Although Pongal was originally a festival of the farming community, today it is celebrated by all the people. Pongal is also celebrated with different names in other parts of India. It is the first festival of the year. Read on to know more about this festival celebrated in Tamilnadu.
What is Pongal?
Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by the Tamil people. In civilizations where agriculture plays a significant role, a good harvest is important for the prosperity of the people. Pongal is a festival celebrated at harvest time to thank the Sun God, the rains and all the farm animals. Pongal is a four day long festival celebrated as a form of Thanksgiving to nature. The Tamil month 'Thai' begins with the festival of Pongal.
When is Pongal?
The date of Pongal mostly remains the same. Pongal marks the resumption of the movement of the sun northwards. The day of Pongal is extremely auspicious as on this day the sun begins it journey northwards (Uttarayan) for a period of six months as against southwards (Dakshinayan) movement. From this time onwards, the day becomes longer and the duration of the night shortens in the Northern hemisphere.
According to the Hindu mythology, this is the time when the day of the God begins after a night of six months. It is believed that at this time the Gods woke up after a six month long slumber.
The equipments which are used for ploughing the field and cutting the paddy are mainly the plough and sickle. On this day, sandalwood paste is applied on these equipments and after a special puja the paddy is cut with these sanctified tools.
Four Days of Pongal
Pongal is celebrated consecutively for a period of four days.
Bhogi or Bhogi Pongal
On the first day known as Bhogi Pongal, old clothes and other materials are thrown away and set on fire. On this day, people clean their house thoroughly and discard away unwanted stuff. Pongal is considered as a time to cast away the old and welcome the new. People worship Lord Indra on this first day.
A bonfire made of wood and cow-dung cakes known as Bhogi Mantalu is lit. Useless household articles are thrown into the fire and girls dance around the fire singing songs in praise of the God and the harvest.
Sarkarai Pongal or Veethu Pongal
The second day of Pongal is the main day. It is also known as Sarkarai Pongal or Veethu Pongal. It is celebrated by preparing a sweet dish made from rice, milk and jaggery. The moment when the rice boils and bubbles start to erupt there are shouts of 'Pongallo Pongal' by the people which is a tradition followed. Watching the rice boil over is considered a good sign as it signifies that good luck and prosperity will follow.
The sweet dish known as Sarkarai Pongal is offered to the Sun as a sign of thanks to the Sun God and nature for prosperity.
The third day of the festival is known as Mattu Pongal. On this day thanks is offered to the cattle. Cattle are of great help in the farm. On this day, cattle are adorned with paint, flowers, bells, etc. The horns of the cattle are painted and they are washed clean. On this day, cattle are given a day of rest and they are pampered. They are fed with sweet rice and sugar cane.
In some villages in Tamil Nadu, 'Jallikattu' is held. Jallikattu or taming the wild bull is a contest held wherein bundles of notes are tied to the horns of the fierce bulls which the farmers try to recover.
The last and the final day of Pongal is known as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people visit their relatives and friends. On this day, people offer food to the crow. People keep food outside on a banana leaf for the crow to eat. People visit the temples and offer respects to their elders.
On this last day, the sun is worshipped. Sun plays a major role to sustain life on Earth and to help crops and plants grow well. Without the Sun, there cannot be life and there can be no prosperity in agriculture. Hence, on this day people worship the sun. Freshly cooked food along with sugar cane, coconut and the sweet dish 'Sarkarai Pongal' are first offered to the Surya.
Pongal in other parts of India
Similar festivals are celebrated in other parts of India coinciding with Pongal. In the north, in Punjab and Haryana, the harvest festival Lohri is celebrated and in the states of Maharshtra and Gujarat it is celebrated as Makarsankranti.