Pongal Celebrations 2017


Pongal is a harvest festival celebrated by Tamils to express their gratitude and thank the Sun God, the rains, and cattle for the agricultural abundance they are showered with all through the year. It is a four-day celebration with which begins the ‘Thai’ month in the Tamil Calendar. 

Four Days of the Harvest Festival

Here is how the four days of Pongal are observed.

1st day or Bhogi:

  • On the first day of the festival, people offer their prayers to Lord Indra, the God of rains. This is to ensure that they are blessed with abundance of harvest and prosperity.
  • ‘Bhogi’ is also known as ‘Indran’. Among the various domestic activities for this day, people clean their houses and get rid of unwanted goods before they start their prayers.
  • They adorn their houses with ‘kolams’ or rangolis, which are geometrical designs made on the floors with a white paste of harvested rice and colored powders. 
  • On the day of ‘Bhogi’, people worship the Sun God and earth before they cut the paddy. They smear their agricultural tools with sandalwood paste before starting the puja. The paddy is then cut with these tools.
  • One of the special rituals of Pongal is ‘Bhogi Mantalu’. This is when people start a fire with wood and cow dung and throw useless household goods in it. The female members of the houses dance around the fire while singing in praise of the gods and the harvest. 
  • In Andhra Pradesh, girls wear new clothes on the 1st day of Pongal after they have had a special oil massage and bath. They actually participate in ‘Bhogi Mantalu’ and throw their old clothes in the fire. This ritual is followed by another tradition – the Pongal Panai. This is when people paint and adorn new earthen pots with turmeric, mango leaves, and flowers. 

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2nd day or Surya Pongal:

  • This is the most important of the four days of Pongal. It coincides with the first day of the Tamil month ‘Thai’. On this day, new rice is cooked in pots until the entire rice overflows. This overflowing of rice is a happy occasion and is known as ‘Pongal’. This is when people joyfully utter the words – “Pongal-o-Pongal”.
  • The pot in which rice is cooked is adorned with flowers, turmeric plant, and pieces of sugarcane. The first offering of rice is made to the Sun God. 
  • One of the Pongal traditions and customs is the worship of Sun God on the 2nd day. A figure of the Sun God with bright rays is drawn at the center of a plank placed on the floor. Kolam designs are created on the area of worship. 
  • Surya Pongal is known for the delicacies prepared by the Tamils on this day. Two different kinds of rice are cooked – the Venpongal and Sarkarai pongal.
  • Venpongal is a recipe combining rice, dal, and ghee, mixed with spices and topped with cashew nuts. It serves a breakfast dish and tastes delicious when savored with coconut chutney. The Sarkarai pongal is a combination of rice and moong dal sweetened with jaggery and garnished with coconut pieces. 

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3rd day or Mattu Pongal: 

  • The 3rd day of this festival is dedicated to offering prayers to the cattle. People give their cattle some rest on this day as a way of expressing their gratitude to the cows and bulls that provide milk or help them in agriculture.
  • They wash the cattle and put shining metal caps on their horns. Tinkling bells and flower garlands are tied around the necks of the cattle. The cows and bulls are then worshipped, which is followed by an aarti and an offering of the cooked Pongal. 
  • One of the popular Pongal traditions and customs is to worship Lord Ganesha and Goddess Parvati. Aside from this puja, people organize the bull festival called Jallikattu. This tradition is followed especially in Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, and Tanjavur. As part of this ritual, people try to retrieve money tied to the horns of bulls. This is followed by a community meal comprising food cooked with the newly harvested grains. 

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4th day or Kaanum Pongal: 

  • The fourth day of Pongal is celebrated with a special worship of Sun God. Intricate chalk designs are created, which reflect the image of the Sun God. Sheaves of sugarcane are used to decorate the area of worship.
  • A special offering made to the Sun God includes Sarkarai pongal, coconuts, and sugarcane stalks. This is done to please the almighty and seek his blessings for a bountiful harvest in the year ahead.
  • An important feature of the Pongal traditions and customs followed on this day is the women folk praying for their brothers.
  • Before taking their morning bath, women gather together and perform an aarti with turmeric water, rice, and limestone. This liquid is then sprinkled on the kolams created at the entrance of their houses. 
  • On the 4th day of the harvest festival, the Tamils visit the houses of their dear ones and receive gifts of money from the elders.
  • One of the rituals of Pongal, observed on the 4th day, is to keep some food on banana leaves and leave it for birds to eat. Another custom is to visit temples to thank god for the blessings and bounties he has showered on them.

 

The four days of Pongal are celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm. While you enjoy this festive occasion, don’t forget to send your heartfelt wishes to your loved ones with Pongal cards and gifts.

Pongal Celebrations