An Introduction to Pongal Lesson Plans



My favorite memories of Pongal always take me back to my school days in rural Tamil Nadu. Riding the bus to school was never dull. We rode past the fields brimming with crops ready to be harvested as the villages prepared for Pongal. The countryside brimmed with energy as men and women went about harvesting, sifting, sorting and transporting the crops. We passed many marketplaces brimming with colorful pots, bundles, and bundles of long, lanky sugar canes, fresh turmeric plants, and fresh vegetables.

Even if kolams were a must all through the year, the Marghazhi (the month that precedes Thai in the Tamil Calendar) designs outside people’s homes were breathtaking. I was always on the lookout for new kolams to try outside the entrance to our house. We cousins had an unspoken competition amongst ourselves to outdo one another with our kolams.

Pongal has always been my favorite festival—as children, we got new clothes only on festive occasions. Shopping for clothes, getting special money from my parents and relatives, and of course, chewing delicious Karumbu (or sugar cane) were the highlights of this holiday. To top it all, we had four days off from school!!! When we returned to school after the holidays, we wore our new clothes and eyed each other’s bangles… Even now when I catch glimpses of beautiful kolams and sugar canes, there is a pleasant feel to it.

Decades after moving away from the agricultural heritage of my forefathers, cooking Pongal in the garden seemed the natural thing to do. Even today when I go home for Pongal, there is a sense of togetherness and joy as we thank the Sun for all his blessings.

In these pages, you will find information on the Tamil holiday Pongal and some lesson plans to use in your classroom.

Pongalo Pongal!

What is Thai Pongal?


A vibrant celebration, Pongal, the harvest festival of Tamil Nadu reminds the people of the traditional ties to the earth.

Pongal Celebrations: Creative Writing

pongal-celebrations-by-kidsIllustrating and writing about Pongal celebrations motivate children to share their experiences and develop their English Language skills.

Decorating Pongal Pots


Children give free rein to their creativity while decorating pongal pots with chalk in this easy art activity for the Pongal them.

Kolam Reminiscences


Kolams on the threshold of houses in Tamil Nadu welcome us with a warm feeling. How much has this tradition changed over the decades?

When I was a little girl (1940s), we used to get up early and draw the kolams by 5 O’ clock in the morning. The houses in the village looked like row houses that you see now because they were close together and the compound walls were the same………

Sugarcane and Cows: Interview with a Farmer from Rural Tamil Nadu


In this interview with a farmer from rural Tamil Nadu, students learn about sugarcane farming and how Pongal is celebrated in the villages.

Turmeric and its many uses in the Indian Household


Turmeric is much more than a spice added to flavor Indian cuisine. Learn what else it is used for in a typical Indian household and to make kumkum at home.

 Kolam: An Exercise in Creative Thinking


Children apply their creative thinking skills as they take a familiar pattern and make unique kolam designs by adding various details.


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