Pongal is undoubtedly one of the most popular harvest festivals celebrated in South India. Falling in January on an annual basis, the onset of the Pongal festival in Chennai marks the beginning of Uttarayan and the local new year.
Mainly celebrated in Tamil Nadu, this four-day festival is typically commemorated for showcasing gratitude towards nature for bestowing its bounties on humans.
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?
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.
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 in his younger days of childhood, he decided to teach Lord Indra a lesson. This was so 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 ferocious. In his rage, he sent his clouds to the village to wreck the storm and havoc on it.
Seeing the perpetual rainstorm, Lord Krishna came up with a plan and uplifted the entire Mount Govardhan. Soon, Lord Indra realized his mistake and rectified it by stopping the storm. When Lord Krishna realized that Lord Indra is 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.
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.
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.
There is a reason why Chennai, where Pongal is celebrated with great fervour, is known as God’s own country. It is essentially so because of its charming landscapes and cultural prominence.
Chennai is very well-connected with the major cities of India and here are different ways through which you can reach this picturesque location to witness this traditional festival.
By Air. The nearest airport to Chennai would be the Chennai International Airport which is situated nearly 7km from the City Center. In terms of international traffic, this airport is considered the third busiest airport all across India and fourth on a domestic basis, right behind Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore.
Airlines like Vistara, Air India and IndiGo operate here on a frequent basis at affordable prices. After you deboard at the airport, you will need to cover the remaining distance by some means of public transportation like a cab or a bus.
By Road. Planning a road trip to Chennai can be a good experience, especially while you are with your pals or family. From Delhi, you will need to cover an approximate distance of 2,210 km via NH 44; from Mumbai 1,337 km via NH 48 and NH 16; and from Bengaluru, you will need to cover 347 km via NH 77 and NH 32.
You can also give traveling via bus as thought as Chennai has one of the largest bus terminals of Asia namely CMBT ( Chennai Mofussil Bus Terminal). Nearly seven state-owned companies run their buses to and fro Chennai connecting various places like Coimbatore, Tirupati, and others.
By Train. Chennai has three major railheads - Chennai Central, Chennai Egmore, and Tambaram railway station. All of these have good connectivity with other Indian cities like Delhi, Chandigarh, Mumbai. However, the main railhead is considered as Chennai Central. Here are various options to choose from.
1. Tamil Nadu Express from New Delhi Railway station, Delhi
2. Chennai Express from Dadar or Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai
3. Coromandal Express from Howrah Junction, Kolkata.
You can plan your trip and create your own route to the city with Adotrip’s technically driven circuit planner. Click here.