Pongal – The Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu

Pongal is widely celebrated in several areas of India, particularly in Tamil Nadu, and normally every year it falls on January 14. Pongal is held in several areas of India, but it is one of the most important multi-day harvest celebrations in Tamil Nadu, where it is celebrated with great passion and excitement. Pongal is a day when people in southern India gather together to celebrate with loads of wonderful food and family time.

It is a multi-day Hindu harvest celebration that lasts three days. This is celebrated with much grand way in Tamil Nadu and a few places of Kerala. Pongal commemorates the start of Uttarayan, the sun’s northward movement around six months. Pongal can be referred as Thai Pongal also. The exact meaning of pongal is boiling or spilling over. It remarks prosperity and happiness in our life. On the day of pongal, people make a sweet dish called pongal using rice and jaggery mainly.

Pongal is a four-day celebration. The festivities will go from January 14 through January 17 this year. It is devoted to the Hindu Sun God and coincides with the harvest festival Makar Sankranti. Pongal consists of three festivals mainly called as Thai Pongal, Mattu Pongal, and Kaanum Pongal. The first day of pongal is known as Bhogi Pongal.

History of Pongal

There are two significant stories that centre around the Pongal holiday. Lord Shiva once sent Basava, his bull, across the world to advise people to eat once a month, take a bath, and get an oil massage every day. Basava conveyed the exact opposite of what Shiva told. He advised people to take a bath once a month and to eat every day. Lord Shiva was angry on this and he ordered Basava to go into an exile. He was assigned to help people in ploughing fields. This is why cattle are associated with harvest festival.

Another story is also there associated to pongal. Lord Krishna advised the inhabitants of Gokul to quit worshiping Lord Indra since he was haughty and full of conceit. This enraged Lord Indra. He created thunderstorms and flooding. Lord Krishna lifted Mount Govardhan on his little finger to offer refuge for humans in order to protect them. Lord Indra realized his mistake and begged Krishna to forgive.

Significance of Pongal

Pongal is all about letting go of the past and making room for new experiences in life. Pongal is sometimes referred to as Thai Pongal and It is celebrated to praise Lord Sun for a bountiful harvest season. The four days of festival are detailed below.

Bhogi Pongal

This is the beginning of the four-day festival and the end of Tamil month Marghazi. People gather to celebrate by lighting bonfires and burning abandoned household objects and remarks a new beginning in our life. People worship Lord Indra on this day. They adorn their houses and surroundings with marigold garlands and mango leaves. It is claimed to expel any bad energy from and around the house, making place for positive energy. A large amount of agricultural waste is also burned in the bonfire, which is supposed to provide heat during the winter season.

Thai Pongal

The second day of the festival is known as Thai pongal which is dedicated to Lord Surya. People praise him for a bountiful crop and pray for his blessing for happiness and wealth. The houses are beautifully decorated with banana and mango leaves on this day. People wear new dresses, homes and yards are cleaned several days ahead of time. Sweet snacks called Palakaram are made by every household. On Pongal, everyone bathes and changes into fresh clothing early in the morning. Then all the family members gathers and put ‘kolam – a decoration on floor’ in front of their house. A kolam might be simply or elegantly painted with cosmic symbols of interest.

The holy space, where the pongal is cooked, defined by the kolam. Typically, firewood is used to boil rice within the boundaries of kolam. The Pongal is positioned directly in front of the Sun-East. The pongal spilling over when cooking is considered as the auspicious moment. Spilling milk is an indication of abundance. When the pongal is finished, a Padayal – the offering- is prepared first. Following a few minutes of prayer, the Pongal is shared with friends and family.

Mattu Pongal

The third day of pongal festival is known as Mattu pongal. Cattle are bathed, adorned with flowers and turmeric, and their horns are painted on this day. Cows and oxen are given the pongal, and a unique event called Jallikattu, a bull taming sport, is held every year. Maatu Pongal is an auspicious day for people who engage in farming and it is a well-deserved day of care and rest for cattle. Farmers offer their thanks and gratitude to their cattle friends.

Kanum Pongal

Kanum Pongal is the final day of pongal festival. This day people gather to celebrate it which enhances interpersonal relationships. The word ‘kanum’ means ‘viewing and seeing’ and it is the day of relax and enjoyment by meeting all the family members and relatives together.

Jallikkattu – A Bull Taming Festival

Pongal festival cannot be finished without jallikkatu. This is mainly held in Madurai, Thiruchirappalli and Tanjavur on the day of Mattu pongal. Money is tied to the horns of the bulls, in which the villagers attempt to reclaim. Everyone participates in the communal lunch, where the food is produced from newly harvested grain. This day is appropriately titled and commemorated as Tamizhar Tirunal in Tamil Nadu.

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