Pongal is a four day Tamil harvest festival dedicated to the Sun God. It is celebrated from January 14 to 17 by Tamilians around the world. The Hindu festival witnesses large-scale celebrations in Tamil Nadu. As it falls in the auspicious month of Thai, the tenth month of the Tamil calendar, it is also referred to as Thai Pongal. It marks the beginning of Uttarayan, the sun’s transition northwards for a six-month period. The The month of Thai is believed to believed to vanish people’s problems and bring good lunch. Each day of the festival is celebrated with different rituals in Tamil Nadu. People also choose to get married in this month as it believed to bring prosperity and good luck to families.
Pongal celebrates the harvest of rice, cereals and other food products. The festival also has mythology and legends attached to it. The popular one is that of the legend of Govardhan Mountain, Lord Shiva and his bull, Basava. It is believed that Lord Krishna lifted the mountain on his little finger on Bhogi, which is considered the first day of Pongal to protect the cattle and people from Indra, the rain god. The legend further states that Lord Shiva sent his bull Nandi to tell people to have oil bath daily and eat once a month. However, a confused Nandi asked people to eat daily and bath once a month. Lord Shiva angered by the incident placed Nandi on earth to help people harvest more food. While Tamil Nadu celebrates the day as Pongal, the name differs in different states. It is known as Lohri, Poki, Bihu, Makar Sankranti in various parts of the country.
Here are the four days of celebrations and its meaning:
Bhogi festival is the first day of Pongal which is celebrated in the name of Lord Krishna. People light a bonfire and throw cow dung cakes, old and useless things made of wood into it. People thank Lord Indra for good harvest while singing and dancing around it.
Surya Pongal is the second day of Pongal and is dedicated to the Sun God. On this day, people boil rice dedicate it to the Sun. Women wake up early and make kolam, which is rangoli design made out of rice powder. They also prepare a sweet dish called Pongal on this day.
Mattu Pongal falls on the third day of Pongal which is dedicated to cows. People thank God for their livestock and tie colourful garlands and bells around the neck of the cow. Cattle race is a common practice during the festival
Women wake up early on Kannum Pongal and pray for their husband’s health and long life. They mix the rice in a turmeric leaf and put it in the centre and perform puja.