A popular harvest festival of South India, particularly Tamil Nadu, Pongal is celebrated to mark the end of the winter season and herald the coming of the spring season. The festival is observed to honor the sun God, for a bountiful harvest. The period is commonly referred to as the Uttarayan Punyakalam. Houses are cleaned and whitewashed on this auspicious day. People wear new clothes and prepare large variety of delicacies to celebrate the joyous occasion. The celebration commences from the 13th January and continues for four days. Pongal is mainly a Tamil Nadu festival and hence, it is largely observed by the people of Tamil Nadu. The festival coincides with Makara Sankranti and Lohri of the North.
The history of Pongal dates back to the Sangam Age. It is an ancient festival and was largely identified with the Thai Un and Thai Niradal. Initially, the celebration was confined to the people of the farming community but, it is now being observed by all. The name Pongal comes from the traditional Tamilian dish Pongal, which is a rice pudding made from a combination of rice, milk and jaggery.
The first day is dedicated to the family and is known as the ‘Bhogi Pongal’. ‘Surya Pongal’ is the second day and is dedicated to the worship of the Sun God; Surya. On this day boiled milk and jaggery is offered to the Sun God to demonstrate their gratefulness for the harvest. The third day is known as the ‘Mattu Pongal’ and is dedicated to the worship of the cattle. Cattle are bathed and their horns are polished and painted with bright colors. The Pongal is offered to the cattle as well as the birds on this day. The last day is known as the ‘Kanum Pongal’ and on this day people go out for picnic, visit friends and relatives. Women usually perform puja on the last day, for the well being and prosperity of their brothers.
Festivals are always associated with traditional practices. Pongal too has its own traditional rituals. Prayers are offered to worship the sun God and earth. The first rice that is harvested is used to make the Pongal. Old clothes and articles are thrown in the fire and people wear new clothes to mark the festive occasion. Cattle and birds are offered food, on the third day of the Pongal festival. Besides, people also sing Pongal songs and perform Pongal dances.
Last Updated On: 2011/07/04