Pongal Festival

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Pongal Celebration


Pongal Festival

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Pongal is regarded as a harvest festival of South India. It is one of the most important and popular Hindu festivals. The four-day long harvest festival of Tamil Nadu, Pongal is all about thanksgiving to nature and takes its name from the Tamil word meaning “to boil” and is held in the month of Thai ( January – February ) it is celebrated from January 13 to 16 every year. The festival marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. While each of its days has a special religious significance, most urban people celebrate second day as the main festival. Pongal is the only festival of Hindu that follows a solar calendar.

Four Days Pongal Festivals :

  • On the first day known as Bhogi, people clean out their homes thoroughly and in the evening, all unwanted goods are lit in a bonfire.
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  • The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important. It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay.
  • The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day.
  • On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic. During the Pongal season, people eat sugar canes and decorate the houses with Kolam. ‘Ponga’ literally means overflowing and is named so because of the tradition of cooking the new rice in pots until they overflow, which is symbolic of abundance and prosperity.

The festival of Pongal is mainly associated with the rural people. People wish each other on this day. Pongal wishes are exchanged between family and friends, and there are celebrations within the family. As one stand on the threshold of the harvest season, everyone exchange Pongal wishes, hoping that it brings the harbinger of good luck, good fortune and good cheer. The festival of Pongal is held dear particularly by the farming community as it marks the end of harvesting season.

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Pongal Festival Celebrated for Four Days :

Pongal is a harvest festival, which lasts for four days. It is celebrated across India by different names. Pongal, a harvest festival is celebrated in the month of Shravan. Pongal literally means, “boiling over”. The Tamil harvest festival is celebrated with decorated cows, processions and decorative Rangoli. Pongal is a dish, which is a sweet porridge made from newly harvested rice and eaten by all, even the animals.

Each day of this festival has a special significance and importance; however, it is celebrated more grandly and elaborately in the villages, while the city people mainly celebrate on the second day only. It is widely celebrated in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

The festival is celebrated for four days. On, the first day, Bhogi, the old clothes and materials are thrown away and fired, marking the beginning of a new life. The second day is Perum Pongal, the most important. It is also called Surya Pongal because people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Women decorate the central courtyard of their homes with beautiful kolams, done with rice flour and bordered with red clay. There are several legends associated with Perum Pongal.

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The third day, Mattu Pongal, is meant to offer thanks to the cows and buffaloes, as they are used to plough the lands. Jallikattu, a violent taming the bull contest, marks this day. On the last day, Kanum Pongal, people go out to picnic. During the Pongal season, people eat sugar canes and decorate the houses with Kolam. Even though Pongal was originally a Harvest festival, today all celebrates it. Coinciding with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the north, it is also called Pongal Sankranti and thus celebrated in some form in various parts of India. The four days of the festival are as follows :

  • Bogi Festival
  • Surya Pongal
  • Mattu Pongal
  • Thiruvalluvar Day / Kaanum Pongal

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Pongal Festival History :

The history of Pongal can be traced back to the Sangam Age, ie, 200 B.C. to 300 A.D. Pongal is an ancient festival of the Tamils and it is not known when exactly the Tamils began celebrating the festival, but some historians identify it with the Thai Un and Thai Niradal, believed to have been celebrated during the Sangam Age. Pongal, a traditional Tamilian food item that has found a place in the menu of Indian restaurants across the world, is perhaps the only dish to have lent its name to a festival. As part of the festivities, maidens of the Sangam era observed penance during the Tamil month of Margazhi ( December – January ). Throughout the month, they avoided milk and milk products. They would not oil their hair and refrained from using harsh words while speaking. The women had their ceremonial baths early in the morning.

According to Hindu mythology, this is when the day of the gods begins, after a six-month long night. The festival is spread over three days and is the most important and most fervently celebrated harvest festival of South India. A special puja is performed on the first day of Pongal before the cutting of the paddy. Farmers worship the sun and the earth by anointing their ploughs and sickles with sandal wood paste. It is with these consecrated tools that the newly harvested rice is cut.

According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food.

Thus cattles are associated with this day. Each of the three days are marked by different festivities. The first day, Bhogi Pongal, is a day for the family. Surya Pongal, the second day, is dedicated to the worship of Surya, the Sun God. Boiled milk and jaggery is offered to the Sun God. The third day of Pongal, Mattu Pongal, is for worship of the cattle known as Mattu. Cattle are bathed, their horns polished and painted in bright colors, and garlands of flowers placed around their necks. The Pongal that has been offered to the Gods is then given to cattle and birds to eat.

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Pongal Customs :

It is true that our country is progressing and in spite of urbanization, the traditions and customs attached to the harvest festival of Pongal has not changed. Though the way of celebration has changed but the traditions and customs attached to it is still intact. The way we celebrate the festivals, for instance varies with the time and place. The festival of Pongal captures the quintessence of south Indian culture in all its entirety and traditional practices and customs continue to hold their own even today.

The new crop, which is harvested is cooked and offered to the God. The festival is celebrated for four days. The various customs and traditions attached with the harvest festival are as follows :

The first day of Pongal known as ‘Bhogi Pongal’ is a day for family gathering and is dedicated to Lord Indra, the king of the Gods and God of the Clouds and Rains. Offerings are made to him to please him so that he blesses good harvest. It is also marks the beginning of the New Year according to the Malayalam calendar and before sunrise, a huge bonfire of useless things in home is lit that is kept burning throughout the night. The houses are cleaned and painted and are decorated with Kolams painted using rice four. The harvest of rice, turmeric and sugarcane is brought in for next day.

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The second day of Pongal known as ‘Surya Pongal’ is dedicated to the Sun God. Special dish are cooked on this day in a new mud-pot that comes in innovative shapes and have artistic designs on them called ‘Pongapani’.

A colorful sugarcane market is also set up on this day. The special dish is called ‘Sarkkarai Pongal’ and is offered to Sun God with sugarcane sticks. The third day of the festival is known as ‘Mattu Pongal’ and is dedicated to the cattle as cowherds and shepherds pay thanks to their cows and bulls. Cattle races are conducted and in the game called ‘Manji Virattu’ groups of young men chase running bulls. Bull fights called ‘Jallikattu’ are also arranged at some places. Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati are also worshipped on this day.

At some other places, this day is celebrated as Kanu Pongal when girls feed colored balls of cooked rice to the birds and crows and pray for their brothers’ happiness and that they always remember them. The fourth day is known as Kaanum Pongal. On this day, people travel to see their family members and relatives. On this day, the younger members of the family pay homage to the elders, and the elders thank them by giving token money.

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Pongal Festival in India :

India is a land of festivals. It is so rich in culture and traditions that each and every festival has a traditions attached to it. It is regarded as one of the monst important festival of South India. A majority of Indian population depends on agriculture. As a result, most of the festivals are also related to the agricultural activities of the people.

Pongal is one such festival. It is also known as harvest festival. These festivals are celebrated with different names and rituals in almost all the states of India. Pongal is one of such highly revered festivals celebrated in Tamil Nadu to mark the harvesting of crops by farmers. Held in the middle of the month January, it is the time when the people get ready to thank God, earth and their cattle for the wonderful harvest and celebrate the occasion with joyous festivities and rituals.

Pongal continues through the first four days of Thai month that starts in the mid – January and spreads to mid-February. The farmers celebrate this festival with lots of enthusiasm and joy. The houses are cleaned, painted and decorated. Kolams ( ground patterns made out of rice flour ) are made in the front yards of the houses and new clothes for the whole family are bought to mark the festivities. Even the cattle are gaily caparisoned with beads, bells and flowers-their horns painted and capped with gleaming metals.

Pongal has been designated the “State Festival” for its unique celebration that is typical of Tamil Nadu. It is a festival that encompasses all of Tamil Nadu in its joyous embrace. It is a time when the poor, the rich, the villager all celebrate the harvest festival together. It is the celebration time for all irrespective of the caste, religion, poor and rich. The four day celebration of Pongal marks a period of plenty, peace and happiness. The festival of Pongal brings lots of happiness and joy to families.

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