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What is Chakarai Pongal ?
Chakarai (or sweet) Pongal is a festive dish of South India, specially made in the state of Tamil Nadu. Chakarai Pongal is made with rice boiled with milk and jaggery in earthenware pots during the harvest festival, Pongal. It is also prepared as “Prasadham”(offerings at the temple).
What is Pongal?
PONGAL , the harvest festival is dedicated to the Sun God, Surya celebrated by the Tamil people in the South of India for four days .It is observed at the start of the month Thai according to the Tamil solar calendar. This festival corresponds to Makara Sankranti, the harvest festival under many regional names celebrated throughout India
Pongal is also the name given to the rice dish prepared in the South of India, especially Tamil Nadu during this festival. The word “Pongal” in the South Indian language of Tamil means to bubble up and overflow.
What are the two different types of Pongal that are prepared?
- Chakarai Pongal ( “chakarai” means sweet )
- Ven Pongal (“Ven” means white )
Chakarai Pongal is made with rice boiled with milk and jaggery and is a sweet dish. This festive food is mostly made during the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu which is named by the same word, “Pongal”.This dish is prepared in earthenware pots on a wood fire during this festival and shared amidst family and friends.
Chakarai Pongal is also prepared as prasadam (an offering made to the deity) in the temples and then distributed among the devotees gathered in the temple.
Ven Pongal, on the other hand , refers to the spicy Pongal, which is made as a comfort food in most South Indian homes for breakfast. It is made with lots of ghee/clarified butter and peppercorns to add a tinge of spice & flavor.
My parents moved to the southern state of Tamil Nadu, from the coastal city of Mangalore, Karnataka ,when my father decided to stay in the state he went to med school in. He loved the people, the land and the culture and decided to set up his practice there.Eventually he married and had us kids, my sibling & me.We grew up in this land my Dad dearly loved, imbibing the rich culture &the simplicity of its people, until we went back to the native state to pursue graduate education.
My parents, neither of them had much experience or extensive knowledge about agriculture in the new land. Yet, when they decided to buy land for agriculture & cultivate in it, as a passion and a hobby, it was my father’s friends who guided them each step of the way, until they became experts in the field of agriculture. This sacred land is known to many who came from “out of state” as ” Vandhavarai Vazhavaikum Bhoomi” in Tamil, which when translated to English means, “the land that welcomes outsiders as their own & helps them grow & prosper”.
My sibling & me , knew no better.We had spent a majority of our lives in this land amidst its people & the culture, that it became the air that we breathed in. The festival of Pongal signifies all that to me & more. Memories of homes sparkling white after being cleaned & painted fresh for this festival, playing hide & seek amidst sugarcane and coconut groves as kids, showered with love from amazing friends of the family , neighbors and farm workers alike ,clouds my mind during this festive season.
Pongal is a harvest festival of the land, to give gratitude to the sun God that gave us a bountiful crop, to the farm workers who helped us achieve that with their hard work and loyalty, the cattle that tilled our lands & gave us milk to sustain & grow & the farm land itself for holding all of us together with her blessings.
There was a festive air in the farm, cattle were given a ritualistic bath, their horns painted, their foreheads filled with vermillion . Homes & cattle were garlanded with flowers in celebration. The first harvest of rice was cooked with jaggery in earthenware pots on wood fire burning stoves and shared amidst family, friends and farm workers, reminding each of us that we were each a big part of the whole universe and all was well with it.
Decades have passed since those days, all I have to do now is to cook “Chakarai Pongal” in my kitchen on a cold January winter day in Chicago & I am instantly teleported to those days filled with laughter, sunlight, warmth & cheer.Reason why festivals are so important & why we need to celebrate them , irrespective of the distance.You will always carry a part of the land you grew up in wherever you are on earth & the land that you grew up in will always have your laughter & joy sealed in its soil, “Punya Bhoomi”/sacred land, that it is.
Chakarai Pongal Recipe
Step by step instructions on how to make it
4 servings per container
- Amount Per ServingCalories1887
- % Daily Value *
- Total Fat 55g 85%
- Saturated Fat 31g 155%
- Cholesterol 138mg 46%
- Sodium 295mg 13%
- Potassium 981mg 29%
- Total Carbohydrate 312g 104%
- Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
- Sugars 234g
- Protein 28g 57%
* The % Daily Value tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Some of my links to previously published posts related to this Indian festival , Pongal are listed below for your interest :