after a less-than-brilliant afternoon of shooting the jallikattu, we drove into a chettinar village to see a pongal festival. the chettinars are a community of traders who rose to prominence during the 19th century, building businesses and trading overseas. they built splendid houses for themselves, but many of the wealthy chettinars now live in the major cities or overseas, returning to their villages only for special occasions. pongal is the harvest festival, and in a typical celebration, people cook a rice porridge of the same name. the community pongal festival is a great excuse for a get-together (and an opportunity for the single young men and women to size each other up).
the best way to describe the festival is “smoky.” pongal is cooked over charcoal flames encased in what look like old coffee cans, and there were well over 100 fires lit when we arrived. it’s considered good fortune when the pongal begins to boil up and over the rim of the pot, so i included a shot of that below. almost all of the participants were women, either young or old; i saw only one man cooking, and he was well past the marrying age. we walked up and down, taking shots until nightfall.