What is Pongal?
Pongal is a South Indian festival celebrated on the fourteenth of January every year.It marks the start of Uttarayana, the movement of the sun in the northern direction for a period of six months.
This period is auspicious as opposed to the Dakshinaayana or the southern directional movement of the sun. Pongal celebrations symbolizes ushering in prosperity and good fortune.
It is an important festival for the people of Tamil Nadu and the people of Sri Lanka. This festival coincides with Makara Shankranti, a harvest festival that is celebrated throughout the country.
India is an agricultural country and the role of the farmers of the country is invaluable. This festival holds a special significance to the farmers as this is harvest festival of the southern states.
When is Pongal?
Festival of Pongal falls from the last month of Dhanur or Margazhi month (December) to the third day of Makara or Thai month (January), between the 13 to the 16th of January.
First Day -Bhogi
The festival is celebrated for four days. It begins with Bhogi Pongal where people discard old things and aspire on new beginnings.
The old possessions are lit in a bon fire. The house gets a festive look with new paint and decorations. The farmers decorate the oxen and buffaloes with colors. This day is usually celebrated on the 13th of January every year.
Second Day – Surya Pongal
Second day is the most important day of celebrations when people worship Lord Surya and the actual celebrations of the festival begin. People wake up and decorate the front yards with elaborate kolams to kick in the celebrations.
Traditionally, people do pooja at the right muhurtam at the birth of the Thai maasam or month. Families boil the harvested rice and cook in mud pots and make it over flow. People also overflow milk in the pot on this day.
It is customary to say “Pongalo Pongal!” when the rice or milk bubbles out of the vessel. Overflowing is considered an auspicious sign of abundance and prosperity. The cooked rice or milk is then offered to Lord Surya showing gratitude for a good harvest. It is then used in cooking and served as part of the day’s feast.
Third Day – Maattu Pongal
The third day is devoted in worshiping their vehicles and best friend – cattle. They show their affection and demonstrate their recognition by decorating and feeding them. They thank the cattle for their favor in farming. They are fondly decorated with paints and bells. They pray to them and offter prasadam to the cattle.
This day is also a day of Jalli Kattu or taming the bull and other sport activities. Bundles of money is tied to the horns of the bulls which the villagers are expected to tame the bull and retrieve the money. There are also cattle races where young men chase the bulls in a game called ‘Manju Virattu’
Fourth Day – Kaanum Pongal
People visit their friends and relatives exchanging wishes and Pongal greetings on this day. Hence, the term “kaanum” (view) Pongal. People also celebrate by going to beaches and other recreational places to have leisure time with their family and friends.
This day also marks the end of Pongal festivities. Yet another practice of few women is put keep balls of left over rice on banana leaf for birds to eat. They thus pray for the well-being of their brothers.
We present you the guide to Pongal which contains information on the customs, traditions, wishes and other things that surround the festival.