Pongal Celebration

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Pongal Festival

Pongal Celebration

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Pongal Festival Date :

Pongal Date is the winter solstice in the Hindu solar calendar. The passing of the sun into the sign Capricorn marks it. Pongal is celebrated on this date itself and also to celebrate the coming of spring. There are several ways of calculating the Hindu solar calendar, so Pongal date may vary by up to one day in various parts of India depending whether local custom dictates the use of the old or new Hindu calendar or astronomical tables. Pongal or Thai Pongal is also called Makara Sankaranthi, since it is celebrated on the first day of Thai when the Sun enters the Makara Rasi (Capricornus). This signals the end of winter and the onset of spring throughout the northern hemisphere. For the next six months, the days are longer and warmer.

As the day of Pongal celebration is decided according to the solar calendar, the Pongal date remains the same every year. Following are the date on which the four days of Pongal are celebrated:

  • Bhogi Festival : 13th January. ( Every Year )
  • Pongal : 14th January. ( Every Year )
  • Maathu Pongal : 15th January. ( Every Year )
  • Kaanum Pongal : 16th January. ( Every Year )

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Significance of Pongal :

Everybody knows about the celebration of Pongal but hardly anyone knows about its significance and meaning. People celebrating Pongal should be aware of the meaning & significance of the important rituals associated with this harvest festival. Pongal or Thai Pongal is also called Makara Sankaranthi, since it is celebrated on the first day of Thai when the Sun enters the Makara Rasi ( Capricornus ). This signals the end of winter and the onset of spring throughout the northern hemisphere. For the next six months, the days are longer and warmer. The period is regarded auspicious and referred to as Uttarayan Punyakalam. The festival of Pongal is celebrated for a period of four day.

The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated on the last day of the month of Margazhi. On this day, people decorate their homesand paints it. New vessels are bought and old and unwanted things burnt. Indra Vizha was celebrated in honor of Lord Indra, also called Bhogi, the God of thunder and rain. Scholars have linked these two festivals and similarity in their celebration.

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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. There are several legends associated with Perum Pongal.

The third day is Mattu Pongal, celebrated to glorify cattle that help farmers in a myriad ways. On this day, the cows are bathed and decorated with vermilion and garlands and fed. In certain villages in southern Tamil Nadu, a bullfight called manji-virattu is held in the evening. In most urban homes, the day is celebrated as Kannu Pongal. Women for the well being of their brothers offer special prayers. It is that part of the festival when families used to gather on the riverbanks and have a sumptuous meal (kootanchoru). It is also time for some traditional dances such as kummi and kolattam. In recent years, that day is celebrated as Uzhavar Tirunal in honor of farmers.

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Legend behind Pongal :

As all Indian festivals Pongal to, have interesting legends associated to it. Originated as a Dravidian harvest festival, it has found no mention in Indo-Aryan Puranas. According to the popular legend, the first day of the festival known as Bhogi Pongal was once dedicated to Lord Indra. The child Krishna came to know of the pride and arrogance of Indra on being the king of the deities and that he thought himself to be the most powerful of all the beings. He thought of a plan to teach him a lesson. When, as usual, his father an other villagers who were cowherds by profession, were preparing for the festival and offerings to Indra, Krishna objected and persuaded them to worship Mt Govardhan instead, as it gave them fodder for their cattle.

When Indra came to know of this, he considered it a insult done to him by the villagers and sent thunderous pours, storms and lightning to drown them and punish them. However, Lord Krishna had lifted up the Govardhan Mountain on his little finger to protect the cowherds and their cattle. The rains continued for three days and at last Indra realized his mistake and divine power of Lord Krishna. He promised humility and begged Krishna’s forgiveness. Since then, Krishna allowed to let the Bhogi celebrations continue in honor of Indra. From that time onwards Pongal is celebrated.

Another legend associated to the third day of Pongal known as Mattu Pongal involves Lord Shiva and his mount, Nandi the bull. It is believed that Lord Shiva once ordered Nandi to go to the Earth and deliver his message to the people that they should take oil bath every day and eat food once a month. However, the dozing Nandi could not hear the message right and told the people to eat everyday and take oil bath once a month. Shiva was angry and said that due to his folly, there will be lack of grains on the Earth and so he would have to remain on Earth to help humans plough the fields. Mattu Pongal is also known as Kanu Pongal and is in many ways resemble the festivals of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj of North India.

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Pongal Celebrations Around the World :

Tamils celebrate pongal festival around the world. Tamils are very much close to their culture and traditions so even if they are living abroad they do not forget their mother tongue and their cultural values and through this significant festival they try to showcase their rich culture and values to the world. The younger generation of Tamils living abroad always comes forward to contribute to the development of this Harvest festival. Through various contributions in celebrating Pongal, the Tamil diaspora maintains and nurtures the cultural distinctiveness.

Today, Pongal has become a vibrant and important festival with a global presence. The dispersal of Tamils around the globe is not of recent origin A togetherness is tried to be rooted in the Tamil diaspora by celebrating the Pongal festival at a single place, where everyone performs the Pongal rituals and share their sweet memories of India. The early settlement patterns of the Tamils could be traced to the sugar cane plantations of Mauritius, Reunion in the Indian Ocean; Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean; Guyana and Suriname in South America; plantations in South Africa; Malaysia; Ceylon (Sri Lanka); and to coal mines of New Caledonia off Australia. In Indonesia and Thailand. Britain with 300,000 or more, the USA with well over 300,000, Canada with over 300,000 and Australia with over 30,000 are some of the developed countries where the Tamil diaspora is well settled, having gone on voluntary migration from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. The various places around the world where Pongal is celebrated are as follows:
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  • Pongal in South East Asia : Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and others.
  • Pongal in Africa : Mauritius, Reunion, Seychelles And South Africa.
  • Pongal in Oceania : Australia, New Zealand, Fiji.
  • Pongal in the Gulf : Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia And Kuwait.
  • Pongal in Europe : Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Denmark
  • Tamils in Americas: USA and Canada.

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Regional Significance of Pongal Festival :

The harvest festival of Pongal has its unique regional significance. The festival of Pongal is celebrated all over India on the same day, but has different names in each region. However, being a harvest festival, bonfires and feasts are the main thing common to all the celebrations of this festival. Almost all the states of India celebrate this festival with varied festivities including singing and dancing. In northern India, the festival is known as Lohri while in Assam it is called Bhogali Bihu, in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar it is known as Sankranti, and in Andhra Pradesh it is celebrated as Bhogi, when each household puts on display its collection of dolls. Following is the state wise regional significance of the Pongal festival.

In Maharashtra, the flying of kites in the sky marks the festival of Makar Sankranti. On this day, people exchange homemade delicacies like til and gur laddoos and wish each other. A newly wed woman gives away oil, cotton and sesame seeds to mark the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti. In Gujarat, also Makar Sankranti is kite-flying day. Traditionally celebrated on the 13th or 14th January. Every family is seen flying kite outside.

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Pongal Recipes :

Pongal is the time to enjoy and have fun. It is the festival of feasting and enjoyment. ‘Pongal’ means boiling water and symbolizes the excess and plentiful of harvest and prosperity. The harvest festival of Tamil Nadu has two main dishes on its course as ‘Sweet Pongal’ and ‘Salt Pongal’ along with other side dishes of rice and ‘Avial’, a concoction of vegetables. Pongal is all about spreading of love and joy in the neighboring homes and enjoy the festival with family and friends. Families exchange ‘pongal’ as good wishes of prosperity to each other and visit each other on this day. However, some of the South Indian families exchange only the first fruits and flowers of the harvest as gifts to their near and dear ones.

  • Aval Payasam
  • Bisi Bele Bhath
  • Boonda
  • Brinjal Kotsu
  • Chakara Pongal

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  • Chana Dal Payasam
  • Chow Chow Koottu
  • Coconut Laddoo
  • Curd Rice
  • Keerai Masiyal
  • Lemon Rice
  • Milk Rice
  • Muttai Kulambu
  • Parangikkai Pulikulambu
  • Puliyogare Rice
  • Rava Kesari
  • Sakkarai Pongal
  • Seeyam
  • Summa Kulambu
  • Upma
  • Vegetable Perattal
  • Ven Pongal
  • Vendakkai More kulambu
  • Karunai Kilangu Masiyal
  • Khara Pongal
  • Medu Vada
  • Milk Vada
  • Muttaikos Kola
  • Pesarattu
  • Rava Dosa
  • Rava Payasam
  • Sweet Pongal
  • Vazhakkai Podimas
  • Vella Mangai Pachadi
  • Vendakkai Mandi


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