It’s a festival of thanksgiving to nature representing the first harvest of the year.India is a land whose primary occupation is agriculture. Changes in season thus play a very important role for Indian farmers. Their lifestyles and celebrations are thus exclusively linked to the seasonal landmarks in an year. There are many Indian festivals which are in tune with a farmers lifestyle and also with the seasonal variations in an year. Pongal, the harvest festival of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one of them.
What is Pongal?
- Pongal is a four-day-long harvest festival celebrated in Tamil Nadu, which falls in the month of Thai (14th or 15th January) 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 Harvest Festival
According to the calendar based on the Solar System,the year is divided into two halves following the apparent movement of the Sun Northwards and Southwards. The former is termed Uttarayanam and the latter is Dakshinayanam. On the first day of the Thai, the Sun leaves the zodiac sign of Sagittarius and enters that of Capricorn, the latter is known as Makaram. The event thus is celebrated as Pongal.
Preparations for this festival start early and the first thing that is always found in Hindu homes before the start of Pongal is the ‘kolam’.
This is a form of decoration for the Hindus’ homes. This decorative pattern is made with rice flour & is usually drawn on the floor outside the door. The kolams serve as a symbol of welcoming guests to the entrance of the house. At the center of the Kolam is a lump of cow-dung, which holds a five-petaled pumpkin flower-a symbol of fertility and an offering of love to the presiding deity.
The houses are cleaned and decorated to prepare for Pongal. For the festival, the Hindus buy new clothes and the ladies of the households would prepare sweetmeats. There is also a belief in the Hindus that the harvest festival will bring great wealth and goodness to their homes. All the four days of Pongal have their own significance as separate deities are worshiped each day.
Important things for Pongal
Four Days Celebrations
Pongal is a festival that goes on for four days. The first day of festivities is known as the Bogi Pongal, wherein people worship the sun god and earth. The dish Pongal is made by boiling rice with milk. In fact the first paddy that is harvested is used to make Pongal. The second day is Surya Pongal or Perum Pongal. It is the most important day and people worship Surya, the Sun God and his consorts, Chaya and Samgnya. Old articles are thrown in the fire and people have an oil massage and wear new clothes on this day. On the third day of the festival, known as Mattu Pongal, the farm animals like cattles are worshipped. Cattles are bathed and dressed beautifully and served Pongal. The fourth day is Thiruvalluvar day or Kaanum Pongal. People visit family, friends and relatives, women of the house
perform puja for the prosperity of their brothers. Many people leave cooked rice on banana leaves for birds on this day.
First Day : Bhogi Pongal
This first day is celebrated as Bhogi festival in honor of Lord Indra, the supreme ruler of clouds that give rains. Homage is paid to Lord Indra for the abundance of harvest, thereby bringing plenty and prosperity to the land. Another ritual observed on this day is Bhogi Mantalu, when useless household articles are thrown into a fire made of wood and cow-dung cakes. Girls dance around the bonfire, singing songs in praise of the gods, the spring and the harvest. The significance of the bonfire, in which is burnt the agricultural wastes and firewood is to keep warm during the last lap of winter.
Second Day : Surya 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.
Third Day : Mattu Pongal
The third day is known as Mattu Pongal, the day of Pongal for cows. Multi-colored beads, tinkling bells, sheaves of corn and flower garlands are tied around the neck of the cattle and then are worshiped. They are fed with Pongal and taken to the village centers. The resounding of their bells attract the villagers as the young men race each other’s cattle. The entire atmosphere becomes festive and full of fun and revelry. Arati is performed on them, so as to ward off the evil eye. According to a legend, once Shiva asked his bull, Basava, to go to the earth and ask the mortals to have an oil massage and bath every day and to eat once a month. Inadvertently, Basava announced that everyone should eat daily and have an oil bath once a month. This mistake enraged Shiva who then cursed Basava, banishing him to live on the earth forever. He would have to plough the fields and help people produce more food. Thus the association of this day with cattle.
Fourth Day : Kanum 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