Pongal is the most popular harvesting facility of South India which lasts for 4 days. It is generally celebrated in the middle of the month of January. According t traditional Tamil Calendar, it starts from the last day of the Tamil month of Margazhi and lasts till the third day of the Tamil month of Thai.
Pongal basically is a form of Thanks Giving to Nature for its bounty. It also marks the journey of the Sun to Uttarayana or the 6 monthly journey northwards. The word Pongal in Tamil means abundance, thus this is a ritual of Thanksgiving for abundance.
This festival is mostly celebrated in the state of Tamil Nadu, Puducherry etc and corresponds with Makar Sankranti. In 2017 it will be initiated from January 14th.
History of Pongal
Pongal can be traced back to 100 years ago when the Chola Kingdom first celebrated Puthiyeedu , representing the first harvest of the year.
Days of the Festival of Pongal
- The First day – the day preceding Pogal is known as the Bhogi. It is a day dedicated to Lord Indra.Homage is paid to him to have bestowed human beings with abundance. The ritual observed on this day is known as the Bhogi mantalu. In this ritual all the old household articles are discarded. In the dawn people assemble and throw away all their discarded items in fire, similar to Holika Dahan before Holi in northern parts of India. Houses are all cleaned and horns of oxen, buffaloes etc are painted on this day. In Tamil Nadu, farmers keep medicinal plants as neem, in the north east corners of their farmland to prevent pests from destroying crops.
- The Second day – the second day is known as the Thai Pongal. This is the day which coincides with Makar Sankranti celebrated throughout India. This day marks the start of Uttarayan of the Sun. Since Pongal literally means abundance, a vessel of milk is set to boil and when it starts overflowing; rice grains which are freshly harvested are added to this milk. Turmeric is tied to this vessel of milk. A conch called Sanggu is blown and people shout out Pongalo Pongal. This milk and rice made Pongal is then served to people along with sweets and other savouries. On this auspicious day, Tamilians decorate their houses with mango leaves and draw rangoli or kolams on the floor.
- The Third Day – The third day is known as the Maatu Pongal. On this day, cattles which are the backbone of the farming society are recognized and appreciated. Mukyi clored beads, tinkling bells, garlands are used to decorate the cows, sheep etc. the atmosphere on this day is festive. Games such as jaalikattu and taming Bulls are played on this day. Kaka-pidi and kanu-pidi is a ritual said to strengthen the bond of the brother-sisters. Cows on this day are cleaned with manjalthanni or turmeric powder, kumkum is applied and their horns colored. There is a ritual of a torch being lit of coconut leaves and carry it around the cattle thrice and then run to the village border and drop it. This is said to ward off the evil eye.
- The Fourth Day – the fourth day is known as the Knau or Kannum POngal day. A turmeric leaf is washed on this day and then placed in the ground. This is the day which marks the end of the Pongal festival. On that turmeric leaf, left-over of a sweet pongal, ordinary and colored rice are served. Arati is performed of the brothers on this day with turmeric water, rice and limestone.
The main Pongal dish
Cooking of the Pongal is done in sunlight. Other than rice and milk, cardamom, jaggery etc are added to the dish. The cooking is preferably done in a clay pot. The Pongal then usually is cooked in two varieties – one sweet and one savory and it is served on banana leaves.