Re: Thai Pongal
Hindus in TamilnADu don't generally accept the proposition of commencing the so called Tamil New year on the day of Pongal (the first of the month of Thai). The efforts of implementation fell flat and the Hindu calendara and panchAngam this year clearly mention Chittirai 1 (usually Apr 14) as the Tamil New Year day. This date generally occurs earlier in the other parts of India, but the fact remains that we are about to complete the 5110th year of the era of Kali Yuga.
We in TN, celebrate Pongal at home by getting up early, have a bath, finish our nita karma (like the SandhyAvandanam), while the women hoist the Pongal PAnai (pot) at the prescribed auspicious time. First, milk is boiled until it spills over: as you said the direction it spills over is important: it is not supposed to spill over in the south direction, and it generally doesn't on such auspicious occasions. Then with the boiled milk, sweet pongal is cooked, adding jaggery, ghee, cashews, raisins and a seed or two of cardamom. Some people add a piece of ripe banana and honey to their plate and consume it along with the pongal.
When the pongal and vaDai made of Urd dahl are ready, we bring the pongal pot to the puja room, adorn it with sandal paste, kumkumam, and flowers and tie a pair of turmeric plants around it, keep one or a pair of sugercane nearby and perform the SUryaNArAyaNa puja prescribed for the makara shankrAnti day. The pUja comprises the preliminary pujas of GaNapati, KaNTam (bell), Kalasam (pot) and then to the main deity, SUrya, whose 108 names are chanted and archana performed to the pot with flowers and akShata. At the end of the puja, arArti is shown to the pot and then to the sun.
Our main meal session commences after the puja is over. It is the normal worldly life of watching the TV etc. after the meal. In the evening we visited our family guru (a close disciple of KAnchi ParamAchArya; in his eighties now) with a pack of our pongal and vaDai.
On the 2nd of Thai (Jan 15th), it is the day of MATTuppongal, when the farmers worship their cows and bulls. The jallikkaTTu sports are organized in many villages in TN, although the event usually leaves many young people who try to control the bull get injured and one or two even die in the effort. The next day is called the kANum pongal (kANum--seeing) when people usually visit their friends and relatives. These days the main attraction is the trade fair orgainized in Chennai. The TN government does its part by organizing festive events that showcase the village arts of TN and the TV media this year participated in them in a big way.
रत्नाकरधौतपदां हिमालयकिरीटिनीम् ।
ब्रह्मराजर्षिररत्नाढ्यां वन्दे भारतमातरम् ॥
To her whose feet are washed by the ocean, who wears the Himalayas as her crown, and is adorned with the gems of rishis and kings, to Mother India, do I bow down in respect.