Brightly-coloured kolams, stacks of sugarcane, jaggery-sweetened rice… Olympia Shilpa Gerald gives us glimpses of Pongal celebrations in Puducherry
Raising food from the earth may continue only in pockets of Puducherry, but that has not meant less enthusiasm in celebrating the harvest festival here. Traditional festivities are limited to the villages and communes. But with multi-coloured kolams, stacks of sugarcane and lumps of jaggery sweetened rice Puducherrians managed to keep alive the harvest spirit.
Walking through the Tamil quarter, one can still spot bursts of imagination in hues of bright pink, red and green under wooden awnings and in front of thinnais, adding charm to old houses that have stood the ravages of time. Residents associations and society clubs held their own kolam contests but the Tourism Department’s was the biggest of them all. Starting at the crack of dawn, women and children showed what they could do with a handful of colours. Ultimately, Puducherry’s favourite haunt, the Promenade along the beach, bore testimony to their efforts.
Ration-card holders were in for a last minute surprise in the form of a Pongal hamper with six different grocery items in it. For other goodies to fill their bags, they took to the market. If the festivities brought in the inevitable price hike, the special Pongal Bazaar by Puducherry Agro Products Food and Civil Supplies Corporation (PAPSCO) sweetened the deal with Pongal essentials — raw rice, jaggery and toor dal — at nominal rates.
It is hard to spot a sugarcane farm in Puducherry. But farmers from neighbouring Tamil Nadu arrived with bundles of sugarcane, just in time to ensure Puducherry got its annual sugar fix.