Thai Pongal

Thai Pongal Image


Thai Pongal is the 'Thanksgiving' ceremony celebrated by the Tamilians of India and Sri Lanka. They thank the Sun God, the nature and the farming animals for helping them in bringing good harvest. Since the Tamil society is predominantly agrarian, Pongal is celebrated with great fervor. 

The first produce of the season is offered to the deity as a gesture of gratitude. On the day, a pot of rice is cooked at the front entrance and is then offered to the God and the farming animals. It is one of the most popular harvest festivals of the region. 

The day of the celebration coincides with the day of the Indian winter solstice when the sun starts its journey towards north. According to the Tamil calendar the 1st day of the tenth month of Thai is when the festival is normally celebrated .

The Celebration

On Pongal people greet each other with "Thai Pirandhal Vazhi Pirakkum" which means "the commencement of Thai paves the way for new opportunities".

  • Tamilians perform 'Surya Mangalyam' to praise the Sun God and offer him an oblation of the first grain. A general sense of merriment prevails all over and the entire family comes together to celebrate the event. They greet each other with the cheerful cry of "Pongal O'Pongal".
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  • A dish of rice, daal and sugar is prepared, which is called Pongal as well. It is from this dish that the name of the festival has originated. A variety of Pongal dishes are prepared such as "Ven pongal, where 'Ven' means white; "Chakrai Pongal" a sweet Pongal prepared with lentil and jaggery. Pongal is often enjoyed with aubergine, sambar, vada, idli and chutney. 
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  • On the festival day the revelers perform a ritual of early morning oil bath. They adorn their houses with 'Kolam' to usher good fortune.
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  • The first day of Thai Pongal is called Bhogi Pongal and is dedicated to Lord Indra as he is responsible for the rain. The second day is called Suriya Pongal when the sun god is worshipped.
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  • On the day of Mattu Pongal, the third day of the celebration, farm animals are bathed, anointed and served a specially prepared fodder. They are decorated with garlands and special puja is offered to them as well.
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  • Preparing the dish is the most important part of the celebration. In Tamil, 'Pongal' means spilling. Boiling milk spilling over the clay pot is regarded as a sign of abundance and prosperity. A special hearth is prepared at the courtyard where the Pongal is cooked. Firewood is used to light the hearth on the auspicious moment. In many temples, community Pongal is prepared and distributed among devotees.
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