New Delhi, Jan 13: While Delhi welcomes the season of harvest with Lohri celebrations on a large scale, a sizable South Indian population in the capital greets the season with Pongal and Makar Sankranti. Tamil Nadu’s Pongal and Andhra Pradesh’s Makar Sankranti are both a festival of four days. One of the main attraction of the festivals is the ‘kolam’ or rangolis. These floral patterns are made on the floor using white paste of newly harvested rice with outlines of red mud. Traditionally, pumpkin flowers were set into cow-dung balls and placed among the patterns. Read-Happy Pongal 2015: All you need to know about the Tamil harvest festival

“Pongal Kolams are traditionally drawn in front of the house but nowadays in Delhi, people draw it in front of their doorway, inside the house using rangoli colours and offer prayers,” says KV Terumal, Vice President, Delhi Tamil Sangam. “Since such floral patterns are an important part of the festival, we are organising a ‘muggu’ competition or rangoli-making competition at the Andhra Bhavan on January 14,” says Kiran Kumar from Andhra Pradesh Bhavan.

On the first day of Pongal festival, known as ‘Bhogi’ a special puja is performed before the cutting of paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by putting sandalwood paste on their ploughs and sickles. These tools are then used to cut the newly-harvested rice. In Tamil urban families, people light a bonfire in the evening and discard their old belongings and some grains in the fire, a practice similar to Lohri. The same culture is followed in Andhra Pradesh also on Bhogi.

Another ritual followed among the people of Andhra is to protect their children from the evil eye. “Children below the age of five years are made to sit outside their homes where people pour ‘Regi Pandlu’ or small berries and coins on children to protect them from evil eye. Later, these are collected by other children,” says Kumar. The second day, the main day of celebration is when the new rice is collected and cooked in pots until they overflow. This overflowing signifies Pongal. The Sun God is offered boiled milk and jaggery.

Tamils watch the boil over of milk as it is considered a good omen and symbolises prosperity. “The Pongal was originally made in earthen pots. But people in Delhi now buy brass or some metal vessel,” says Rajesh Packiaranjan who runs a Tamil Nadu Store in Karol Bagh. He points out that the sugarcane used in the ‘puja’ is different from those used in North India. “The sugarcanes that we get here are usually white inside but the ones used in Pongal pujas are slightly red in colour. These stacks of sugarcane are kept beside the vessel in which rice in cooked and later served with rice. A small flower shop in the market stocks sugarcane as well as plantain leaves and turmeric used for pujas,” says Packiaranjan.