Pongal is a very important and popular festival of the Hindus. Pongal is known as the “harvest festival” of South India particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu.
It is a four-day-long festival starting with Bhogi, followed by Surya Pongal, then Mattu Pongal, and finally Kannum Pongal.
In states such as Andra Pradesh and Karnataka, Pongal is celebrated as Makara Sankranti or the start of the summer solstice.
Pongal is always celebrated on the 14th of January.
It is a time for celebration as the farmers enjoy their new harvest and celebrate this festival with great pomp and splendor.
Money from the harvest is used for celebrating weddings and for solving a lot of family problems.
Hence it is referred to as “Thai porandal Vazhi Porakum.”
People believe that Pongal will usher in good fortunes, so they go agog with joy and festivity.
Why is Pongal celebrated?
This is a four-day-long harvest festival that is regarded as the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving.
India has been an agricultural-based society. So, harvest plays an important part in the Indian context.
In fact, the farmers’ cultivation depends on cattle, timely rain, and the Sun. So, they go on to express their gratitude towards these during the harvest festival of Pongal.
As the wet month of Margazhi (mid-December to mid-January) gives way to the new Tamil month of Thai, a series of festivals unfolds.
The first day of this month is celebrated as “Pongal Day.” The meaning of Pongal is “boiling over” of milk and rice during the month of Thai.
According to the Hindu calendar, the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of Sun in the northern and southern halves of the Earth.
When the Sun is in the northern half, it is termed as Uttarayanam, and when it moves to the southern half, it is termed as Dakshinayanam.
On the first day of Thai, the Sun vacates the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters the sign of Capricorn. This event is known as “Makaram” and is celebrated as “Pongal.”
Thus this festival is celebrated to honor the Sun for a bountiful harvest. It is celebrated as a thanksgiving for plenty, peace, and happiness. The Sun is offered a “Pongal” of rice and milk. Farmers gather to share their joy and harvest with others.
History of Pongal
Pongal is an ancient Hindu festival in South India particularly in the state of Tamil Nadu. The history of the festival can be traced back to the Sangam Age from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D.
In fact, the festival is originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival. The festival has been identified with the Thai Un and Thai Niradal which were celebrated in the Sangam Age.
The festival celebrations began in the Sangam Era.
At that time, maidens of the Sangam Era observed “Pavai Nonbu” as a major festival during the rule of the Pallavas between 4th and 8th century AD.
It was celebrated in the Tamil month of Margazhi (Dec-Jan).
During this festival, the young girls prayed for rain and prosperity of the country.
Throughout the month, they did not consume milk and milk products. They did not oil their hair nor did they utter any harsh words while speaking.
They took a bath early in the morning. Worship of the idol of Goddess Katyayani was held which was made out of wet sand.
This penance was undertaken so that abundant rains could flourish the paddy.
The penance was ended on the first day of the month of Thai (Jan-Feb).
These traditions and customs were responsible for the start of Pongal celebrations.
Legends of Pongal
Some legendary stories are often associated with the festival celebrations. The two most famous legends of Pongal are stories of Lord Shiva and Lord Indra.
According to one of the legends, once Lord Shiva ordered his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and tell the mortals that they should have an oil massage and bath every day and eat only once a month.
However, Basava inadvertently announced that people should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake of Basava angered Lord Shiva, and he banished Basava to live on the earth forever.
He would have to help the people in plowing the fields to produce more food. Henceforth, came the association with cattle for farming practices.
There is also another popular legend closely associated with Pongal celebrations. It is a legend of Lord Krishna and Lord Indra.
It so happened that when Krishna was still in his childhood, he asked all the cowherds to stop worshipping Lord Indra as he had become very arrogant after being the king of all deities.
However, this angered Lord Indra who ordered the clouds to usher a heavy rain thunderstorm on Gokul for three consecutive days continuously.
Lord Krishna then came forward to help the people. He saved the people from the fury of Lord Indra by lifting Mount Govardhan. Then, Lord Indra realized his mistake and the divine power of Lord Krishna and went on to stop the rains.
How is Pongal celebrated?
Pongal is regarded as a very important and popular Hindu festival. It is a four-day festival of thanksgiving to nature. It is celebrated in the month of Thai (Jan-Feb) when rice, sugarcane, and other cereals are harvested.
The First Day of Festival
On the first day of Pongal, the Bhogi festival is celebrated to honor Lord Indra that gives rains. People pay homage to Lord Indra for the rich harvest that brings plenty and prosperity to the land.
Bhogi Mantalu is another ritual that is observed on this day. People throw their useless household articles into a fire of wood and cow-dung cakes.
Women dance around the bonfire and sing songs in praise of the gods and the harvest. People go on to decorate their homes and even buy new utensils.
The Second Day of Festival
On the second day of the festival, people perform puja or act of ceremonial worship wherein rice is boiled in milk outdoors in earthenware.
It is seen as a symbolic offering to the Sun God along with other oblations.
It is known as “Perum Pongal.”
All the people wear traditional dress and ornaments.
Husband and wife dispose off elegant ritual utensils that are used in the puja.
A turmeric plant is tied around the pot in which the rice is boiled. People offer sticks of sugarcane, coconut, and bananas in the dish.
Another interesting feature is the “Kolam” which is an auspicious design traced with white lime powder before the house in the early morning after taking a bath. It is also made of rice flour.
The Third Day of Festival
The third day of Pongal is known as Mattu Pongal. It is a day of Pongal for cows wherein people worship their cattle. They tie tinkling bells, multi-colored beads, flower garlands, sheaves of corn around the neck of the cattle.
They are fed with Pongal and then taken around the village centers. Young men even race each other’s cattle. The bullfight is held in the villages.
The atmosphere turns into festivity with full of fun and revelry. Aarti is performed on the cattle to ward off any evil eye.
The Fourth Day of Festival
The fourth day of Pongal is known as the Kannum Pongal day. On this day a turmeric leaf is washed and placed on the ground.
People place leftovers of sweet Pongal, ordinary rice, red and yellow colored rice, betel leaves, betel nuts, turmeric leaves, two pieces of sugarcane and other plantains.
This ritual is performed in the morning before bathing. People including the young and the old assemble in the courtyard and pray for the well being of the house.
Aarti is performed, and the water is sprinkled on the Kolam in front of the house. People perform the traditional dance ‘Kolattam’ and enjoy their staple food.
Pongal Festival Images
Herein, we share some of the festival Images that will give you the opportunity to have a glimpse of this very important “harvest” festival of the state of Tamil Nadu.
The festival welcomes the year with new crops. It marks the commencement of the harvest season and also the sun’s northward movement. It denotes abundance and prosperity.
Pongal Festival Date 2020
In 2020 the festival will be celebrated on 15th January 2020 (Wednesday).
Herein, we list out the dates on which the four days of Pongal will be celebrated in 2020. It is celebrated in January after the winter solstice. However, the date of the festival usually remains the same as it marks the Sun’s entry into the Makaram Rashi.
Bhogi Festival: 14 January 2020, Tuesday
Surya Pongal: 15th January 2020, Wednesday
Maatu Pongal: 16th January 2020, Thursday
Kaanum Pongal: 17th January 2020, Friday
************ We wish Happy Pongal to You *************