This is a harvest festival - the Tamil equivalent of Thanksgiving.
It is held to honor the Sun, for a bountiful harvest. Families gather to rejoice and share their joy and their harvests with others. The Sun is offered a "Pongal" of rice and milk.
There is much excitement and preparation. New clothes are made or bought. The homes and yards are cleaned days ahead. Tasty aromas of Palakaram (sweet snacks) fill the air for days ahead.
Family members then jointly draw the kolam (a decoration laid on the floor). Rice flour (plain and coloured) is used to draw the kolam.
Within the perimeters of kolam, typically, firewood is used to cook the rice. The Pongal is set up in the direct view of the Sun (East). Traditionally, the kolam is laid in the front or side of the house, but in cold climes where cooking indoors with firewood is hazardous, the pongal can be prepared in kitchen and brought to the location where kolam is set up (which could be indoors, like your Sun-room!).
The moment of climax is the spill over of the pongal during cooking. The spillover of milk is a propitious symbol of abundance. Sometimes, firecrackers are lit to signify the moment.
Once the pongal is ready a Padayal (the offering) is first made. Sharing of the Pongal with friends and relatives follows a few minutes of meditation or a prayer.
When is Thai Pongal Celebrated?
Thai Pongal is celebrated on January 14th every year. The month of Thai (January) is the harvest season in the Thamil homeland spanning from Thamil Nadu to Thamil Eelam. Pongal refers to rice cooked in milk and sweetened with brown sugar (chakkarai, from which the English word jaggery is derived).
On a full scale it is a three-day festival of nature-worship. It includes feeding the birds that are part of the beauty of nature, and offering thanks to the cattle, Mattu Pongal, which gives milk and plough the fields. Jallikkattu is a peaceful sport involving bulls celebrated by young men as a part of 3-day Thai Pongal.
Thai Pongal is a harvest festival equivalent to a thanksgiving event celebrated by Tamils across the world. Pongal in Tamil means "boiling over or spill over."
The act of boiling over of milk in the clay pot is considered to denote future prosperity for the family. Traditionally celebrated at harvest time, it is a celebration of the prosperity associated with the harvest by thanking the rain, sun and the farm animals that have helped in the harvest.
Pongal is celebrated by the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as well as Tamils worldwide, including those in Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Mauritius, South Africa, USA, Canada and Singapore. The festival is at least 1000 years old although some believe that the festival is more than 2000 years old. As per epigraphic evidence, it used to be celebrated as Puthiyeedu during Medieval Chola empire days. It is thought that Puthiyeedu meant the first harvest of the year. People of all relegions celebrate the pongal festival
Tamils refer to Pongal as "Tamizhar Thirunal" (meaning "the festival of Tamils"). This festival originated in Tamil Nadu. The saying "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" meaning "the birth of the month of Thai will pave the way for new opportunities" often is quoted regarding the Pongal festival.
Usually, the festival takes place January 12 — 15 (on the Gregorian calendar). The festival is celebrated four days from the last day of the Tamil month Maargazhi (December — January) to the third day of Thai (January — February).The first day, Bhogi, is celebrated by throwing away and destroying old clothes and materials, by setting them on fire, marking the end of the old Thai and the emergence of the new Thai.
The second day, Pongal, is the main day, falling on the first day of the Tamil month Thai (January 14 — 15). Also known as Sarkarai Pongal or Veetu Pongal, it is celebrated by boiling rice with fresh milk and jaggery in new pots, which are later topped with brown sugar, cashew nuts and raisins early in the morning and allowing it to boil over the vessel. This tradition gives Pongal its name.
Kolam decorations in front of house during Thai PongalThe moment the rice boils over and bubbles out of the vessel, the tradition is to shout of "Ponggalo Ponggal!" and blowing the sangu (a conch), a custom practiced during the festival to announce it was going to be a year blessed with good tidings.
For Tamils, it is considered a good sign to watch it boil over, since it means that good luck and prosperity is forthcoming. ThenNew boiled rice is offered to the Nature during sunrise, a gesture which symbolises thanks to the sun and nature for providing prosperity. It is later served to the people present in the house for the ceremony. People also prepare savories and sweets such as vadai, murrukku, payasam and visit each other and exchange greetings.
The third day, Maattu Pongal, is for offering thanks to cattle, as they help farmer in different ways for agriculture. On this day the cattle are decorated with paint, flowers and bells. They are allowed to roam free and fed sweet rice and sugar cane.
Some people decorate the horns with gold or other metalic covers. In some places, Jallikattu, or taming the wild bull contest, is the main event of this day and this is mostly seen in the villages.
During the final day, Kaanum Pongal (the word kaanum means "to view") people visit beaches and theme parks. They also chew sugar cane and decorate their houses with kolam.
This day is a day to thank relatives and friends for their support in the harvest. Although it started as a farmers festival, today it has become a national festival for all Tamils irrespective of their origins, caste or even religion. It is as popular in urban areas as is in rural areas.
India is a land of diverse culture, and we have heard that line to death. We also know along with the different cultures come numerous festivals spreading across the calendar. Before we're done celebrating one, another comes right around the corner.Likewise, just as we got over Lohri, Pong
India is a land of diverse culture, and we have heard that line to death. We also know along with the different cultures come numerous festivals spreading across the calendar. Before we're done celebrating one, another comes right around the corner.
Likewise, just as we got over Lohri, Pongal has arrived. But in North India, some of us might not know about this festivity that is wrapped around few amazing traditions.
If you're one of them, here's all you need to know about Pongal celebrations, which is being observed right now in southern India, especially Tamil Nadu, and in many places across India:
What is Pongal?
Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, which falls in the month of Thai (that is, the January-February season) when crops like rice, sugarcane, turmeric etc. are harvested.
The term 'pongal' in Tamil means "to boil", and this festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving ceremony for the year's harvest. Pongal, one of the important Hindu festivals, falls around the same time as Lohri every year, which is around mid-January.
Pongal also happens to be the name of a dish consumed during this festive time, which is sweetened rice boiled with lentils.
The first day of Pongal - The Bhogi festival
The Bhogi festival is celebrated in honour of Lord Indra, the god of rain, and the lord of lords. The ritual of Bhogi Mantalu is also observed this day, during which useless items of the household are tossed into a bonfire traditionally made of cow dung cakes and wood.
The second day - Thai Pongal
This day, a special ritual is performed where rice and milk are boiled together in an earthen pot - to which a turmeric plant is tied - out in the open as an offering to the sun god. Along with this, sticks of sugarcane, coconuts and bananas are also offered.
Another important aspect of this day is the kolam, the traditional design hand-drawn at the entrance of houses with lime powder. This auspicious drawing must be done early in the morning and only after a bath.
The third day - Mattu Pongal
Mattu Pongal is the day celebrated in the name of cows. The cattle are adorned with bells, sheaves of corn and garlandsand worshipped.
Legend has it that Lord Shiva had once sent his bull, Basava, to earth with a message for the mortals, asking them to have an oil massage and bath daily, and to eat once a month. Basava, however, mistakenly announced Shiva has asked people to eat daily and have an oil bath once a month.
Enraged, Shiva banished Basava to the earth forever, cursing he would have to plough the fields to help people produce more food. Hence, the association of this day to cattle.
The fourth day - Kaanum Pongal
Kaanum (or Kanu) Pongal marks the last day of Pongal. On this day, a ritual is performed where the leftover sweet Pongal and other food are set out in the courtyard on a washed turmeric leaf, along with betel leaves, betel nuts and sugar cane.
Women of the household carry out this ritual in the name of their brothers, asking for their prosperity.
So, now that all that has been said, we would like to wish you all a very Happy Pongal!