Pongal, a festival dedicated to Hindu Sun God is celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm all over the country, especially in Tamil Nadu. This four-days long harvest festival falls in the month of Thai, corresponding to the January-February season. The onset of the Pongal festival in Chennai marks the beginning of Uttarayan and the local new year. The festival is celebrated to showcase gratitude towards nature for bestowing its bounties on humans. India being an agro-based economy, a lot of festivals and occasions are closely related to good crops or harvests. Pongal is also one such festival. Also, did you know that the literal meaning of Pongal is spilling over? It had been named like that essentially because of the tradition of boiling rice in a pot until it starts to overflow? Interesting fact, isn't it?
Pongal is a popular Hindu festival, predominantly celebrated by Tamilians all over the world. The most significant day of this four-day festival is the Thai festival which is considered to be the most significant of all four days. This day is also celebrated and observed as Makar Sankranti in Northern parts of the country. Pongal is celebrated on Jan 14th. Thai Pongal begins at 8:29 AM with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm. Pongal is not only celebrated in Tamil Nadu but also other states in India like Karnataka, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Puducherry.
Being an ancient festival, Pongal traces its roots back to the Sangam age ranging from 200 BC to 300 AD. Originally Pongal was celebrated as a Dravidian harvest festival and is also mentioned in various Sanskrit Puranas and other sacred texts. The historians, on the other hand, relate Pongal with Thai Un and Thai Niradal which, apparently, were celebrated during the Sangam Age. Pongal celebrations are associated with several legends.
According to a legend, it is believed that once upon a time Lord Shiva had asked his bull, Basava, to visit Earth and then ask the residents of Earth to take an oil massage and a bath on a daily basis. However, due to some communication gap, Basava told the Earth residents to eat daily and then have an oil bath only once in an entire month. When Lord Shiva got to know about this mistake of his, he became extremely angry. In a fit of anger, Lord Shiva cursed and banished Basava to the Earth forever. As per the curse, he had to plough the fields and then also help people produce more and more food his entire life.
According to another legend, it is believed that while Lord Krishna was still very young and a child, he decided to teach Lord Indra a lesson. This was because Lord Indra had become quite arrogant after becoming the king of all deities. So, as per Lord Krishna's plan, he asked all the cowherds of the village to completely stop worshipping Lord Indra. And when Lord Indra came to know about this, he became very furious. In a fit of rage, he sent clouds to the village to wreck a storm, lashing rains, and havoc on it. Seeing the perpetual rainstorm, Lord Krishna came up with a plan and lifted the entire Mount Govardhan. Soon, Lord Indra realized his mistake and rectified it by stopping the storm. When Lord Krishna realized that Lord Indra was apologetic about his behaviour, he asked the devotees to celebrate the day in honour of the latter. This is why, on the occasion of Pongal, Lord Indra is worshipped.
Pongal festival has immense religious and spiritual significance that is evident in the comprehensive rituals followed by the believers. During this four-day festival, people wear turmeric and kumkum dots on their forehead. It is considered very auspicious. Women and girls create vibrantly-coloured rangolis close to the entrance gate of their homes. It is done to welcome the Goddess of Wealth, Devi Lakshmi to the household. Prayers are offered and her blessings are sought. People throw away their old clothes and garbage from the home and burn it off. This festival is associated with a lot of prayers and pooja rituals. As such, the temple in the home is decorated with fresh flowers, deepam, agarbatti, dhoop, etc., to invite positive vibes. They believe that such a home attracts divine Gods who shower blessings of peace, harmony, prosperity, success, and good health on everyone residing in the home. Clay stoves or pots are kept for cooking and a mangal kothu or thread is tied around the pot. Wet vibhuti is used to draw three lines along with a kumkum dor on the pot. Special food items like obbattu, adhirasam, and suzhiyan are made. On the last day of the festival, devotees get up early at 4 AM and get ready for an early morning prayer at 6 AM. A head bath is taken, fresh clothes are worn, and blessings are sought from the elders of the house. On this day, matrimonial functions are also initiated as it is considered a very pious and auspicious day. As such, it is the perfect day for Holy observances and marriage events.
There are various traditional customs that are followed in the process of welcoming the Tamil New Year. From decorating the houses to wearing new clothes and from making various delicious recipes to meeting close ones, the festival is simply full of love and warmth.
Day one of Pongal is celebrated honouring Lord Indra who is considered as the Rain God. Also known as Bhogi Pongal, the first day is for performing the rituals collectively.
On this day, in many villages, people light a bonfire and sing and dance around it. This is considered as a way of showing gratitude to Lord Indra. What is interesting to know here is that this particular bonfire is made of agricultural wastage and completely redundant household woods.
This day is known as Thai Pongal that celebrates the Sun God. On the second day of Pongal, people typically take an early morning bath after which they make a rangoli using kolam or lime powder.
After this, a special ritual is followed in which rice and milk are boiled together in an earthen pot. Apart from this, other items like sugarcane sticks, bananas, and coconuts are also offered to Sun, seeking God's grace.
On this day of the festival, cows are worshipped and adorned with garlands and bells. That's right! On the third-day, farmers give special attention to decorating their cows using multi-color beads, sheaves of corn, etc. Post this, an aarti ceremony is performed to worship them.
Resembling the festival of Raksha Bandhan and Bhai Dooj, the last day of Pongal goes by different names in different regions like - Kaanum Pongal, Karinaal, and Thiruvalluvar Day. On this day, women pray for the overall well-being of their brothers via rituals that are performed even before taking a bath.
Women of all age groups assemble in the courtyard to pray for their brothers' prosperity. They end their prayers with an aarti with rice, limestone, and turmeric water which they later sprinkle inside the house and even outside of it.
Pongal, the winter harvest festival is celebrated with great excitement, reverence, and devotion all over the country, but a few places can be considered to be on your travel-list if you wish to celebrate this festival in style. Let us have a look at some places that celebrate Pongal with a lot of gusto and enthusiasm.
Madurai, the city of temples is one of the most appropriate places to celebrate Pongal. The place comes alive with excitement and reverence during this four-day celebration. A lot of activities are organised during this festival that keep visitors and locals completely engaged. Feel the vibrant vibes of the festival at the local shrines peppered through the city.
Thanjavur, a magnificent city known for its world-famous Thanjavur paintings celebrates Pongal with great fanfare. The place is visited by many people who seek blessings at the ancient Shiva temple located in the heart of the city. Mattu Pongal is celebrated with great religious and spiritual fervour. The Pongal celebrations are amazing not only in the city but also in the countryside.
Located 44 km away from Coimbatore, Pollachi is a beautiful city. Masani Amman temple witnesses grand Pongal celebrations. Men and women dress up in fine clothes, observe proper rituals, offer prayers, and enjoy delectable food.
Salem, known for textile manufacturing is a prominent industrial town in Tamil Nadu. ‘Fox Darshan’ is an interesting activity that makes Salem a well-known place for Pongal celebrations. Men visit a nearby forest looking for a fox, carry it back for worshipping and offering prayers and release it back into the forest. Cows are also worshipped during this festival.
Pongal in Coimbatore is celebrated similar to thanksgiving in Western countries. Homes are cleaned, beautified, and prepared for elaborate prayers and rituals. Delicacies are cooked and served to the guests. Flowers and rangolis add to the beauty of the homes and temples.
Ques 1. Why is Pongal celebrated?
Ans 1. Pongal, a winter harvest festival, is dedicated to Hindu Sun God. It is celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm all over the country, especially in Tamil Nadu.
Ques 2. When is Pongal celebrated?
Ans 2. Pongal is a four-days long harvest festival that falls in the month of Thai, corresponding to the January-February season.
You can plan your trip and create your own route to the city with Adotrip’s technically driven circuit planner. Click here.