Pongal is the harvest festival celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu. Pongal in tamil means 'boiling over' or 'spill over' which means the boiling over of milk in a clay pot. Pongal is celebrated during the harvest time to thank the sun god. Pongal is celebrated over 3 days - Bhogi, pongal, and kanu/maatu pongal.
Bhogi is the day before the pongal where the people discard the old things. Usually a bon fire is started to discard the old things. The house is then cleaned and decorated to give the festive look.
Pongal falls on the first day of the tamil month 'Thai'. The crops are harvested and prayers to the sun god are offered today. Milk is brought to boil in pots and allowed to overflow while saying 'Pogalo Pongal'. This signifies the wealth, prosperity and abundance of resources.
The third day is the kanu/maatu pongal.
Maatu in tamil means cows as they play an important role in the farmers life, this day is for them. This day is to thank them for helping the farmers to plough the lands. They are decorated with paints and bells.
Significance of Kanu pongal, is for celebrating the unity among brothers and sisters. Sisters pray for the welfare of their brothers and gifts are exchanged. Usually 4 to 5 different colored rices are prepared and made into small balls and laid on top of the turmeric leaves in the balcony or the terrace.
I made 5 colored rices - Pongal, Chakkara Pongal, White Rice, Red Rice ( White rice + Kumkum), Yellow rice (White rice + turmeric powder).
The rice balls are usually kept on top of turmeric leaves, but here is USA, I couldn't get any turmeric leaves so I used newspaper instead.