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Pongal : A South Indian Harvest Festival

Pongal- A South Indian Festival

Pongal is a South Indian Festival Celebrate by Tamil Community. It is a four-day harvest festival. According to diversity in culture and belief, Pongal is celebrated with different names in different states of India.

Pongal Festival Celebration

Pongal Festival Celebration

Its other names are Makara SankrantiUtharayana and Maghi. Makara Sankranti marks the journey of the Sun called Uttarayana. 


Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu

Pongal is a Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu. The festival is a thanksgiving ceremony dedicated to Mother Nature by the farmers for the overflowing harvest, the Sun, and the farm animals for their assistance in providing a successful harvest. 


The Pongal festival celebration marks the travel of the Sun towards the equinox for a period of six months. It is believed that the auspicious month is a traditional month for weddings as the end of the harvest season is associated with an abundance of food. The month preceding Pongal is considered to be made up entirely of inauspicious days and the month following Pongal of auspicious days. 

Pongal Festival Date

According to the Gregorian calendar, Pongal is celebrated between the 14th to 16th of January every year. This falls in the tenth Tamil month called Thai. Actually, the rituals start from the last day of the ninth month of Margazhi and last for four days.


Pongal Meaning

The word Pongal is derived from the Tamil word Ponga, which means to boil. Pongal word means overflowing which signifies happiness and prosperity. Rice is boiled in milk and offered first to the gods, then to the cows, and then to family members. 


Pongal Preparation

Pongal is the festival of Tamilnadu thus Tamil culture can be seen during the festival celebrations. Tamilians decorate their houses with mango and banana leaves. They make colorful patterns made up of rice flour. Further, the dishes are been served in the traditional way by using banana leaves.


Pongal Celebration

Pongal word means overflowing which signifies happiness and prosperity. On this auspicious day, Tamilians boil milk in new clay pots and further they overflow to portray abundance. Devotees also boil the first rice of the season to the Sun which is – termed Surya Maangalyam.


A senior member of the family conducts the cooking and the rest of the family assists him or her or watches the event. When the water starts boiling, rice is put into the pot - after a member, the family ceremoniously puts three handfuls of rice in first. 


The other ingredients of this special dish are Chakkarai (brown cane sugar) or Katkandu (sugar candy), milk (cow's milk or coconut milk), roasted green gram (Payaru), raisins, cashew nuts, and a few pods of cardamom. 


When the meal is ready, it is first put on a banana leaf and the family prays for a few minutes to thank the nature spirit, the sun, and the farmers.


Pongal is celebrated in different states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Pondicherry in India. Pongal is also celebrated by Tamil Community in Shri Lanka.


Pongal - A Four Days South Indian Festival

Bhogi- 1st Day of Pongal

The day before the Pongal festival is called Bhogi. On this day, people discard their older belongings and go for new things. This is linked to the concept that only change is inevitable in this world. Across the country, the rituals are similar to that of the Holika Dahan celebration in North India.

Pongal festival- 2nd Day of Pongal

The second day is an important celebration called the Pongal festival. In Tamil, Pongal means “Overflowing” or “Abundant”. As the Tamil families are mostly Farming dependent, this festival is celebrated as a thanksgiving to the Sun God for a good harvest and also as a prayer for the next season. On the eve, people make food with the new rice along with sweets and savories. Sugar cane is an important item in this Pongal celebration.

Jallikattu- 3rd Day of Pongal

Jallikattu-Pongal-celebration

Jallikattu-Pongal-celebration

The third day is for the buffaloes without which people cannot do farming. They decorate the horns of the buffaloes and games like taming the bull are played in almost all the villages. It is popularly known as “Jallikattu”.

Kaanum Pongal- 4th Day of Pongal

The fourth day is called “Kaanum Pongal” which means the reunion of friends and families. Delicacies will be shared and people will spend time together with their kith and kin. Thus, the Pongal celebration is not only a festival but the life of the farmers.


Overall, it is a festival to encourage social cohesiveness and unite people by bringing them together in a common function. There are many songs about Thai Pongal and there is much Tamil literature about it.

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