Pongal – Celebrating the Tamil Harvest Festival
Pongal is a Hindu festival celebrated for a series of four days. The word “Pongal” in Tamil translates to “overflowing” and as such the festival represents prosperity and abundance. 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.
is regarded as the harvest festival of the Tamils. The festival also marks the day when Surya enters the Capricorn zodiac sign, and as such the festival is dedicated to Surya. Pongal is celebrated either from 13th January to 15th January or from 14th January to 17th January, every year. It is considered as one of the most important festivals of the people of Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, and is celebrated with great zeal and passion by the community all over the world including countries like Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and Singapore etc.
The festival of Pongal is celebrated for a continuity of four days. Before the festival starts the arrival of it is celebrated and is known as MargaliKolam. Before the festival, people usually perform all types of renovations like whitewash of their homes in order to welcome the deities. At or before dawn, women and girls draw beautiful patterns called Kolamon the entrance of their homes. Kolam is generally made with the help of rice flour and other different colored substances and powders. The first day of the festival is called Bhogi. On this day people collect all the useless stuff from their house that need to be discarded. At the same time they celebrate the new possessions and items purchased by them. People then gather together in evening, and the items to be discarded are used to light a bonfire and are, thus, burned into it. Farmers and herders paint the horns of their animals. They also keep medicinal herbs prepared with neemand avramon the northeast corner of their fields to protect their crops from pests and diseases. The second day of the festival is known as Thai Pongal and is regarded as the main festivity. On this day a special sweet dish called Pongalis prepared with the help of milk, rice, cardamom, jaggery, cashew nuts and green gram. Pongal is always prepared in a clay vessel. The devotees and worshippers offer sugarcanes, coconuts and bananas to their gods. The elders of the family bless their young ones and provide gifts for them.
The third day of the festival is called MattuPongal. The word “Mattu” means “cattle” and as such, this day is dedicated to the cattle and animals of the farmer and herders as they pay their respect to them for the milk, services and wealth provided by them. The animals are decorated with beautiful colors, clothes, flowers, garlands and are offered jaggery, pongal, honey, banana and other fruits to eat. After that a torch is made with the leaves of coconuts and is burnt. The torch is then circulated thrice around the cattle and then thrown out of the field. This ritual is believed to ward off the evil from the cattle. One of the most important rituals on this day is KanuPidi in which young girls and women feed birds with colored rice, bananas, cooked vegetables and pongal, and pray for the well-being and prosperity of their brothers. The fourth day of the festival is known as KaanumPongal and marks the culmination of the festival. The word “Kaanum” means “visit” and hence, family members visit their relatives on this day. People exchange gifts with each other, eat sugarcane and decorate their houses with Kolam once again.
Beliefs and Significance
Pongal is celebrated with great jubilation and joy. Celebrating Pongal with full devotion and passion is believed to please the deities and bring about abundance of wealth, well-being, good luck and fortune for the devotees and worshipers. The festival of Pongal is the welcoming of the New Year and relishing the joys of it. The festival signifies paying of respect to the sun god and thanking him for the abundant and plentiful harvest and other benefits provided to the devotees. Pongal, at its core, is a festival of joy, harmony, simplicity, reverence, prosperity and happiness.