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Pongal Festival - the Harvest Festival of Tamil Nadu - Festivals of India

Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.

Community Pongal

pongal being celebrated by the community

pongal being celebrated by the community

About Pongal Festival

Pongal is the traditional Hindu harvest festival of South India, especially the Tamil people of Tamil Nadu state of India. It is one of the most popular and important of the South Indian festivals.

Celebrated as a four-day long thanksgiving festival its origin dates over 1000 years back. This day is also celebrated by various names as Makar Sankranti, Bihu, Hadaya, Poki among others.

The celebrations are two-fold:
For one, it celebrates and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest and second, it celebrates the change of season and marking the end of monsoon season for the year.

Pongal means "to boil" in Tamil and it represents the overflowing harvest. Pongal is also marked as the wedding month as the abundance of food makes it easier to go in for a large wedding.

Pongal is not a government holiday across the nation but a religious holiday in South & Central India. School & colleges remain closed on all 4 days as well as agricultural businesses.

Pongal Celebrations

the traditional pongal celebration with pots, sugarcane & leaves and flowers in an office

the traditional pongal celebration with pots, sugarcane & leaves and flowers in an office

Legend (History) Of Pongal Festival

Though several legends are associated with the Pongal festival, the most popular is one of Lord Krishna lifting the Govardhan mountain on his little finger to protect the cattle and people from the Rain God, Lord Indra's wrath. It was on the first day called Bhogi Pongal that Lord Krishna lifted the mountain.

As the legend goes, on the third day, that is; Mattu Pongal day, Lord Shiva sent his buffalo Nandi to tell the people to have oil massage and bath daily but eat once a day. Nandi became confused and mistakenly related the order the other way around.

This angered Lord Shiva who then made Nandi stay back on earth to help people with growing more food and this then became a harvest festival.

Sweet Pongal

Preparation For Celebrating Pongal

Called Marghazi Kolam, this tradition is followed in many villages.

The preparations start several days to almost a month before the actual festivities arrive as these are very elaborate and this is the most waited of all festivals.

Homes are whitewashed and decorated, new clothes bought, old household items collected for disposal and new ones bought in their place as also gifts for family and friends.

Cattle sheds are likewise cleaned and cattle bathed.

Pongal Kolam

The Four Days Of Pongal Festival Celebrations

As mentioned earlier, the Pongal festival celebrations are spread over four days. The days are:

  • Bhogi (Bogi) Pongal - 14 January 2016
  • Surya (Thai) Pongal - 15 January 2016
  • Mattu Pongal - 16 January 2016
  • Kannum (Katya) Pongal - 17 January 2016
Scroll to Continue

The Four Days Of Pongal Festival Celebrations

Day 1 - Bhogi Pongal:

This day, a day before the main Pongal day is celebrated to honour the Rain God, Lord Indra for the plentiful rains that provided the bumper harvest. It also celebrates the end of winter.

People discard old and worn out things and buy new, burn these in the bonfire at dawn which is lit with wood and cow dung. The houses are cleaned and painted afresh, decorated traditionally with even oxen and buffaloes getting their horns painted.

Rice, sugarcane & turmeric are kept ready for use for the day two rituals.

Day 2 - Surya or Thai Pongal:

This day is celebrated by worshipping the Sun God, Lord Surya. Rice is boiled in milk and jaggery, in an earthen vessel, and the pot of rice is allowed to overflow, signifying abundance.

This concoction is called Pongal. Turmeric is tied to the pot of rice before offering it to the deity. Some more offerings like sugarcane, coconut and bananas are also given. Later on, this is served to the gathering of people at home.

Pongal is cooked at sunrise. Kolam designs with rice flour and clay are drawn on the floor or wooden planks. People wear new clothes and greet one another 'Happy Pongal'.

Incidentally, this day coincides with Makar Sankranti festival.

Day 3 - Mattu Pongal:

On this day people decorate and worship their cattle. the painted cattle horns are decorated with bells, beads, flowers etc. They are fed the Pongal offered to the Gods. Bull races and fights (Jallikattu) are also held.

The cattle are providers of dairy, fertilizer, labour and transportation for the farmer and his fields. They are also taken to tour the entire village.

This day is also called Kanu Pongal.

Day 4 - Kannum (Katya) Pongal

The fourth and last day of Pongal festival is also known as Karinaal in some areas of Tamil Nadu.

On this day people place a turmeric leaf on the ground after washing. The remains of the sweet Pongal are placed on this as well as pieces of sugarcane, betel nuts & leaves and bananas.

Feeding cows is considered auspicious and coloured rice balls are fed to them. Women perform aarti (worship) for the well being of the brothers.

It is time for family get-togethers and reunions. Pongal songs are sung and folk dances performed.

Pongal Symbols

The most commonly associated symbols with Pongal are related to agriculture and the Sun viz:

  • The Sun
  • Wheat grains
  • Sickle
  • The Chariot
  • Kolam

Pongal Recipes

Some of the dishes made during Pongal are:

  1. Sakkarai (Pongal) made with rice, arhar dal, jaggery, milk almonds and cashews or raisins
  2. Avial made with vegetables, chana and urad dal
  3. Coconut Rice made with coconut, chana and urad dal
  4. Puli Pongal made with rice, green gram, tamarind, peanuts and black gram
  5. Salt Pongal made with rice, moong dal and cashew nuts

Some More Festival Hubs By The Author

Avial Recipe

Sakkarai Pongal Recipe

© 2016 Rajan Singh Jolly


Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on February 09, 2016:

Flourish, with A multitude of traditions and rituals even within the broad Hindu religion umbrella these festivals are like a whiff of fresh air for everyone, joyful and invigorating.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 09, 2016:

I like the idea of painting the horns of the oxen. This festival seems invigorating and joyful, especially after the monsoons.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 09, 2016:

@Vellur, thanks for reading & appreciating this write up.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 08, 2016:

Pongal is a grand festival of South India. Great hub and pictures. Thank you for sharing.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 08, 2016:

@ billybuc, thanks Bill and I personally too love learning about other cultures.

@ manatita, agriculture is the backbone of our existence and a bountiful harvest does call for a great celebration anywhere. Appreciate that you like the information on theis festival. Thanks brother.

@ Venkatachari M, thanks for stopping by even though you are well aware of all these rituals.

Venkatachari M from Hyderabad, India on January 07, 2016:

Good description of the celebrations. The images are great. I described it in my own traditional way on my blog titled (Lifestyle Tips).

manatita44 from london on January 07, 2016:

Very beautiful and colourful, Rajan. I rather love the way they sit and the uniformity of the pots or cooking ware. Right up your street, I guess, all these food and recipes.

Another beautiful Hub on Indian customs and their meanings. 'Harvest' is such a beautiful word! An overflowing Harvest is just awesome! A great harvest nourishes and replenishes in abundance. In the same way, a Soul truly harvested, flows gracefully in and through the body, shedding ecstatic tears of Joy and Delight. A great Hub, my Friend. Much Love.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 07, 2016:

Another wonderful cultural gift for us all...thank you for sharing it all with us...I, for one, am very grateful.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 07, 2016:

It is no doubt amazing how India keeps up with its multitude of different traditions and celebrates each one with the same zeal. Thanks Devika.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 07, 2016:

Wow! Incredible celebrations. I have learned about the tradition from this hub. Interesting of how Indians in India keep up the tradition so well.

Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on January 07, 2016:

swalia, glad you found this hub informative. Thanks for reading & commenting.

Shaloo Walia from India on January 06, 2016:

Thanks for this informative hub! Though I have friends from Tamil Nadu, still I didn't know of all these details about Pongal.

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