Pongal is an ancient holiday celebrated by the people of South India, notably the Tamils. The festival’s history may be traced back to the Sangam Age, which lasted from 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. Even though Pongal originated as a Dravidian Harvest festival and is recorded in Sanskrit Puranas, the historical link to the festival Thai Un and Thai Niradal those have supposed to occurred in Sangam age.
Pongal observance the festivals of the Sangam Era (Thai Niradal)
The celebration of the Sangam Era led to today’s Pongal celebrations. A prominent festival under the ruling period of Pallavas (4th to 8th Century AD) known as ‘Pavai Nonbu’, which was a major part of Pongal Celebrations. It took place during the Tamil month of Margazhi (December-January). During this occasion, young girls prayed for rain and the country’s prosperity. They eschewed milk and milk products for the whole month. They refused to grease their hair and avoided using harsh phrases when chatting. Women used to bathe first thing in the morning. They adored the Goddess Katyayani’s idol, which was sculpted out of moist sand. They completed their penance on the first day of Thai month (January-February). This penance was to bring abundant rains to help the paddy grow. Pongal festivals sprang from these historical traditions and customs.
Tiruppavai by Andal and Tiruvembavai by Manickavachakar eloquently explain the Thai Niradal festival and the ceremony of observing Pavai Nonbu. According to an inscription discovered at Tiruvallur’s Veera Raghava temple, Chola King Kiluttunga used to grant lands to the temple specifically for the Pongal celebrations.
Pongal festival celebrations are also related with several mythical stories. Pongal’s two most prominent legends are those about Lord Shiva and Lord Indra.
According to tradition, Shiva once sent his bull, Basava, to travel to the ground and instruct humans to take an oil massage and bath once a month and to eat once a month. Basava inadvertently proclaimed that everyone should eat every day and take an oil bath once a month. This infuriated Shiva, who cursed Basava and sentenced him to eternal life on Earth. He’d have to till the fields and assist folks in producing more food. As a result, this day is associated with cattle.
Pongal festivities were also inspired by another mythology involving Lord Indra and Lord Krishna. It is believed that when Lord Krishna was a youngster, he resolved to teach Lord Indra a lesson after he became the monarch of all deities and got arrogant. Lord Krishna ordered the cowherds to cease worshipping Lord Indra. This enraged Lord Indra, who dispatched his clouds, causing thunderstorms and three days of nonstop rain. Lord Krishna ascended Mount Govardhan in order to rescue all people. Later, Lord Indra recognised his error and Krishna’s heavenly power.
After a six-month long night, this is when the day of the gods begins, according to Hindu mythology. The event lasts three days and is South India’s most prominent and fiercely celebrated harvest festival. On the first day of Pongal, before cutting the paddy, a special pooja is done. Farmers honour the sun and the ground by applying sandal wood paste on their ploughs and sickles. The newly harvested rice is sliced with these sacred instruments.
Each of the three days is commemorated with a separate celebration. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is a family day. The second day, Surya Pongal, is dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun God. The Sun God is presented with boiled milk and jaggery. Mattu Pongal, the third day of Pongal, is dedicated to the worship of the cattle known as Mattu. Cattle are washed, their horns cleaned and brightly painted, and flower garlands are wrapped around their necks. Pongal, which has been presented to the Gods, is subsequently fed to animals and fowl.