Pongal Festival – The Harvest Festival of South India

Pongal Festival is celebrated the day on which the sun begins to move northwards is called ‘Makar Sankranti’. The period is referred to as Uttarayanam and is considered auspicious. Pongal is a four-day festival. The four days of the Pongal festival are called Bhogi Pongal, Surya Pongal, and Mattu Pongal and Kaanum Pongal.

It is observed at the start of the month Tai according to the Tamil solar calendar, and this is typically about January 14. Pongal also referred to as Poṅkal or Tai Pongal or Thai Pongal.

History of Pongal Festival

Pongal is an ancient festival of people in South India particularly Tamils. The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age i.e. 200 B.C. To 300 A.D. Although, Pongal originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival and has a mention in Sanskrit Puranas, historians identify the festival with the Thai Un and Thai Niradal which are believed to have been celebrated during the Sangam Age.

According to the legends, during this festive season unmarried girls prayed for agricultural prosperity of the country and for the purpose, they observed penance during the Tamil month of Margazhi. All through the month, they abstained from the consumption of milk and milk products. They didn’t oil their hair throughout the month. The use of harsh words was strictly refrained by them. Ceremonial bath in the early morning as part of the ritual of the penance.

Significance of Pongal Festival

As we know that India is an agricultural country and the majority of the festivals are inclined towards nature. Just like another festival, the Pongal is referred to as Uttarayana Punyakalam which bears special significance in Hindu mythology and is considered extremely auspicious.

Celebrated for four days, Pongal is an important harvest festival in south India and is celebrated with immense passion and ardor. 

Also known as Makar Sankranti, in some parts of the country.

Pongal is celebrated when the Sun enters the Makara Rasi (Capricornus). Marking the arrival of spring in the entire northern hemisphere. 

On this auspicious day, the Tamils decorate their homes with banana and mango leaves. They also use decorative patterns drawn using rice flour to welcome health and prosperity into their household.

The period is referred to as Uttarayana Punyakalam which bears special significance in Hindu mythology and is considered to extremely auspicious.

According to the legends, this is the period when the Devas wake up after a half a year-long slumber during this period and bestow wealth and prosperity on earth. It is a common belief that people who die during Uttarayana attain salvation as according to the Mahabharata, Bheeshma also waited for the dawn of Uttarayana to give up his life.

Is Pongal a religious festival?

Yes, Pongal is a religious festival celebrated by Hindu in the fourteenth day of January every year. It is celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu.

The term ‘Pongal’ in Tamil means “to boil”, and this festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony for the year’s harvest. Pongal, one of the important Hindu festivals, falls around the same time as Lohri every year, which is around mid-January.

Pongal also happens to be the name of a dish consumed during this festive time, which is sweetened rice boiled with lentils.


Pongal Celebration

The Pongal festival is celebrated for four days. Let us find out how each day of the Pongal festival is celebrated.

Bhogi Pongal

The first day is called Bhogi Pongal, where people worship the Lord Indra or Surya Devta, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains The first paddy harvested is cooked to make rice, that is, boiling milk with rice, this is also the special dish for the occasion.

Perum Pongal

The second day is called the Perum Pongal or Surya Pongal. This is the most important day of the four days where Surya is worshipped along with his consorts: Chaya and Samganya. People wear new clothes on this occasion and it is customary to light a fire and throw all the old and torn clothes into it. They also get an oil massage before bath.

Mattu Pongal

The third day is called the Mattu Pongal where the animals involved with the agricultural community or practice like cattle are worshipped. They are cleansed, bathed, massaged and dressed in vibrant coloured attires made especially for them. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and they are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other’s cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry.

Kanum Pongal

The fourth day is called the Thiruvalluvar or Kanum Pongal. On this concluding day, people pay a visit to their relatives and friends. Puja is performed by the women of the house praying for the well being and prosperity of their brothers. An interesting custom is to leave some cooked rice on banana leaves for the birds to feast on.

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