Pongal - A Pongal And Sankranti Treat

The Sun is all set to change His track and move northwards,transiting from the zodiac sign sagittarius ( Dhanur Rasi) to zodiac sign capricon ( Makara rasi). The dark cold wintry days are coming to a close. Bright and warmer days are in the offing. It is time to celebrate a colourful and bountiful harvest festival.
Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated to thank the Sun God, the rain God and Mother earth for providing us with grains, fruits and vegetables, and other products for our sustenance . The first day of Pongal is Bogi festival. On this day all old pots and pans are discarded and new ones are bought. The house is white washed, festoons of mango leaves are tied on all door ways. Beautiful kolams (beautiful designs drawn using rice flour either dry or mixed with water) is drawn in front of the house. A campfire is lit and the entire house is cleared of clutter. All unwanted things are thrown into the campfire.
On Pongal day every one has an early ritualistic bath before sun rise. A turmeric plant along with the raw turmeric is tied around the neck of the 'pongal panai' - the pot in which pongal is cooked . The pot is filled with milk and water and is set on a clean stove at the appropriate time when the Tamil month of Thai is 'born'. When the milk boils over the entire house hold reverberates with the high pitched joyous cry, 'pongalo pongal' .
Rice and green gram dal are cooked in the pongal panai. Jaggery and ghee are added and finally roasted cashew nuts and raisins are also thrown in. This along with uluttam vadai ( Black gram dal patties) banana, coconuts, sugar cane, and all the seasonal vegetables like pumpkins, field beans, sweet potato and 'ellu bella' ( a dry roasted mixture of sesme seeds, ground nuts, dried coconut, and jaggery ) are offered to Sun God after the pooja.
Ven pongal, puliodarai (tamarnd rice ) tengai sadam (coconut rice) and thair sadam ( curd rice) are also prepared along with an assortment of native vegetables cooked into kootu, avial and porials for the grand pongal feast. Visiting friends and exchanging 'ellu bella' is a custom on this auspicious pongal/sankranti day.
At dusk children are made to sit on a decorated plank and 'ellu bella', a few coins and elachi hannu ( jujube ) are waved around their heads to ward off the surrounding negative energy which is considered as 'evil eye'.
Kanu pandigai and mattu pongal are celebrated on the third day.The five types of left over variety rice including pongal are made into small balls ( kanu pidi ) and served on a turmaric leaf along with small pieces of fruits, elachi hannu and sugar cane, in an open space near a water body, so that the crows enjoy the feast. After this ritual the women folk pray for the well being of their brothers and have an oil bath using the turmeric tied to the pongal pot. Brothers usually send gifts to their sisters on this day.
The cows and oxen are washed and decorated with strings of bells, shells and beads tied around their necks.The horns are painted in bright colours and strips of silver foil are wound around them. The cows are worshipped with flowers, turmeric and vermilion powder. They are treated with bucketsful of pongal and bananas as a gesture of thanks giving for all their hard work throughout the year.
Kaanum pongal is a day of family picnic which is celebrated only in Tamil Nadu.
I wish to share a variation of Sakkarai Pongal to celebrate the oncoming harvest festival.

Rice - 3/4 cup
Green gram dal - 1/4 cup
Sugar - 2 cups
Kalkandu ( Crushed rock candy ) - 1 cup
Milk - 1 cup
Ghee - 3 tbsps
Raisins - 1 tbsp
Cashew nuts - 1 tbsp
cardamom powder - 1 pinch Edible camphor ( Pache karpoora ) - 1 pin head
Saffron strands - a few (Soak in a tsp of warm milk)
Saffron food colour - 1/2 pinch ( Dissolve in 1/2 tsp of warer)

1. Dry roast rice and dal together until they become reddish in colour, emanating a very pleasant aroma.
2. Wash and pressure cook the roasted rice and dal with two cups of water and one cup of milk.
3. The cooked rice and dal mixture should be mushy.
4. Heat sugar, rock candy and one cup of water in a heavy bottomed pan.

5. When the sugar syrup reaches one thread consistency add the cooked rice and dal mash.

6. Blend in food colour, soaked saffron strands and keep stirring.
7. Add ghee spoon by spoon till the pongal starts to leave the sides of the pan.
8. Switch off flame and add powdered cardamom and pache karpoora (edible camphor).
9. Fry cashew nuts and raisins in the remaining ghee and add to the kalkandu sakkarai pongal.

Offer to the Sun God and relish the prasadam.

6 Post your Comments:

Sukanya Ramkumar said...

Lovely pongal recipe. Sounds so good. YUM!

jayasree said...

Advanced pongal wishes to you and your family...Kalkandu pongal looks absolutely delicious.

LG said...

aahaa..slurrp! tastes yummy!

Chitra said...

Nice. never tried this ..Looks gr8..

YOSEE said...

Looks yummy !
Happy Sankranti !

harini-jaya said...

Happy Sankranti! I am really impressed at the narrative about Pongal. I must admit that I am unaware of certain rituals myself. I was wondering if I could quote the narrative (on ur behalf) in my blog. Pl let me know either way.