Chennai: Tamil Nadu celebrated the harvest festival Pongal Monday with thanks being offered to the sun, rain and farm animals on the first day of Tamil month Thai.
Across the state, people rose early, wore new clothes and offered special prayers at temples.
At homes, children beating a small drum shouted 'Pongolo Pongal' when milk started boiling over at the auspicious time. The ritual is part of preparing Chakarai Pongal, the special dish cooked as part of festivities.
When the milk boils over, other ingredients - rice, jaggery, Bengal gram - are added to the milk and finally ghee-fried cashews, almonds and cardamom.
The vessel in which the dish is cooked -- a mud pot in earlier days and stainless steel pots now -- is decorated with ginger, turmeric, a piece of sugarcane and banana tied at the neck.
The Pongal dish is offered to the sun god as thanksgiving and eaten as 'prasad'. People exchange greetings and Chakarai Pongal with their neighbours.
Pongal festivities take place over four days, the first day being Bhogi, which was Sunday, when people burn old clothes, mats and other items, and homes are painted afresh to mark a new beginning.
The second day is the main Pongal festival, celebrated on the first day of the Tamil month Thai.
The third day is Mattu Pongal when bulls and cows are bathed and their horns painted and worshipped as they play an important role in farms.
Women feed birds with coloured rice and pray for the welfare of their brothers.
In some parts of the state, jallikattu - a bull-taming sport, also seen as a celebration of masculinity, though banned these days over concerns about the rights of animals - is held.
The fourth day is the Kannum Pongal - the day to go out and meet relatives and friends.
"We got up early and prepared the Chakara Pongal and offered prayers. We plan to visit relatives," Revathi Vasan, a housewife, told IANS.