Pongal is a multi-day South Indian Hindu harvest festival, particularly in the Tamil community. It is also called Thai Pongal. Usually, it falls during January. The festival is to thank the Sun God and Lord Indra for helping farmers during the year to grow and produce better crops.
With much excitement, the festival is celebrated, quite like Thanksgiving in America. It is a significant opportunity because the state relies primarily on agriculture to produce an income, and profitable growth needs the sun. In Tamil, Pongal is also the dish prepared and means “boiling over or “spilling over,” suggesting wealth and prosperity.
What is Pongal Festival ?
The word ‘Pongal’ is derived from the literature of Tamil, meaning ‘to boil.’ It is an ancient South Indian festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu which is a trendy festival in South India. It is also celebrated in Tamil diaspora nations such as Sri Lanka, Mauritius, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, etc. Pongal occurs annually during mid-January and is renowned for the beginning of Uttarayan. It’s a four-day festival that offers people the opportunity to thank nature.
Pongal is devoted to the Hindu Sun God, the Surya, to express gratitude to the Sun God for energy’s agricultural supply. It refers to Makara Sankranti, the harvest festival celebrated in India under several regional names.
History of Pongal Festival
We can trace the history of Pongal festival back to the SangamPeriod . The festival is regarded as the ‘Festival of Dravidian Harvest.’ However some scholars contend that this festival dates back at least 2,000 years. Peoplecelebrated Pongalas Niradal Thai.
According to legends, unmarried girls prayed during this festive season for the country’s agricultural development and practiced penance during the Tamil month of Margazhi for this purpose. They abstained from having milk and milk products, and during the month they didn’t oil their heads. They strictly refrain from the use of harsh words. A ceremonial bath early in the morning as part of the penance ceremony.
When is Pongal Festival Celebrated ?
Pongal is celebrated at the same time each year at the beginning of the Thai Tamil month. It always starts on the 13th or 14th of January.
The Pongal festival is a four-day festival. The first day of Pongalfestival is called the Bhogi festival, the second day of the festival is called Thai Pongal; the third day is called MattuPongal; the fourth day is called KaanumPongal. Various festivities mark each day.
You can check the date of the Pongal Festival at the All Indian Festivals Calendar.
Some of the legends described in our sacred texts are linked to the festival of Pongal. Lord Shiva and Lord Indra are two of the most famous.
The first is Lord Shiva’s, where his bull, Basava, is asked to go down to Earth and ask mortal human beings every day to have an oil massage and a bath and to eat once a month. Basava, absentmindedly, declared to everyone that they should eat every day and get an oil massage once a month. This was a significant error that enraged Lord Shiva, and so Basava was permanently exiled from Earth to live with mortal humans. And he was expected to plough the fields and help people produce more food, aiding them in agriculture as well. That’s why the cattle in Pongal are so essential.
The next legend is about Krishna and Indra . When in his youth, Lord Krishna tried to teach Lord Indra a lesson and ordered all the cowherds to avoid adoring Lord Indra. Lord Indra was angry and sent his clouds, triggering an intense thunder storm for three consecutive days of rain. Lord Krishna, however, raised Mount Govardhan and rescued all of humanity. Lord Indra realised his mistake and Lord Krishna’s divinity.
It is celebrated by boiling the season’s first rice and corresponds to a pan-Indian solar festival, Makar Sankranti. On this day, the traditional sweet “Pongal” dish, made from freshly harvested rice and jaggery, is prepared at home. During Pongal, Jallikattu, a traditional bull-taming festival, is held.
They stay new and engaged throughout the entire festive season. People begin to clean their houses properly. There are lots of art in the home and street including design and animals particularly cows. Often for a bonfire, they arrange waste crops and wood, then sing and dance spontaneously. This is a day when people embrace new things and ignore old things.
The Four-Day Activities of Pongal
Pongal is a four-day-long festival which is described in detail below.
The first day(Bhogi Pongal):
The first day of the event is celebrated as the Bhogi festival, in honour of Lord Indra, according to Panchang. The God of rain is said to be Lord Indra, so he is praised for supplying the land with abundance. People throw their useless things into the bonfire that consists of wood and cow dung cakes on this day, which is also seen as BhogiMantalu.
The second day(Thai/Surya Pongal):
This day is devoted to the Lord Sun. Families prepare a platter, known as Pongal, on this day. Rice, milk, green gramme (mung) jaggery, spices, nuts and dry fruits are in the clay pot. The Lord of the Sun is first fed, then the families and neighbours sit together and share their Pongal.
Another significant feature of this day is Kolam for Pongal. At the entrance of houses with lime powder, hand-drawn traditional designs are drawn on this day. Kolum is an auspicious drawing that must be done only after a bath and early in the morning.All people wear traditional dress, jewelry and put tikkas on their forehead.
The Third day( Mattu Pongal ):
MattuPongal is regarded as the third day of the festive carnival, which is supposed to be the cows’ day. Lord Shiva is believed to have sent a bull once to the Earth with a message informing them to have an oil massage and a bath every day and eat once a month. The bull falsely declared that they should eat every day and have an oil bath once a month.This angered Lord Shiva, and to help people grow more food, he cursed the bull to plough the fields.
After adorning multi-colored bells, a swag of flowers, jingling bells and sheaves of corn, cows are worshipped. They are taken to villages after feeding the Pongal cows. Their bells’ reverberant sound draws the villagers, and the men arrange a cattle race.
The Fourth day(Kaanum Pongal):
Kaanum or KnauPongal are regarded as the fourth day or the last day of Pongal. The ritual performed on this day is that they start their day by bathing in the morning; leftovers of sweet Pongal, coloured rice (red and yellow), betel leaves, plantains, betel nuts, two pieces of sugar cane, and other dishes are arranged in the courtyard and placed on the washed turmeric leaves. Rice is placed solely in the centre of the turmeric leaf as the main ingredient.
In the courtyard, all the women of the house gather and pray for their brothers and family’s prosperity, followed by Aarti with turmeric water, rice, vermilion, limestone, and this holy water sprinkled all over, even outside the house.
Cooking the Pongal dish is the most crucial aspect of the Pongal festival. There are a few types of pongal. Sakkaraipongal is the key one which is prepared for the festival. Rice, milk, ghee and jaggery are made from this sweet version of the dish (a type of unrefined sugar).
On stoves made up of stones and wood used as fuel, the pongal is cooked in clay pots. “Everyone cries out “PongalOPongal” as it starts to spill over. In the lead-up to the festival, beautifully decorated clay pots are sold in Tamil Nadu markets.
Before starting Pongal, a unique International Pongal Festival also takes place at Bremajothi Farms which is near Tuticorin. It is about two hours up the coast from Kanyakumari. It combines ancient traditions with hip music and art genres.
As India is an agricultural country and most of the festivals are nature-oriented. The Pongal is referred to as the UttarayanPunyakalam, which in Hindu mythology has special significance and is considered highly auspicious.