Pongal is the Indian harvest festival that is celebrated in the Hindu month of Magh that falls in the month of (Jan- Feb). It is considered as the auspicious time when there is a transition in the position of the sun from Dakshinayan (South) to Uttarayan (North).Pongal is celebrated with great enthusiasm and fervor in Tamil Nadu. Feasting, dancing, and singing are the important part of celebrations and thus "Pongal-o Pongal" songs play a vital role in this festival. The songs are based on the themes of wealth, love and war, poverty, mythology, religion and reflect the history and traditions of the state.
This article answers some questions one may have about this festival.
Some facts about Pongal It is a rice dish, especially consumed by the people of Tamil Nadu. There are two types of pongal. One is sweet in taste which is known as Sakarai Pongal whereas other is salty which is made up of clarified butter. The sweet pongal is made up of rice which is first boiled using milk and later on with melted jaggery. It is prepared as prasadam in many temples. The other variation is made up of boiled rice, pepper and tamarind. It is consumed as a very common breakfast in Tamil Nadu. Other places where pongal is consumed are Kerala and Andhra Pradesh.
When is Pongal?
Pongal is an annual festival that usually falls on January 14 every year. This is equal to the Tamil Calendar date of Thai 1.
Is Pongal one-day festival?
No, Pongal is four-day festivals, each day has a different significance. However, in the cities Pongal is generally celebrated on the first day (usually January 14), whereas in the villages it is up to four days.
The first day of the Festival called Bhogi Pongal, and usually festival thrown in honor of Lord Indra, the Hindu God that is said to have given the clouds and rain. The day is marked with a large bonfire in celebration of prosperity and the end of the winter season. Some of the families throw household items that are no longer useful into the bonfire and girls sing and dance happily around It. Families use this day to do preparation for the second day of the festival by preparing rice, sugarcane and turmeric that would be in the rituals of the second day of the festival.
The second day of the festival is dedicated to Lord Surya, also known as Sun God. The day began when an act of worship called the Puja It is a prayer ritual performed to make offerings, honoring, evoking or worshipping gods. The ceremony can also be performed to pay homage to the beloved ones who are deadis performed. The festive act requires the washed rice to be boiled in milk with sugar in an earth pot called sweet rice. This sweet rice is then offered to God Surya. The turmeric prepared the previous day is tied around the earth pot of rice when it is offered to God Surya. Other traditional offerings include coconut, sugar cane, and bananas. On this day, people wear traditional clothing and markings on their bodies. People usually draw drawing of the God Surya on a wooden board, known as the kolam.
The third day of the festival is called Mattu Pongal and dedicated the day of cows. The cattle are ornamented with beads, bells, corn, and garlands of flowers and worshiped by their owners and the villagers and later they are offered to the gods. The day continues with bull races and other festivities.
The final, fourth day of the festival is called Kaanum (Kaanum means ‘we see’ in Tamil) Pongal/Thiruvalluvar(Thiruvalluvar is a famous poet in Tamil history) Day Pongal. On this day, people wash a turmeric leaf and then place it on the ground and cover with the sweet Pongal Rice and also include sugar cane. Women's perform this ritual in the early morning before they bathe. Also, sisters pray for the happiness and livelihoods of their brothers.
Is Thai Pongal a government or public holiday?
Yes, Thai Pongal or January 14 is observed as a public holiday. Many government offices, colleges, schools, and others private offices may have a holiday on this day.
Is Thai Pongal celebrated only in Tamil Nadu?
Yes, Pongal is only celebrated in Tamil Nadu. Other states have holidays on this day, such as Maka Sankranti, Makara Jyoti, and the Kite Festival. Pongal is the only harvest festival, whereas the others are not celebrated for harvest reasons in this time.
What does Pongal mean?
In Tamil Nadu, Pongal means ‘boiling over’.
What is Pongal?
Pongal is freshly harvested rice with moong dal boiled to a consistency of porridge. It can be made both salty and sweet. When it’s made up of salt, mild spices, and ghee are added (known as ven Pongal –ven means white). Sweet Pongal, known as chakkara Pongal. Rice boiled with raw brown sugar, raisins, nuts, and milk.
How is Pongal eaten?
Ven Pongal is eaten with sambar (stew with vegetables and lentils), and vada (lentil donuts) along with chutney (Indian salsa made of coconut, tomato or other vegetables). Sweet Pongal, depending on the family tradition is actually eaten first or after the meal. In Tamil Nadu, many families would eat sweets first for special occasions. It was considered auspicious to put a bit of a sweet dish (dessert) on the banana leaf to eat before the actual meal items were placed on it.
How do people wish Pongal greetings to each other?
The traditional way of wishing is “Pongal-o Pongal” which is often said right after the Pongal has boiled on the burning stove. In the village, kids dance and sing ‘Pongal-o Pongal’ means ‘It’s boiling over, oh! It’s boiling over!”
What are the songs for Pongal festival?
The traditional songs are based on the theme of love and war, mythology, and religion and reflect the history, wealth and poverty, and traditions of the state. Lyrics of some of the popular Pongal songs are given below,
Podhuvaaha en manasu thangon
Oru poattiyinnu vandhuputta singon
Unmaya solvaen nallatha seiven
vetri mel vetri varum...
aaduvom paaduvom kondaaduvom
aanandham kaanuvom ennaalumae
Vandhaendaa paal kaaraen
Pasumaatta paththi paada poaraen
Oru paattu katti aada poaraen
Pullu kuduththaa paalu kudukkum
unnaala mudiyaathu thambi
Hey Paadhi pulla porakkuthappaaa
Pasumbaala thai paala nambiiii
karumbu soru yarukku
sarkarai satham yaruku
Is Pongal associated with a religion?
Anyone can celebrate the harvest festival, but Hindus are more likely to celebrate this festival than non-Hindus, especially when Indians belonging to various religions move outside India.
Do people give each other gifts on this day?
For most of the holidays, the woman of the house would buy new dresses for each family members. Also, on the Pongal, people clean their house on Bhogi and buy some new items. Some will buy new kitchen utensils, appliances, jewelry or other household requirements.
Do people eat meat on Pongal?
Normally, no. Families in the village eat meat on Pongal. They take sambhar, rice, milk products such as pure ghee, yogurt and cheese. However. Not sure if this is true for everyone, but I would feel to say it’s true for most of the families.
Are there any symbols associated with this holiday?
Pongal Panai (pot) by Ram Pongal paanai or the earthen pot that is usually decorated with turmeric leaves is used for cooking Pongal.
Families decorate their doorway with coconut leaves and or mango leaves
For Surya Pongal, Symbols of the sun are used and for Maatu Pongal symbols of cows & bulls are used.
Families use banana leaves for eating their meals during Pongal, even in cities.
Many of the symbols are drawn on the ground with rice flour called kolam. Usually, Pongal kolangal (kolams) are symmetrically drawn with colored rice flour and other items (maybe flowers, grains, etc.)